March is Music In Our Schools Month! March 10 2015
If music be the food of love play on…
– William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1
Any child, any group of children, will listen if a command is sung, when often they will not hear a spoken command. Singing while working has been used for millennia to pass the time quickly and to work rhythmically in completing an arduous or tedious task. Music can quicken an atmosphere unlike anything else, and can explain things without ever being didactic. The Underground Railroad and all Irish rebellions against the British used songs to relay instructions: “At the Rising of the Moon;” “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” “Wade In Water,” are all good examples of this “education through song.”
There are many mythologies depicting the beginning of the world coming through tone, through song. Aslan the lion in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia sings the universe into creation. Johannes Kepler, imperial mathematician for the court at Prague, heard the “Music of the Spheres.” He understood that this music was the source of all creation.
Perhaps this is why it is so comforting to little children when their mother or father sings a lullaby. Or why it is just plain fun to sing for most children. Singing games are often the most engaging. It seems youngsters can hear things through music that make non-musical explanations and callings to order that are just not audible in ordinary speech. In schools in which there is a vibrant music program of singing, orchestra, band, and beginning and ending songs, the mood is perceptibly lighter, happier, and more harmonious than those schools where these are not provided.
In the book The Importance of Being Musical, author Cynthia Frangello explains that one need not be a musician to carry a class with singing, with music, but one really must be musical to be an effective teacher.
One Waldorf teacher used to say, “If you don’t sing with a class it is impossible to teach history.” Another teacher smiled and remembered out loud the singing of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from the musical Les Miserables. That teacher explained that the teaching of the entire French Revolution and counterrevolution became exponentially more economical because of that song. The music and the words encapsulated the mood of frustration, idealism, and desperation that triggered the whole Revolution.
Music is simply a power beyond measure. We experience it subliminally when we watch movies and feel pain, tension, remorse, sorrow, or joy not so much because of the action, which might not have even yet occurred, but because of the music chosen for the film. Music can make us cry, change our mood from bad to good or the other way around. It can make us laugh. When Hayden’s “Surprise” symphony was first played in England, the audience “got” many of the jokes and burst out laughing!
Waldorf schools have music as a key element in their curriculum for all of these reasons and more. Music supports brain development (see the report from the Dana Foundation: Arts, Learning and the Brain, 2008, and also Dr. Elisabeth Spelke’s research at Harvard University demonstrating that students who play a musical instrument are more capable of comprehending and applying complex mathematical concepts than students of the same age who did not play music.
Music is nectar of happiness, moving feelings, and forgetfulness in stressful times, good brain development support, a stimulus for poetry, romance, playfulness, and learning. Let the music play on and on; let the singing begin; and let’s pour music over our children in abundance.
In celebration of MUSIC IN OUR SCHOOLS MONTH we have placed several of our favorite music related titles on sale! Check them out HERE.
Allegro - Music for the Eurythmy Curriculum by Elisabeth Lebret
Merrily We Sing by Ilian Willwerth
Recorder Ensemble by Steve Bernstein
Music from Around World for Recorders by Michael Preston
Music Through the Grades by Diane Ingraham Barnes
The Importance of Being Musical by Cynthia Frongillo
The Music of the Spheres by John Trevillion and Merwin Lewis
Also be sure to visit The Online Waldorf Library for these great articles!