Teaching Instrumental Music
Bennett Reimer said, “Whenever and wherever humans have existed music has existed also.” Throughout history, cultures have expressed their joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats through the beauties of music. There are wide variety of reasons to teach music, regarding both music itself, and music’s effects on a person. The true reasons to teach music are those that are fundamental to being affected emotionally by it. Music is beautiful. Through sound, we can feel the complete spectrum of human emotion; both the deepest despair to elation beyond which most peoples lives will ever reach. Beyond motor skills, reading notation, and an understanding of theory, a music education allows students to develop themselves as more expressive human beings.
Today in our society, the ease and availability of recorded music allows people to experience a wide variety of music through listening, although this does have its drawbacks. In the past, the only way to experience music was through performing it yourself. Since this is not necessary today, educators need to provide and foster experiences of making music, whether in a concert band, rock band, chorus, orchestra, folk group or simply alone at home for the pleasure of developing your musical skills. This is why public schools need strong music programs; to develop the love of making music in as many students as possible, by using as many musical outlets as possible, to foster lifelong connections with music.
Learning to perform music develops many skills in a student. Joanne Erwin in her book “Prelude to Music Education” outlines five main values of music. Music affects people intellectually, emotionally, physically, personally and socially.
The theory of music is an intellectual skill, governed by physics yet guided by how humans perceive sound. Music theory is more often taught in a classroom setting similar to other school subjects, although its lessons permeate (and assist) musical performance as well.
Emotionally, no subject matches music in its expressive breadth. The organization of sounds in melody, harmony and form allow musicians an expansive palate of ideas and emotions to work with. Music can even be expressively complex yet technically simple, allowing young students insight into these feelings well before they are capable to find this emotion in other subjects, for example reading classic literature in English class.
Music develops complex and precise mind and body connections. Performing on musical instruments develops intricate motor skills that people would not otherwise come by. Music is very effective at developing coordination in even the youngest students.
The emotional aspects of music are closely and personally tied to the performer. Music affects the body to feel, ranging from the thrill of a first kiss to the despair of losing a loved one. Making music can be an escape from the daily grind for anyone, even if it is not your profession. The study of music develops maturity and responsibility. In their practice students will advance their skills in time management, as they will quickly learn how to effectively allocate their attention and problem solving, learning how to work past stumbling blocks in their practice without a teacher’s immediate guidance. Leading students to this point, when they are thinking critically and independently about music is the ultimate goal for any music program.
The social aspect of music is akin to playing on a team. Communication between players is crucial in a one-hundred piece band, a jazz combo and between a soloist with a pianist’s accompaniment. Sharing the emotional experiences of music with the other members of your ensemble has been every one of my most potent musical experiences.
I believe that every student should receive a musical education, and that every student who wishes to perform deserves the opportunity. Hopefully the means are available to allow every interested student to perform with an instrument in band. Disparities in skill may call for a variety of groups that can best develop each student, but I strongly believe no student should be turned down for not being good enough.
Often students who don’t participate in a school ensemble take a general music class, which I believe should work to develop a comprehensive appreciation for music. These students could learn to enjoy more classically or jazz-oriented music through study of the history of the popular music they regularly enjoy. Ultimately, it is my hope that this appreciation will lead to a life-long engagement in music, so that one day these students will buy a ticket to the philharmonic, or perform in a community band.
Music’s uniqueness is contained in the way that it traverses many facets of human life and the world in which we live. A comprehensive music program involving performance, listening, creativity and a deeper understanding of music provides the best insight into this art. For this reason, music education is a necessary part of any complete school curriculum.