Why Teach Music?

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We are being bombarded by articles in the press, on the internet and everywhere in between, about why music is such a valuable subject to teach our children. There are reasons both musical and non musical for including music as a core subject in our very crowded curriculum.

Plato said "I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning."

However Shinichi Suzuki said that "Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”

Richard Gill said "We teach music because it is unique and good. We teach music so that children can make their own music. We teach music because it acts in a unique way on the heart, mind, soul and spirit of the child, stimulating thought and imagination in very special ways. These are the real reasons for teaching music."

According to Rudolf Steiner the making of music is essential in experiencing what it is to be fully human.

study by researchers at the German Institute for Economic Research concluded that music training "improves cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports, theater or dance."  

In 1999, James Caterall, an arts education policy analyst at UCLA, found that students who studied music had higher grades, higher test scores, better attendance records and higher rates of community engagement than other students. 

Susan Hallam, from the Institute of Education at the University of London, said "Music should be central to the school curriculum because it improves children's health and wellbeing. Music is as important a subject for schoolchildren to study as English or maths".

Studies have also found that students from low income families who receive high levels of engagement with the arts are more likely to be involved in the community, do volunteer work, finish a degree and follow a professional career path.

But why do YOU teach music?

As music teachers we should all have is a very clear rationale for why we teach music. Not only so we can defend ourselves in those social gatherings where we are asked "but why bother with music? Isn't it more important that our kids learn Maths and English?", but so we are focused on achieving that outcome every time we walk into our classroom.

So why do I teach music?

Here are just a few of the reasons I walk into a music classroom with joy and anticipation:

  1. To produce adults to whom music is not a way of earning a living but a way of life;
  2. to allow students to experience small successes (when taught developmentally i.e. in very small steps as in the Kodály method) but also
  3. to learn perseverance when practicing a skill, concept, musical work etc for a long time in order to achieve success;
  4. to encourage creativity and to learn to express themselves through music;
  5. to improve listening skills;
  6. to improve the ability to concentrate and focus;
  7. to improve self-confidence;
  8. to help students learn to set, and work towards, goals;
  9. to improve children's health and well-being;
  10. to improve memory;
  11. to connect us to other people (through group composition type tasks, ensemble playing etc) and to assist with the development of social skills such as self control, the ability to work in a group and to learn sensitivity towards others;
  12. to assist with language development (singing) and to aid physical coordination (singing/clapping games);
  13. to allow the students to have fun in a safe environment.

So - why do YOU teach music?

(Thanks to Katie Wardrobe from Midnight Music for permission to reproduce her lovely image: "Why Teach Music". Click here to download a copy of this poster for your classroom).

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