Music in Classical Education

The Value of Music in Education

Music in Classical Education

The Value of Music in Education

Written by Emma Foss | 2.28.20

Note to the reader: My goal over these next few weeks is to explain the importance of a musical foundation for young ones from the worldview of a Classical Christian Educator.

Over the last two weeks, we came to understand both the biblical significance of music and the inherent benefits of music. Another essential aspect required to comprehend the importance of a musical foundation for children is advocacy.

According to the National Association for Music Education, advocacy is defined as “the act of speaking or writing in support of something.” Every music educator needs to be a strong advocate for sequential, enduring music programs for all students (Advocacy and the Music Educator, The National Association for Music Education, 2020).

Plato once admitted, “Education in music is most sovereign, because more than anything else, rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon it, bringing with them and imparting grace, if one is rightly trained, and otherwise the contrary.” This leads to the main question I hope to answer this week: Why is music a valuable and necessary part of education, and what is its role?

“Understanding values and beliefs by understanding a people’s music will better prepare students to seek meaningful ways to engage people of other cultures for Christ.”

Sandra Yang, Vanity of Vanities or Song of Songs? 2012)

“Understanding values and beliefs by understanding a people’s music will better prepare students to seek meaningful ways to engage people of other cultures for Christ.”

Sandra Yang, Vanity of Vanities or Song of Songs? 2012)

To begin, Christians should realize the importance of music in education throughout history. In 1838, Lowell Mason saw the need for integrated arts and established funding for music in public schools. In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act was also created to continue supporting arts as an integral part of education. Why did they believe it was an essential part of education? Through the ages, music instruction has provided children with skills for their musical expressions and knowledge of their cultural heritage. Despite societal changes, the need for a musical education continues. I would even go so far as to say that the need for music education continues because of societal changes.

Why? Because “music is a means of knowing, through perceptive listening, performance, and the creative processes of composition and improvisation, the “self” and the “other” — the world and its component parts” (Patricia Cambell and Carol Kassner, Music in Childhood, 2014). In other words, music is a mode through which children learn more about their culture as well as other cultures around them through a variety of methods. While being exposed to musical activities and values of other cultures, one is also being taught about another’s way of life, traditions, and ceremonial or religious practices.

Music also trains a believer historically by introducing him to the styles, uses, and discussions of music in time past. This is crucial because “understanding values and beliefs by understanding a people’s music will better prepare students to seek meaningful ways to engage people of other cultures for Christ” (Sandra Yang, Vanity of Vanities or Song of Songs? 2012). Music is rich in both culture and history, which is why, in my music classroom, I begin each class by listening to and evaluating a musical style and composer of the past.

Musical training provides students with the opportunity to appreciate and experience true beauty.

Musical training provides students with the opportunity to appreciate and experience true beauty.

Music educates individuals historically, culturally, geographically, and aesthetically. Musical training provides students with the opportunity to appreciate and experience true beauty, or what we call aesthetics. “Students who choose not to enroll in a music course do not actually have lives infused with less need for aesthetic excellence, they are only less equipped to create with that in mind. Striving for aesthetic excellence in daily life is not a task only for the man or woman with art as vocation, but for all who will in their lives create anything” (Sandra Yang, “Vanity of Vanities or Song of Songs? 2012).

This implication goes along perfectly with the biblical truths that 1) God is the Ultimate Creator, 2) He is a creative being, 3) God made us in His image, and 4) We, too, have been given the ability to create and are ultimately to use this creativity in order to be good representations of His image.

“Music is one of the few activities that uses both the right and left sides of the brain.”

Patrick Kavanaugh, Raising Musical Kids, 1995

Musical training provides an opportunity for students to develop personal commitment. A commitment to excellence cultivates character and integrity.

Patrick Kavanaugh, Raising Musical Kids, 1995

Music education is also closely connected to science and mathematics. I believe this connection can be summed up in three words: patterns, intervals, and sections. While astronomy is the study of numbers in space and time, music is the study of numbers in time. When I teach the Rhythm Unit in my music classroom, I am reminded time and time again of these connections because the rhythms of notes and rests are made up of durations equal to a number or fraction. These rhythms must be organized into measures wherein every measure must have an equal number of beats. This is not to mention musical meter or pulse. Rhythms and meters are all made of fractions and ratios. Then when I enter the Pitch Unit, I am reminded of the frequencies, patterns, and intervals of sound. Even my Kindergarten students learn the scientific principle of bigger: lower is smaller.

Many argue that music is an activity for a right-brained individual. This could not be further from the truth, as music-making requires both sides of the brain, including the analytical, mathematical, and pattern-centric side. In fact, “music is one of the few activities that uses both the right and left sides of the brain, as well as the mysterious realm ‘between’ (the corpus callosum) that coordinates the two sides. Listening to music is a right-brain activity, while performing, composing, or studying music involves the left side” (Patrick Kavanaugh, Raising Musical Kids, 1995).

He that is skilled in this art is possessed of good qualities and can be employed in anything.

Martin Luther

He that is skilled in this art is possessed of good qualities and can be employed in anything.

Martin Luther

Music also educates the individual through high-quality life lessons. One that I am particularly fond of is the quality of teamwork. A music classroom allows for the type of environment where everyone cheers for and supports one another. It is easy to see the benefit of teamwork in athletics, but one must consider the amount of teamwork it requires for a group of students to make beautiful music together! The techniques needed for a musical ensemble are an excellent way to “break children out of their innate self-centeredness and make them more aware of the needs of others” (Patrick Kavanaugh, Raising Musical Kids, 1995). In the Old Testament, the trumpeters at Jericho needed musical training and teamwork to be able to properly march around the walls of Jericho and ultimately fulfill God’s mission.

Music is also an important aspect of faith-integrated learning because it educates the whole individual in many areas and builds character and discipline. Martin Luther saw the importance of music being in schools when he said, “He that is skilled in this art is possessed of good qualities and can be employed in anything. Music must of necessity be retained in the schools” (William Hasker, “Faith-Learning Integration: An Overview,” 1992). All Christians should be concerned about each individual receiving a good education that appeals to the whole person. Music appeals to the whole person by serving as a doorway into the individual’s heart and mind (Frank Gaebelein, “Music in Christian Education,” 1962).

Music education should not be an add-on or extra benefit of a curriculum but rather a priority.

Music education should not be an add-on or extra benefit of a curriculum but rather a priority.

In the 1900s, Howard Gardner, Harold Owen, Leonard B. Meyer, and Virgil Thomson were just a few philosophers whose ideas accumulated to form the seven elements of music: melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, texture, form, and expressive elements. I believe these seven elements are what make up the framework of musical education; therefore, I construct my curriculum around these units. These elements are all intertwined with one another, as well as with other subject areas, in a way that educates the whole person and introduces new concepts that are built upon prior knowledge. Music education enhances children’s perspectives and “broadens their horizons,” you could say.

Within these seven elements of music are a variety of learning methods. The first and most important method is singing, but in addition to this, children learn to play instruments, dance and move, draw connections between music and other subject areas, read musical notation, improvise music, and ultimately, compose music. “Children are born with the sensory means for dancing and drumming, for singing and deep-listening potential, and they need only to be nurtured to develop their sensibilities to their maximal capacity” (Keil and Campbell, Born to Groove, 2010). Therefore, it is clear that music education should not be an add-on or extra benefit of a curriculum but rather a priority.

Emma Foss graduated in 2019 from Bob Jones University with a B.S. in Music Education. Alongside CDA, she teaches music classes at The Music Playhouse, as well as private piano lessons. Her musical knowledge spans piano, violin, guitar, ukulele, recorder, voice, percussion, flute, trumpet, and cello. Mrs. Foss believes music is an essential and beneficial part of children’s education. She and her husband Andrew attend Noblesville Baptist Church.

 

Emma Foss graduated in 2019 from Bob Jones University with a B.S. in Music Education. Alongside CDA, she teaches music classes at The Music Playhouse, as well as private piano lessons. Her musical knowledge spans piano, violin, guitar, ukulele, recorder, voice, percussion, flute, trumpet, and cello. Mrs. Foss believes music is an essential and beneficial part of children’s education. She and her husband Andrew attend Noblesville Baptist Church.

 

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!