Aristotle once said, “Music has the power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young.” This is just one of the many reasons our school added music education to the education program. My name is Charis Schneeberger and I am the music teacher this year.
Some may wonder why music is important or if it is even necessary for the running of an education system. I would argue that, yes, in fact, it is vital. Music is to the school as the soul is to the body. Let me tell you why.
When did Music Education start?
First, it may surprise some that music education actually started in the church with a man named Guido D’Arezzo. He was an Italian music theorist and pedagogue of High medieval music. A Benedictine monk, regarded as the inventor—or by some developer—of the modern staff notation that had a massive influence on the development of Western musical notation and practice. While other forms of sharing music and teaching by ear were already in place, Guido revolutionized the idea of written music. By using the solfege system of pitched syllables on a certain scale, it was now made possible to share music with others by teaching them how to read it. He could practice this out on the kids in the church and it is still a common practice today, yes, even in my classroom.
Second, music can easily support all other subjects, while still bringing a different perspective to it. We see this in the beauty of science with sound waves and pitch intervals, and in the analysis of math in rhythm counting and writing music. It also supports English language learning by having songs that are in English. Last, we see music all over the world, leading to the discovery of different cultures and geography.
Music as a Therapy
Even in the bible we can find how God used music as a sweet therapy. In the book of 1 Samuel, David helped King Saul feel relief from his illness by playing his lyre. Some days I am stressed and the students come in distressed or fully animated, which can be a lot. But all it takes is the beginning of a familiar song or a beat, and the atmosphere slowly winds down to focused peace.
Music and Hands on Learning
So, besides a good Biblical education, another piece that is highly valued here at LIFE International is “hands-on” education. While this is not a very well-known approach to Spanish education, I used it within the music room. Before I jump into the application, let me first explain what I mean by it. “Hands-on” education means less lecture and more doing. While this does not exclude a teaching avenue of lecture or discussion, it simply means allowing students to be more actively involved in the process and in their own learning.
The most common way I do this in the music classroom is through the simplest but most technically challenging of all instruments. The playing of instruments improves brain function, needing both sides of the brain to play and sing simultaneously. It also increases the ability to use both gross and fine motor skills. Last, it gives success in that a student can enjoy being creative in improvisation and figuring out a rhythm pattern for himself or as a class.
The second way that “hands-on” learning is used in the classroom is through solfege. As already referenced, Guido had something going when he created the solfege music scale. Vocally, it is harder to stay focused and to follow sounds if your hands are not there to follow what your brain is doing. Using your eyes to track music notes, your hands to make the specific hand movements for each note, and your voice to follow melodically how your hands are moving vertically allows your full body and attention to be involved.
The third and final step to great “hands-on” learning in the music classroom is literally using your hands. Whether that be using learned sign language to silently answer yes or no questions from the teacher, or a hand raised. The limbs and parts of the body can be involved, increasing the student’s chance of success in learning the subject of music. Some say that the highest level of knowing something is if you can teach it.
Having children work together in a music community and teaching each other the information I have relayed to them gets me out of the way, and assists them in being leaders and musicians who don’t just know it, but can show it.
Charis Schneeberger.Charis is the music and art teacher for PK-7th grade students. She received her degree in Music Education from a Bible University in Missouri after 5 years of study and a semester of student teaching. She has taught K-6 Music at an inner-city school for 2 years.