There’s no denying it for me, participating in music is essential and an intrinsic part of human life. This week I have been banging by head against a brick wall trying to work out why it isn’t valued half as much as it should be. I was overjoyed to see the Guardian article with a strong message from Jimmy (a fellow Kodály colleague) about how music learning has transformed Feversham school in Bradford… and it isn’t the only one!
Music is everywhere. It is in pretty much every children’s activity: circle time and playgroups; using songs at swimming lessons; in baby massage and yoga classes; used in the new ‘sensory’ classes; background music at play gyms and more. In particular, singing is so useful. It is a natural human thing to do and I would argue a human right. So why are schools ditching it? Why aren’t we using music to its fullest potential?
Music is for everyone
As Zoltan Kodály one said ‘music is for everyone’ and it truly is. Everyone has a voice and everyone can learn to be great musicians, if we use our voices to our best potential. Learning musical concepts through singing is most effective. Over the past 14 years of teaching music I have seen the fantastic effect, using Kodaly’s philosophy, has had on the children I teach. Do I expect them to become musicians in the future? No, not at all. So what is the point of learning music?
Learning music and participating in music learning has many, many benefits. Feversham school has seen a rise in better academic subjects as well as confidence and self-esteem. We see these effects yet most Head Teacher’s choose to ignore these benefits and push maths and literacy because that is what the Government are saying is most important. However we all know that writing stems from use of gross motor movement, listening to speech (its patterns, exposure to words, intonation), stories and experiences. Songs and rhymes do all this and music reading/writing, clapping, feeling beat and rhythm provide us with mathematical concepts.
Stressed out kids
We have children at primary who are now stressed with anxiety due to testing however what about those children who have also been through child trauma? I can see ‘mindfulness’ creeping into schools more and more. Have you tried it? It is really hard and I can only think how on earth are children going to do it? We live in a fast and frantic world where apparently out attention span has dropped form 12 seconds to 8 seconds over the past several years. The need for a new something else sooner is becoming more and more apparent.
The Arts are the things that help us be mindful. They take away our worries, problems for that time we are doing them. They give us joy! Singing does this for me. In that moment I can’t think of anything else because I am singing, remembering words and a melody and concentrating on listening.
Head Teachers music is essential!
If you want children to do well, be all round adults then let them be involved in music making. It doesn’t have to be instruments. Singing games and singing are the best and easiest way and are not difficult to implement. Children take these games into the playground and continue to practise them (do you see that with maths and literacy work?) without even knowing they are learning all the time. Music can be fun and taught in the right way an amazing addition to a child’s life (and adults for that matter). This is why the Kodály philosophy works so well. It is all about the child. Encouraging their ideas, creativity, developing their brain in so many different ways. This TED talk by Anita Collins raises some important issues for me.
If you are a Head Teacher please, please consider music above anything else and I don’t mean the odd child playing an instrument or school choir. I mean every child involved in a music lesson at least once a week. See how children improve in a range of skills as well as building their confidence and self-esteem essential for learning. Develop that left-right brain connection, better listening skills, language, problem solving and creativity.
If you are a parent please see your Head Teacher and ask them to put music on the curriculum permanently, not as a side-line but as important as Maths and Literacy.
Want to find out more about how to integrate music into your school? I frequently go into schools to deliver sessions and training please get in touch .
Want to know more about the Kodály philosophy? Click here