Music Instruction in Waldorf Schools January 22 2016

Have you ever noticed how little children are natural musicians? They sing their way through their lives, narrating to fluid tunes they invent as they go:

        “Oh I’m coming down the stairs and Daddy’s cooking breakfast and my slippers are on and I can smell the pancakes …”


             Once a child reaches first grade, the change of teeth tell the teachers that the child is ready to learn in a new way. The forces that had been busy unfolding the child’s body, helping the child master it and also busy building the hard substances of the second teeth, when these are done - this important work - the child is now free to do new tasks…like learning.

             The natural musician in the child now looks to teachers to instruct about “real” truths concerning music. They relish learning songs by heart and refine their singing to focus on songs that have a story, or celebrate a season, or count days or ideas.

             In Waldorf schools we know that the first grader can still hear the music from heaven. The interval of the fifth is closest to this heavenly music. The “Mood of the Fifth” is the kind of music that best calls the child to remember this music from the starry regions. The interval suggests a mood that never really comes to rest but floats a little into a feeling of continuing on and on. To catch the child’s listening at the point it exists at the first grade age is to sing songs in the mood of the interval of the fifth.

             Teachers might find in our modern world that little children, exposed to recorded popular music in stores, and other public places, will often resist songs in the mood of the fifth. It is important that the children have the chance to find their way back to this more childlike mood and orient listening to that which best suits the age of the first grader. It need not be all of the music but once a day in school to invoke this mood of the fifth, or right before bedtime is another good time to bring the child to the mood of the fifth.

             This helps the child “tune” inwardly and begin a listening quality that is at once inwardly turned and outwardly tuned. The mood of the fifth helps the child orient to exactly the place in development that the child can authentically hear, beyond cultural stimulus or overlay.

             The best first grades are classes that burst into song spontaneously and can bridge any waiting time with many happy songs.