Why Is Music Important?

I have always enjoyed music. When I was little,  I had several Tony Bennett records that I played over and over. I also had a "fascination" with Liberace and watched his t.v. show ( yes, there were televisions then) religiously. I was probably four or five years old. The first instrument I played was the triangle while attending a private kindergarten ( public kindergarten was not "invented" yet.)

I began piano lessons around the age of seven and continued with them through high school.  I was never going to be a concert pianist, that was evident from the beginning,  but I enjoyed playing and continued to play piano when I began teaching.  It was considered "normal" back then to have and use a piano in the classroom. I don't see pianos in classrooms much anymore, which to me is sad.

Research shows that using music with young children promotes better core learning skills, such as reading, writing, and math skills. According to information from Education Through Music, children who are exposed to curriculum that includes the arts are two times more likely to graduate, three times more likely to win an attendance award and four times more likely to be recognized with academic achievement.

Young children are just naturally drawn to music. If you don't believe it  just turn on music around a toddler and watch the "toddler bounce" begin.  There is just that little bit of movement at first, the knee bouncing, and then the upper body begins to move, and the head follows.  Soon there is a whole lot of dancing going on!

Experts also say that the most learning takes place when children are actively involved with the music through dancing, singing songs with hand motions, and using bean bags or scarves for active games. Music teaches concepts such as counting and learning to keep a steady beat often aids in reading fluency later in life.  Listening to different instruments helps teach auditory discrimination which can help children hear and learn the sounds of language (phonics).

I once had another early childhood teacher tell me that one of her favorite units to teach was one that involved comparing the music of Bach and Beethoven. This seemed a little ambitious to me, considering these children were four years old, however, she and the children thoroughly enjoyed their time spent leaning about two great composers and listening to their music.

Children often times use music as  source of comfort.  Many times while playing, children will sing or hum to themselves as a way to sooth themselves or comfort their baby doll in the dramatic play area. Using music during transition times and to establish routines helps both children and teachers.

One classroom I visited used the same song for clean up time, which is not unusual, but what happened next was nothing short of amazing.  After the clean up song had played a couple of times another song started. I wasn't aware of what was to happen, but the children certainly were. By the time I finished up some notes I was writing, the children had finished clean up time, had gone to their cubby and gotten their coat, had put it on, and were lined up and ready to go outside. There was no running about the room, no pushing and shoving, or fussing going on as I am sad to say, happens more than one would like.  One teacher moved to the front of the line and the other to the back of the line and off they went, singing a little "traveling" song as they made their way out to the playground. I later asked the teacher how that "magic" was accomplished and she said, "oh, there's no magic involved, we just started that the first day of school ( it was now February) and it seems to work really well".  Proof that routine is important!  And, might I add, so much more pleasant than, "get in line, I said get in line. Get in line or we are not going out."

Exposing children to different genres of music is also important as well as entertaining. Children soon can tell the difference between classical, jazz, and reggae.  Probably some of their favorite music involves theme songs from current or popular movies. When Frozen was at it's peak, I heard a lot of moans and groans from teachers about that soundtrack. One day, I was visiting in a classroom and not only did the teacher use popular music, Pharell Williams, Happy, for clean up time she also embraced the music from Frozen, specifically Let It Go.  I couldn't help tapping my toe as the children "happily" cleaned up, and watched with awe as the children moved to the door to transition while twirling and belting out, Let It Go.  How fun was that?

In the fall of 2006, one of my "besties", was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease  at the age of 55. She died 8 years later at the age of 63. She had been an elementary teacher and was terrific at her profession.  She was the kind of teacher I wanted to be. She left way too soon.

This was the person that  I had formed an instant friendship with between junior high and  high school.We were college roommates, in each other's weddings, and my first child is named after her. You know the type of friend I'm talking about.

We lived in different cities or states except for the last two years of her life, when she and her husband moved back to our hometown to be closer to family.  During those last two years, I visited frequently and tried to give her and her family as much support as possible.

Conversation was not possible due to her loss of language.  She only "parroted" what was said or spoke in bits and pieces with words from  commercials or other words heard on television. Most of the time was spent just sitting together in the quiet with me remembering all our earlier conversations and interactions from the past 49 years, hoping that she in some way remembered as well.

Why did I include this in this post? Because I discovered the power of music in our lives in an extraordinary way during this time.  While words to carry on a conversation didn't come easily, every word of songs from our childhood, high school, adult life, and going to church did!  If I couldn't remember the words to a song, she was my "go to girl."  We sang nursery rhymes, hymns, high school songs, our college Alma Mater, and one of my favorite times was singing every Christmas carol ever written!  Who remembers all the verses to Silent Night or Little Town of Bethlehem ?  I certainly didn't, but she did!  It was such a blessing to be able to communicate with her this way and it convinced me that music definitely makes a difference in our lives.

So, play music with young children, pick up a baby and dance around the room with them, provide tambourines, triangles, rhythm sticks, pots and pans, bells, and whistles.  Let children sing and dance and express themselves freely on a daily basis so their brains and bodies can grow and develop. It will have an impact for the rest of their lives.

That's it for now.
Check back later!


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