Developing an Appreciation of Music (page 3)
Music is a vital part of every child’s education because music constitutes a universal language of the senses and emotions that is fundamental to the human experience. Music enables us to reflect, record, and nurture awareness, understanding, and appreciation of cultural and ethnic diversity while providing knowledge, skills, and understanding of ourselves, our community, and the world. Music education also promotes the development of the whole child as it fosters the creative process, critical thinking, problem solving, self-awareness, and communication. It is through the study of music that children gain knowledge, skills, and understanding that will enable them to participate productively, as individuals and as members of society, in their future workplaces and in their communities at large (South Carolina Visual and Performing Arts Framework, 1993). The next section describes some things that you can do to encourage your children to appreciate the breadth and depth of musical experiences.
One of the best ways to broaden children’s views and appreciation of music is to invite a guest to visit your classroom to sing or play an instrument. Children are apt to be better listeners if, at first, they can listen to a live performance. “Often, local symphony orchestras or high school groups prepare special programs for children. Some of these programs introduce the instruments of the orchestra and help children listen for their sounds; others present musical stories that children will enjoy” (Brewer, 2001, p. 399).
Seeing the instrument while it is being played will help children associate it with its sound. Young adult performers usually relate well to children and often inspire them to want to play instruments when they get older. In some communities, operettas and musicals that are appropriate for young children are produced. These help immensely to build good listening skills while providing much enjoyment for the children. If your community does not have an orchestra or another performing group, ask your fellow teachers and parents to recommend someone who plays an instrument. Even if no professional musicians are available to perform for your children, there has to be someone in your school or community who plays an instrument! Sometimes, all you need is a parent to come into your school to play the piano or strum a guitar for a sing-along. You might even consider learning to play the recorder yourself so that you can pipe tunes for your children.
Once your children have seen a live performance, they are usually more interested in hearing music being played or sung on a recording. By the time children are 4 or 5, they are ready to sit attentively for a short performance or to listen to a recording. They may even begin to recognize the sounds of certain instruments!
Music that has a story connection is a good way to introduce and review some of the instruments of the orchestra. Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev and “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky are wonderful recordings that can be used to ask children to describe the images, ideas, or moods that the music evokes. Other good pieces are the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofe and Camille Saint-Saens’s “Danse Macabre.” Entire pieces or suites need not be listened to at one time. One section of a piece may be enough, depending on the age, interest, and musical appreciation of the children.
Background music can create a desirable atmosphere or establish an appropriate mood in the classroom. Although some teachers feel that background music is distracting, most believe that quiet orchestral music, lullabies, or a selection like Saint-Saens’s “The Swan” are appropriate for rest time, for example. “Sea Gulls” by Hap Palmer has become a favorite recording to use for quiet relaxation. The entire recording is designed to provide soothing instrumental music as a background for resting. You may recall reading in chapter 1 about the little girl who, after listening to selections from Madame Butterfly, came up to her teacher and said that the lady’s voice made her sleepy! Had quiet background music not been playing, she would have missed this wonderful exposure to “sleepy” music.
Children sometimes like to listen to a favorite story recording during rest time. Recordings of poetry, nursery rhymes, and folk music are other favorites of many children. Music from around the world is also a good choice during rest time. Two popular recordings, available on CD, are “The Fairy Dance: Myth and Magic in Celtic Songs and Tunes” and “Japan: Ensemble of Traditional Instruments of Japan.” Background music that contains loud tones and fast tempos is too stimulating and should be avoided at rest time.
During free play, background music can influence the noise level of the room. Soft, soothing music may have a quieting effect on the room, whereas music with words or loud music can cause a room to be noisy and uncomfortable.
There are many good stories in music recordings on the market today. The same is true for appropriate background music to play in your classroom. Children enjoy both types of recordings. However, since children’s tastes are so diverse, you should have a wide variety of vocal recordings, classical music, and musical stories from which children can choose.
© ______ 2005, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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