Music in CCE

A Musical Classical Education

Music in CCE

A Musical Classical Education

Written by Emma Foss | 3.6.20

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

The word “inspire” means “to fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” Other synonyms for the word “inspire” include the following: stimulate, motivate, encourage, influence, rouse, move, energize, incite, and stir. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

One of the main definitions of the word “education” is to give an enlightening experience. This puts a responsibility on educators to draw out the potential in students by teaching them everything that can enlighten them and grow them. For a Christian, education also means to help conform students to the image of Christ. In this article, I hope to demonstrate that our belief as a Classical Christian school is to educate our students by doing just that: drawing out potential, creating enlightening experiences, and helping conform them to the image of Christ. So what does this have to do with music?

“Mankind has long used music in all sorts of ways: to celebrate, to lament, to dance, to pray, to soothe or arouse, to woo, to infuse courage and terrify an enemy, to commemorate, to unite a community.”

P. Kalkavage “The Neglected Muse: Why Music is an Essential Liberal Art,” 2011.

“Mankind has long used music in all sorts of ways: to celebrate, to lament, to dance, to pray, to soothe or arouse, to woo, to infuse courage and terrify an enemy, to commemorate, to unite a community.”

P. Kalkavage “The Neglected Muse: Why Music is an Essential Liberal Art,” 2011.

To many of our ancient philosophers, music was considered a fundamental part of life and education. Plato believed that music was good for children physically, intellectually, and morally. Aristotle believed that music assists humans in learning about themselves, growing themselves, and esteeming themselves (Mark & Madura, Music Education in Your Hands, 2010).

Music, often considered the universal language, offers benefits that no other subject can offer. It would be difficult to think of another area of life that could reach people of all ages – infants, teenagers, senior saints, people with special needs, and more. “Mankind has long used music in all sorts of ways: to celebrate, to lament, to dance, to pray, to soothe or arouse, to woo, to infuse courage and terrify an enemy, to commemorate, to unite a community” (Kalkavage, “The Neglected Muse,” 2011).

How important it is that we educate our children musically in an environment that is Christ-centered and committed to educational quality!

How important it is that we educate our children musically in an environment that is Christ-centered and committed to educational quality!

Music helps people relationally (learning to work in groups,) academically (receiving a well-rounded education,) and morally (being creative like our Creator.) Music shapes the way students understand themselves and the world around them (“Broader Minded,” 2015). Isn’t that what we want in a Classical Christian education? We want to train our children not just at an academic level but at a moral level, a social level, an intellectual level! We want to broaden their horizons, shape the way they see themselves and the world around them, provide opportunities for them to cultivate relationships with others, and build community and unity with other brothers and sisters in Christ. How important it is that we educate our children musically in an environment that is Christ-centered and committed to educational quality!

Our ancient philosophers believed that music was not only fundamental to education but also foundational. Above is an image I took from a book called The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education by Kevin Clark and Ravi S. Jain. In this book, the authors emphasize the importance of an education that is grounded in Piety (reverence or belief) and governed by Theology (study or knowledge of God.) But notice the two studies that form the next stage of early development in education: Gymnastic and Music. Plato said, “Gymnastics, as well as music, should begin in early years; the training in it should be careful and should continue through life.” While gymnastic trains the body, music tunes the heart.

What makes Gymnastics and Music so essential? Consider this quote:

“The musical (coming from the same root word as ‘museum’) education was an education in wonder. It formed the heart and the moral imagination of the youth. Musical education was not primarily or exclusively about instruments and singing. It studied all the subjects inspired by the Muses in a precritical manner. ‘Imitation precedes art,’ went the ancient maxim. The musical education, directed toward joyful engagement with reality, offered this imitative foundation for the later learning of the arts and sciences. The musical and gymnastic educations fitted the students’ hearts and bodies to reality, thus forming virtue in them. They taught passions more than skills and content. They sowed the seeds which would grow into a lifelong love of learning” (Clark and Jain, The Liberal Arts Tradition, 2013).

In other words, Music is foundational because while it does teach content and skill, it also cultivates a love for learning. It is not so much what you are learning as it is how you are learning. Now, of course, what you are learning is important. But even if your children don’t pursue a life-long career in music, music education is not a waste of time.

“The musical education was an education in wonder. It formed the heart and the moral imagination of the youth. It sowed the seeds which would grow into a lifelong love of learning.”

Clark and Jain, The Liberal Arts Tradition, 2013.

“The musical education was an education in wonder. It formed the heart and the moral imagination of the youth. It sowed the seeds which would grow into a lifelong love of learning.”

Clark and Jain, The Liberal Arts Tradition, 2013.

So how about the goal of a Classical Christian education? Aren’t we attempting to teach and unite the Transcendentals: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty? Here’s the fancy way of explaining how it all connects. “Because the Beauty of music communicates Truth and Goodness to the whole soul, bringing harmony to our rational, volitional, and aesthetic capacities, the music of the cosmos always involves the awakening of aréte, the classical virtues (wisdom, moderation, justice, and courage) which results when the intellectual, moral, and emotional constituents of our souls reflect the balance or harmony of the cosmos” (Cole Basil, Music and Morals: A Theological Appraisal of the Moral and Psychological Effects of Music, 1993).

Cosmos? The best explanation I could find comes from Barbara Rappenglueck, a researcher for the Institute of Interdisciplinary Science. She notes, “Pythagoras and Plato established the basic ideas of the occidental theory of ‘cosmic music’: the relations between intervals of music and numbers, the character of the scales and their influence in nature and society, the harmony of the planetary spheres, etc” (Rappenglueck, “Cosmic Music: Correlations between Music and Cosmos-related Ideas across Ancient Cultures,” 2005).

Music, at its core, consists of numbers and intervals, frequencies and sound waves, all working together to create rhythm, harmony, and balance. This demonstrates the fact that Music is a higher order, connecting the order of the cosmos, or universe, with the human soul. St. Augustine used the term ordo amoris (“the right ordering of our loves”) to explain this case further. He argued that God is at the top of our loves and is the most supreme Good (summum bonum,) and that Music is the method of revealing Truth from the ultimate Good (God) and the ultimate Beauty (the divine order of the cosmos) to the human soul (Stephen Turley, Raise the Song: A Classical Christian Guide to Music Education, 2019). Wow. What a statement!

A good music program that attempts to bring divine order down to an educational level will incorporate the following: singing, literacy, instruments, and movement.

A good music program that attempts to bring divine order down to an educational level will incorporate the following: singing, literacy, instruments, and movement.

Okay, so enough of the eloquent speech and deep thinking. What does this mean practically? In the 1900s, Howard Gardner, Harold Owen, Leonard B. Meyer, and Virgil Thomson were just a few philosophers whose ideas accumulated to formulate 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. In my opinion, a good music program that attempts to bring divine order down to an educational level will incorporate the following: singing, literacy, instruments, and movement.

Singing

Zoltán Kodály, possibly the most famous music philosopher, said, “The singing of folksongs must form a part of every music lesson; not only to provide practice in them for their own sake, but to maintain continuity and also to awaken, develop, and maintain the sense of the relationship between music and the language. For there is no denying that it is here, in folk song, that the most perfect relationship between music and language can be found.”

When children learn over 100 new songs per year through listening, rote, and reading, they unknowingly are using a language-based approach to sing and make music. This material is sequentially presented to them throughout the years based on their age or learning ability. “This leads to a mastery in literacy— the ability to read music, analyze music, and compose original musical offerings.” According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the highest mastery of learning is the ability to compose, and the children learn to do just that.

Literacy

According to the International Kodály Society, music literacy is “the ability to read and write musical notation and to read notation at sight without the aid of an instrument. It also refers to a person’s knowledge of and appreciation for a wide range of musical examples and styles.” For this reason, it is important at a young age to incorporate other forms of literature (children’s books, poetry, rhymes, etc.) in Music class so to introduce the children to a feeling of pulse and rhythm.

Children also begin learning at an early age to map out pitches and rhythms at their level. They are exposed to a variety of music from different genres, cultures, and time periods in a way that increases their comprehension and repertoire. Students learn music in different languages, exposing them to worlds outside of their own and better preparing them to “go into all the world and teach all nations” as Jesus commissions us in Matthew 28.

Instruments

As students get older and progress in their reading and writing, they learn to read notes on the staff and practice more advanced rhythms. They also will then learn to play instruments. While Kodály is the prominent approach I use in my music classroom, I also incorporate the Orff method with the use of xylophones and other classroom percussive instruments.

The ability to play an instrument requires a completely different way of thinking. In fact, I would argue it is a more difficult and comprehensive way of thinking than singing alone. It requires eye-hand coordination, spatial relationships, and quick energy between the brain and the fingers to transfer reading into playing. Through the use of recorders and ukuleles, children are being trained in these areas, becoming more comfortable with their music literacy, and developing their fine motor skills, which are necessary for real-life tasks.

Movement

The ability for students to take what they’ve learned or what they are listening to and apply it to movement activates more regions of the brain. Using parachutes and scarves in class are wonderful ways to visually demonstrate the concepts students have learned at an intellectual level and apply them to a physical level. Singing games, action songs, and folk dances are not just essential for academic learning but also for social development. The sense of fulfillment a group of students get when they are able to move in unison is almost indescribable— perhaps a demonstration of the divine order.

“All Christians are responsible for striving for excellence in musical activity.”

Zachary Vreeman, “Model for Teaching Musical Discernment,” 2008.

“All Christians are responsible for striving for excellence in musical activity.”

Zachary Vreeman, “Model for Teaching Musical Discernment,” 2008.

The last four weeks have consisted of a lot of information about music and its importance. So what big idea should you walk away with? Every believer should be an advocate for music education, more specifically, music education with a Classical Christian approach that is founded on God’s Word. “Like other disciplines, music is informed by centuries of exploration, tradition, and discovery, and must be seen as the worthy vocation of craftsmen… All Christians are responsible for striving for excellence in musical activity” (Zachary Vreeman, “Model for Teaching Musical Discernment in the Christian Secondary School,” 2008).

Let’s use music for its created purpose: to worship God and edify others. Let’s be advocates for music in education and strive to see its inherent benefits for every individual. Let’s pursue the Beauty of music to expose a deeper knowledge and cultivate a greater love for Truth and Goodness, which are founded in the character of God Himself.

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.

 

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