A Brief History of Music in Times of Hardship
By Siobhan Cullinane
During times of great hardship or great happiness, whether it be global or personal, music is so often the medium we turn to in order to convey our joy or to find solace, peace and comfort. It has the ability to express a sentiment beyond words and is never impeded by cultural barriers: it is universal in the emotion it channels, whatever emotion that may be. As the current crisis tightens its grip on the world and affects every one of our lives, it is no exception that music is something that will help us to endure this time of fear and uncertainty, providing hope and unity to communities across the globe. Throughout history, there have been many examples of how music has been a vessel of strength in the most challenging of times.
Often, the hardest and most hopeless of times are said to be those of war. One of the most memorable tunes ever written was originally a call to arms in 1792 for French soldiers against their Austrian invaders. It became popular with volunteer army units from Marseille and so earned its famous title: La Marseillaise. However, over the last 228 years, it has become much more than a marching song for troops and is perhaps one of the most well-known national anthems in the world. So stirring is this song that it has been a symbol of revolution for centuries. As a result of this, it has been banned by various French leaders during its lifetime, including by Napoleon, Louis XVIII and the Vichy government during the Second World War. It almost seems beyond belief that these leaders feared its mere existence to an extent that they felt they had to take steps such as these to contain its powerful and contagious influence. Although some of its more violent lyrics have been the source of controversy in recent years, we must respect the fact that the world in which it was written is, in many ways, very different to the world we live in today. For most people, it would be fair to argue that some of the words have taken on more of a historical and symbolic significance: it would be wrong to compare them too literally to the bloody time in which they were written. What remains unchanged is the melody, which inexplicably manages to rouse and rally people together for any collective cause. Only a few years ago, after a minute’s silence held for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, French politicians burst into a spontaneous and defiant rendition of La Marseillaise. Such moments as these cannot be manufactured and no speech or grand statement could have better portrayed the fraternity and stoic solidarity displayed by these representatives of the government.
Another notable example of music offering comfort in the most dire of situations was during the ill-fated voyage of RMS Titanic in 1912. The ship’s eight musicians came together on the deck as it was sinking and continued to play together, despite the water and hysteria rising rapidly around them. Although later glamourised by Hollywood, by all accounts this heroic display of bravery and solidarity truly did take place. Resigned to their fate, they continued to play until the ship went down, legend has it ending their most famous concert with particular poignancy with the hymn, Nearer My God To Thee. Lawrence Beesley, a survivor of the disaster, later wrote:
“Many brave things were done that night, but none more brave than by those men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea and the sea rose higher and higher to where they stood; the music they played serving alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recorded on the rolls of undying fame.”i
Even in the gravest of circumstances, it seems that music has the somewhat unique power to elicit integrity and hope when it is most needed.
A mere two years after this great tragedy, it is difficult to imagine a bleaker time than life in the trenches during the First World War. It is well-documented that conditions were appalling and the loss of life unprecedented. Famously, on December 25, 1914, a Christmas truce was undertaken between the soldiers on opposing sides without official sanction. This resulted in troops enjoying a game of football together, which according to many recollections began with carol singing which transcended enemy lines. Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described his experience:
“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing – two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.” ii
This moving account is one of many which exhibits the potential that music has to give faith, not necessarily that of a religious nature, but of a humanitarian nature in times of despair.
Perhaps not as well-known, but equally as remarkable, was the performance given by the Leningrad Radio Orchestra on the 20th October 1941 during the siege of Leningrad. The orchestra were instructed to continue delivering performances during this period in order to boost public morale. In this particular concert at the city’s Philharmonic Hall, the orchestra were performing Tchaikovsky’s celebrated 5th Symphony, which was composed with a theme of ‘ultimate triumph through strife’, and so saw particular popularity during the Second World War. This concert was broadcast live to London, and at the start of the second movement (which consists of an incredibly beautiful horn solo), bombs could be heard dropping in the background. Astonishingly, none of the musicians so much as flinched, all continuing until the end of the four movement symphony, displaying incredible fortitude in the darkest of times.
Although the circumstances are not always as dramatic as this, there have been countless examples of music being a great unifying force. Vera Lynn, ‘The Forces’ Sweetheart’ gave comfort with her songs to homesick soldiers during the Second World War with hits such as We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover. In more recent times, the ‘charity concert’ has become ever more popular, kick-started by the famous Live Aid concert of 1985 which drew in an estimated audience of 1.5 billion people worldwide, raising a total of over £110 million to combat famine in Africa.iii
It would be futile to attempt to cite every example of where music has been significant during times of hardship. In addition to its prevalence as an important component of great historic events, every individual will have their own memory of when music has been a form of salvation in their own personal crisis, through heartbreak, loss or despair.
Unsurprisingly, the current coronavirus pandemic is no exception. With vast swathes of Europe and the wider world confined to their homes, in this age of social media, numerous online groups have been created for people to perform and share their music with each other digitally. In Italy, videos have circulated online showing vast numbers of people coming together on their balconies to enjoy performances of musicians as well as to join in singing together, sometimes making use of pots and pans where no other instruments are available. This is, without a doubt, going on undocumented this very moment in many villages, towns and cities across the globe: wherever there are people, there will be music.
As we collectively live through what is one of the most challenging times the world has faced in living memory, it is certain that many more stories will be made where music is a vital component of unity and positivity, and will undoubtedly aid us in surmounting this challenge in which we all must make our own personal sacrifices, and play our own parts.
i Anon., “Titanic: Band of Courage,” https://cargofilm-releasing.com/films/titanic-band-of-courage/ (accessed 31 March, 2020).
ii Naina Bajekal, “Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914,” Time, December 24, 2014, https://time.com/3643889/christmas-truce-1914/ (accessed 31 March, 2020).
iii Anon., “Live Aid 1985: How it all happened,” BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/thelive8event/liveaid/history.shtml (accessed 31 March 2020).
Recently I have been following news of how Music in our Secondary schools is a declining subject.
The article below is particularly close to my heart as I am privaleged to be a part of Warwickshire Music Hub, providing support to over 170 Schools across the county, and counting.
Warwickshire is a county with a vibrant music community, and The Warwickshire Music Hub is proud to play a central role in this. From Early Years, through Primary, Secondary and even on to Adult Education, we are involved in projects, tuition, orchestras, events, and so much more.
With over 3000 instruments in our inventory, each one available for children and young adults to hire and learn we feel that our close partnership with schools is key to our young people's success in Music.
Together we will strive to ensure the continued Success of Music in Warwickshire, and we encourage our colleagues in Secondary education work ever closer with us as we continue to build on the tradition of great music in Warwickshire.
Photo credit: BBC
Creative arts subjects are being cut back in many secondary schools in England, a BBC survey suggests.
More than 1,200 schools provided information - over 40% of secondary schools.
Of the schools that responded, nine in every 10 said they had cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject.
The government says increasing teaching of academic subjects is a priority - though not at the expense of arts.
However, schools told the BBC that the increased emphasis on core academic subjects, together with funding pressures, were the most common reasons for cutting back on resources for creative subjects.
The data provides an up-to-date snapshot of decisions being made in secondary schools.
The findings suggest music, art and drama, as well as design and technology are all being squeezed.
Of the schools responding, four in 10 were spending less money on facilities, more than three out of 10 had reduced timetabled lessons, and some reported having fewer specialist staff.
In both art and music, one out of 10 schools said it was increasingly relying on voluntary donations by parents.
Extra-curricular clubs were also being cut back in a similar proportion of schools responding.
Jez Bennett, a musician and head teacher of Elizabeth Woodville school, in Northamptonshire, said: "I've had to make some decisions about whether I can afford to run certain classes, and I know that there are schools that have cut GCSEs in art, music, drama, photography."
Continue reading http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42862996
A Bradford primary school wants the world to know its newfound Sats success is down to giving all children up to six hours of music a week
Abiha Nasir, aged nine, walks quietly into the small classroom, takes a seat, adjusts her hijab and picks up the drumsticks. A shy smile spreads across her face as she begins to play.
She was just five when she turned up at Feversham primary academy’s after-school clubs, leaving teachers astounded by her musical ability and how her confidence grew with an instrument in hand. Last year, Abiha successfully auditioned for Bradford’s gifted and talented music programme for primary school children, the first Muslim girl to do so. The assessor recorded only one word in her notes: “Wow!”
Abiha’s teachers say her talent might have gone unspotted in many schools, where subjects such as music and art are being squeezed out by pressure to reach Sats targets and climb league tables.
But at Feversham, the headteacher, Naveed Idrees, has embedded music, drama and art into every part of the school day, with up to six hours of music a week for every child, and with remarkable results. Seven years ago Feversham was in special measures and making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Today it is rated “good” by Ofsted and is in the top 10% nationally for pupil progress in reading, writing and maths, according to the most recent data. In 2011, the school was 3.2 percentage points behind the national average in English. This year 74% of its pupils achieved the expected standard in reading, writing and maths, against a national average of 53%. It is 7.1 points above the average for reading and 3.4 above for writing. In maths, the school was 2.4 points behind the national average in 2011 and is now 6.5 above it. Its results for disadvantaged pupils are well above average.
Music lessons help boost academic results by convincing children that they can learn new skills and become intelligent, new research suggests.
Teenagers who are high achievers in music are more likely to think that you can learn to be clever and this has a positive impact on their school work.
Children who took fewer music lessons or did not learn music at all were inclined to have a more defeatist attitude, known as a fixed mindset, and did not make such fast academic progress.
Credit : Nicola Woolcock
Read the full article here
Watch this short and fascinating video on the extraordinary benefits of embracing music education within a school. The comments by headteachers Shazia Hussain and Hilary Dunford are particularly relevant to the challenges faced by all primary head teachers.
Hello. My name is Jeremy and I am rapidly approaching my 57th birthday (how did that happen?). I have four children, my oldest daughter - Becky - is 33 and my youngest son - Sebastian - is 13 (how did THAT happen!). I have two grandchildren, Cody is three and Eliza was one just two weeks ago.
Why am I telling you this? My job is Director of Warwickshire Music, but that’s not what I am. What I am and what I believe is defined by my circumstances and my experience. What I believe is that my children and grandchildren deserve an education at least as good as mine; and hopefully better.
As I look back over an increasingly long time span to my primary school education I have to confess that it was rather bland. I have very few vivid memories from that time. One clear memory I do have is sitting in assembly and listening to one of the teachers playing the euphonium. He played in a local brass band and his performance clearly had a big influence on me.
There was no opportunity to learn an instrument in my primary school but there was when I went to secondary school. There was one instrument in the music cupboard - a rather battered old trumpet. So I took that and starting playing... and now I can look back on a kaleidoscope of vivid memories based around my musical experiences. I remember my first concert as if it was yesterday. I was terrified and am sure that I didn't play a note because my mouth dried up and I couldn't blow!
Although this perhaps is not a positive memory it was certainly a highly influential one and led to many more positive and pleasant memories to look back on.
We all understand the value of memorable learning; learning that is embedded because it is based on an emotional response. I believe passionately in the power of music to create memorable learning that can influence a child for the rest of their life.
I have never talked to any colleague in schools who did not value music and the arts. I have spoken to many colleagues who are finding it increasingly challenging to give children the range of opportunities they deserve; and all too often it is music and the arts that have to disappear from a child's experience at school.
Emotional learning embeds memorable learning. If young people are to become fully rounded adults they need a range of memorable experiences that will allow them to grow and develop; that will give them a richness of understanding and will give them wisdom and insight. This is why music and the arts are so important.
Andrew Lloyd Webber says his new musical will challenge politicians to improve school music lesson funding.
School of Rock, based on the 2002 film, is about a group of schoolchildren who turn their lives around by entering a Battle of the Bands contest.
The young cast - aged between nine and 12 - all play their own instruments.
"At this time when there are cuts to music in schools, these are the kids that prove music is vital," Lord Lloyd-Webber told the BBC.
He said music "is a force for the good and empowers young people".
The composer, whose own foundation funds arts education programmes in the UK, said the government should rethink its "counter-productive" cuts.
"At a time when people are feeling alienated from politics, the arts cut right through that," he said.
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who wrote the musical's book, picked up on the theme.
"One of the main purposes of the education years is to help children find out who they are and what they want to do, and the arts are one of the greatest means of allowing people to discover their identity," he said.
"It really is mad for the country to cut back on that and throw out a whole load of people from school who really haven't found out what they want to do."
Lord Lloyd-Webber and Lord Fellowes were speaking as they unveiled the cast for the West End transfer of School of Rock, which opened to enthusiastic reviews on Broadway last year, earning four Tony Award nominations.
The show, based on the Jack Black film, features three rotating casts of child actors, selected after a nationwide search earlier this year.
They range from experienced actors, drawn from the casts of Matilda and The Lion King, to complete newcomers.
Among them is Amelia Poggenpoel, from Formby, who made headlines last year when her singing reduced Shia LaBeouf to tears.
The 10-year-old approached LaBeouf at his #TouchMySoul exhibition in Liverpool and performed Who's Lovin' You by the Jackson Five. When she finished, the actor stood up and hugged her, sobbing: "You touched my soul."
She will play Shonelle in the musical, her first West End role after several appearances in Liverpool.
Amelia told the BBC she was living in a "School of Rock house" with other cast members, where tutors run lessons before and after rehearsals. The set up is "much better" than regular school, she added.
Other cast members include Isabelle Methven and Eva Trodd, both 11, who previously played Little Cosette in the West End production of Les Miserables, and Natasha Raphael, 10, who toured the UK in the role of Annie last year.
Toby Lee, an 11-year-old from Priors Marston who runs a successful YouTube channel showcasing his guitar skills, is one of three youngsters filling the role of Zack.
The show revolves around failed rock star Dewey Finn who, in need of cash to pay his rent, fakes his credentials as a substitute teacher.
But what starts out as an excuse to get paid for slacking off turns into a life-affirming experience, as he prepares his pupils for a local battle of the bands.
"The reason I loved this story is every character in this story is somehow changed for the better through music," said Lord Lloyd-Webber, who first revealed he had bought the rights in 2013.
For the first time since Jesus Christ Superstar in 1971, he chose to premiere his new show in the US, principally because it has more relaxed child labour laws - meaning the production could have one permanent cast.
He previously expressed misgivings about bringing the show to London, saying he doubted whether he could find 39 children capable of pulling off the live musical elements of the show.
Instead, he said, "we could have found five bands to play".
"The depth of musical talent that we auditioned is something that I have to admit I didn't think we would find. I kind of feared they'd all be into their computers, but this proves that they aren't."
The role of Dewey Finn will be played in London by David Fynn, currently starring in US sitcom Undateable.
He said working with three rotating casts of children helped give the show spontaneity.
"It keeps me on my toes and, as a result, it helps them stay engaged."
The show begins previews at the New London Theatre on 24 October before opening night on 14 November.
BY ALEXIS KALIVRETENOS • 18 MARCH 2015 (14665)
What if there was one activity that could benefit every student in every school across the nation? An activity that could improve grades and scores on standardized testing? An activity that would allow students to form lasting friendships? An activity that would help students become more disciplined and confident?
Fortunately, there is such an activity. Unfortunately, many schools will not make it a part of their curriculum, due to issues of funding and scheduling. This activity is something that everyone is aware of, but not everyone has a chance to participate in. This activity is music.
For years, music classes have been the ugly ducklings of school curriculums—the last courses to be added, the first courses to be cut. They have always taken second place to traditional academic classes. Music, however, has proved itself to be extremely beneficial time and time again, from the undeniable improvement in grades regarding traditional academic classes to the glowing remarks from music students everywhere. In an ever-changing world, the addition of music education in schools needs to be next on the academic agenda. Music education should be a required component in all schools due to the proven academic, social, and personal benefits that it provides.
According to the No Child Left Behind Act, the following are defined as, “core academic subjects”: English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, the arts [emphasis added], history, and geography (Benefits of the Study 1). Although music, being a part of the arts, is supposedly on the same level as other academic subjects, it is not being treated as such.
Music education greatly enhances students’ understanding and achievement in non-musical subjects. For example, a ten-year study, which tracked over 25,000 middle and high school students, showed that students in music classes receive higher scores on standardized tests than students with little to no musical involvement. The musical students scored, on average, sixty-three points higher on the verbal section and forty-four points higher on the math sections of the SATs than non-music students (Judson). When applying to colleges, these points could be the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection letter.
Furthermore, certain areas of musical training are tied to specific areas of academics; this concept is called transfer. According to Susan Hallam, “Transfer between tasks is a function of the degree to which the tasks share cognitive processes” (5-6). To put this simply, the more related two subjects are, the more transfer will ensue. This can be evidenced with the correlation between rhythm instruction and spatial-temporal reasoning, which is integral in the acquisition of important math skills. The transfer can be explained by the fact that rhythm training emphasizes proportions, patterns, fractions, and ratios, which are expressed as mathematical relations (Judson). Transfer can be seen in other academic subjects as well. For example, in a 2000 study of 162 sixth graders, Ron Butzlaff concluded that students with two or three years of instrumental music experience had significantly better results on the Stanford Achievement Test (a verbal and reading skills test) than their non-musical counterparts (qtd. in Judson). This experiment demonstrates that music can affect improvement in many different academic subjects. All in all, it can be shown that music education is a worthwhile investment for improving students’ understanding and achievement in academic subjects.
Related to academic achievement is success in the workforce. The Backstreet Boys state that, “Practicing music reinforces teamwork, communication skills, self-discipline, and creativity” (Why Music?). These qualities are all highly sought out in the workplace. Creativity, for example, is, “one of the top-five skills important for success in the workforce,” according to Lichtenberg, Woock, and Wright (Arts Education Partnership 5). Participation in music enhances a student’s creativeness. Willie Jolley, a world-class professional speaker, states that his experience with musical improvisation has benefited him greatly regarding business. Because situations do not always go as planned, one has to improvise, and come up with new strategies (Thiers, et. al). This type of situation can happen in any job; and when it does, creativity is key. Similarly, music strengthens a person’s perseverance and self-esteem—both qualities that are essential in having a successful career (Arts Education Partnership 5). Thus, music education can contribute to students’ future careers and occupational endeavors.
Participation in music also boasts social benefits for students. Music is a way to make friends. Dimitra Kokotsaki and Susan Hallam completed a study dealing with the perceived benefits of music; in their findings they wrote, “Participating in ensembles was also perceived as an opportunity to socialize with like-minded people, make new friends and meet interesting people, who without the musical engagement they would not have had the opportunity to meet” (11). Every time a student is involved in music, they have the chance to meet new people, and form lasting friendships.
Likewise, in a study by Columbia University, it was revealed that students who participate in the arts are often more cooperative with teachers and peers, have more self-confidence, and are better able to express themselves (Judson). Through one activity, a student can reap all of these benefits, as well as numerous others. Moreover, the social benefits of music education can continue throughout a student’s life in ways one would never suspect. An example of this would be that “students who participate in school band or orchestra have the lowest levels of current and lifelong use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs among any other group in our society” (Judson). By just participating in a fun school activity, students can change their lives for the better. Music education can help students on their journey to success.
Chinese philosopher Confucius once stated, “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without” (Arts Education Partnership 1). Music education provides personal benefits to students that enrich their lives. In the study of perceived benefits of music by Dimitra Kokotsaki and Susan Hallam, it was found that “participating in an ensemble enhanced feelings of self-achievement for the study’s participants, assisted individuals in overcoming challenges, built self-confidence, and raised determination to make more effort to meet group expectations regarding standards of playing” (12). In an ensemble, every member is equally important, from the first chair to the last chair. Thus every person must be able to play all of their music and be ready for anything. When one person does not practice their music and comes to rehearsal unprepared, it reflects upon the whole ensemble. Needless to say, no one wants to be that person. So students take it upon themselves to show that they want to be there and come prepared. This type of attitude continues throughout students’ lives.
Furthermore, group participation in music activities can assist in the development of leadership skills (Kokotsaki and Hallam 13). One participant in the perceived benefits of music study stated that, “I have gained confidence in my leadership skills through conducting the Concert Band” (Kokotsaki and Hallam 28). Conducting an ensemble is just one of the many leadership opportunities available to music students.
Music can also be a comforting activity to many students. High school senior and school band member Manna Varghese states that for her, music is a way to relieve stress. When she is angry or frustrated, she likes to play flute or piano to relax. For students, music classes are not necessarily something they participate in for a grade, or to put on a college application. Students participate in music classes because they enjoy them and want to be there.
Even though it has been proven that music education benefits students, many people argue that it still should not be required in schools. They state that with the increasing importance placed on standardized testing, there is not enough class time to include music classes (Abril and Gault 68). However, it has been shown that the time students spend in music classes does not hinder their academic success. A study by Hodges and O’Connell found that “being excused from non-musical classes to attend instrumental lessons does not adversely affect academic performance” (Hallam 14). Thus, in reality, having students enroll in music classes would not be detrimental to their academic performance, and the students would then be able to reap all of the benefits that come with music education. Furthermore, funding for music education is an issue at many schools. The people in charge of determining funding for schools often choose to fund traditional academic classes over arts programs. Paul Harvey states, “Presently, we are spending twenty-nine times more on science than on the arts, and the result so far is worldwide intellectual embarrassment” (Hale 8). Clearly, the current system for the allocation of funds for schools is not adequate. By transferring some of the funding from traditional academic classes to music classes, this embarrassment could be avoided. Evidently, although some may try to argue against it, music education should be required in all schools.
What would life be like without music? Imagine it for a moment. No listening to music on the radio on a long drive. No music to dance to. There would not be any soundtracks in movies, and concerts and musicals would be nonexistent. Eventually, no one would even remember what music is. Many people do not realize it, but music has a bigger effect on their lives than they may think, and they would definitely care if it was to disappear. Without music, life would never be the same. To keep music alive, students must be educated about it in schools. Students will not only get to experience and enjoy what music has to offer, but will reap the innumerable benefits that come with music. Ancient Greek philosopher and teacher Plato said it best: “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to imagination, and life to everything.”
Abril, Carlos A., and Brent M. Gault. “The State of Music in Secondary Schools: The Principal’s Perspective.” Journal of Research in Music Education 56.1 (2008): 68-81. JSTOR. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.
Arts Education Partnership, comp. Music Matters: How Music Education Helps Students Learn, Achieve, and Succeed. Washington D.C.: n.p., 2011. Print.
Hale, Donna Sizemore. “Stay Involved to Protect the Arts.” American String Teacher 63.3 (2013): 8. ProQuest. Web. 19 Oct. 2013.
Hallam, Susan. “The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people.” International Journal of Music Education 28.3 (2010): 269-89. Print.
Judson, Ellen. “The Importance of Music.” Music Empowers Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2013.
Kokotsaki, Dimitra, and Susan Hallam. “Higher Education music students’ perceptions of the benefits of participative music making.” Music Education Research 9.1 (2007): n. pag. Google Scholar. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.
National Association for Music Education, comp. The Benefits of the Study of Music. N.p.: n.p., 2007. Print.
Thiers, Genevieve, et al. “Music Education and Success…From the Band Room to the Board Room.” Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music. By Craig M. Cortello. N.p.: n.p., n.d. NME.com. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.
Varghese, Manna. Personal interview. 24 Oct. 2013.
Why Music? Prod. NAfME. Radio
Tags: 2014 Essay Contest Alexis Kalivretenos is the first-prize winner of the 2014 Humanist Essay Contest.
Whether your child is the next Beyonce or more likely to sing her solos in the shower, she is bound to benefit from some form of music education. Research shows that learning the do-re-mis can help children excel in ways beyond the basic ABCs.
Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.
Making music involves more than the voice or fingers playing an instrument; a child learning about music has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously. For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.
“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.
“When you look at children ages two to nine, one of the breakthroughs in that area is music’s benefit for language development, which is so important at that stage,” says Luehrisen. While children come into the world ready to decode sounds and words, music education helps enhance those natural abilities. “Growing up in a musically rich environment is often advantageous for children’s language development,” she says. But Luehrisen adds that those inborn capacities need to be “reinforced, practiced, celebrated,” which can be done at home or in a more formal music education setting.
According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.
This relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children. “The development of language over time tends to enhance parts of the brain that help process music,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a practicing musician. “Language competence is at the root of social competence. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”
A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, drama lessons (to see if exposure to arts in general versus just music had an effect) to a second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children’s IQs were tested before entering the first grade, then again before entering the second grade.
Surprisingly, the children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. The drama group didn’t have the same increase in IQ, but did experience increased social behavior benefits not seen in the music-only group.
Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a nonmusician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity........ Continue Reading
Warwickshire Music Hub is leading two exciting singing projects this year. The first is a partnership with Ex-Cathedra, supported by funding from Arts Council England. This partnership involves 11 primary schools and around 2,000 children and adults; culminating in a singing day at the University of Warwick Arts Centre on March 11th.
The second project is a partnership between Warwickshire Music Hub, Coventry Music Hub and 4 secondary schools, supported by funding from Youth Music. This project is creating a choir of 100 young people, ideally who are not used to singing in choirs, with the focus of two major performances in 2016.
By definition projects such as these, supported by external funding, are created with very definite start and finish dates and clearly quantifiable objectives i.e. how many children are involved and what rehearsals/events are due to take place. This is all very worthy and very exciting for those involved.
But the big question has to be - what happens next? All too often these excellent projects simply stop once the money runs out because they are time limited. Our challenge is how to create a more lasting legacy and the reality is that money is needed, whether through further funding or sponsorship or simply creating new groups that require membership fees.
Getting the balance between time limited funded projects and creating something that lasts is a challenge - but one that is really worth exploring. The planning has to consider the future and what structures - in this case choral - are already in place.
The primary school project 'Singing Playgrounds' should embed singing within the participating schools but that cannot be taken for granted and so discussions need to take place with the participating schools to see what support they might need to continue the positive outcomes of the project.
The secondary school project is called the 'Joint Choir Creation Project'. Wouldn't it be great if the legacy was to actually create a brand new choir that met regularly after the project itself comes to an end? At the very least the young people involved deserve the option of continuing to sing; whether as part of a school based group or within a singing strategy created by the respective Music Hubs.
This is where working in partnership with schools and other Hubs is potentially so powerful. The reality of creating lasting legacies is that all too often they are reliant on external funding. Our challenge is to create internal structures that are self reliant; and this starts with partnerships.
I think we can all be forgiven for feeling that arts education is seen as the poor relation of every other school based curriculum subject.
In this country the government is once again pushing forward on what it calls an ‘England Baccalaureate’. Details have still to be published but the Conservative Party election manifesto states that: ‘We will require secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and and history and geography, with Ofsted unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects’.
It is the last statement that sends a chill down every educationalist concerned for the future of arts education.
Of course the government will argue that this still leaves plenty of curriculum time for art subjects but the reality has to be seen against a backdrop of declining numbers of students taking ‘arts’ GCSE and A levels and a very real decline in the number of ‘arts’ teachers in schools.
I am very aware of schools in Warwickshire that have moved from a music department of two to a music department of one teacher and a corresponding reduction in music teaching.
My sister used to work three days a week as an art specialist in a local secondary school. The school has chosen to increase the curriculum time dedicated to the core subjects in anticipation of the move to the English Baccalaureate. This inevitably means a reduction in the amount of time dedicated to art subjects.
The school is contractually obliged to offer my sister 3 days of teaching, so they have offered her 2 days of art teaching and one day of English and Maths; for which she has never been trained. Unsurprisingly my sister felt that this was not in her best interests and certainly not in the best interests of the students and has reluctantly accepted a new contract for 2 days teaching a week.
The Incorporated Society of Musicians ( ISM ) is my professional body and they are constantly advocating for better music and arts provision in schools. Their Bacc for the Future campaign is gathering momentum and support from organisations such as Shakespeare’s Globe, The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA) the Music Industries Association (MIA). Directors UK, the Design Council, The University of the Arts London (UAL and the choir Schools’ Association.
To get involved with the campaign please visit http://www.baccforthefuture.com and sign the vital petition. You can also tell your friends, family and colleagues about the campaign and spread the word on social media using the hashtag baccforthefuture.
Number one - make sure the Musical Director is a genius. Fortunately the MD of the Warwickshire Choristers is one. Number two, create an organisation where the parents are totally committed and supportive. Number three, remember that boys are not girls and they need a unique approach to rehearsals and concerts. Number four, work incredibly hard.
Garry Jones is a genius. He is a great friend of mine and a former Director of Warwickshire County Music Service. Since he retired from that job he has been working virtually full time creating the Warwickshire Choristers and, more recently, the County Male Voices; an equally excellent choir made up of all the boys that started singing with Garry 6 years ago.
The Choristers have been in the final of Music for Youth 5 times in the last 6 years and have received Choir of the Day in every BBC Choir of the Year competition since reaching the televised final in 2010. They produce CDs, go on tour and have featured on radio as well as television. They regularly perform at major concert venues including Symphony Hall in Birmingham, Truro Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral and the University of Warwick Arts Centre.
It is perhaps two things that stand out for me as I watch and admire Garry at work. A concert last night is a good example. The care he takes over the choice of repertoire for the boys is extreme - but utterly worth while when you hear them. Yesterday's concert started with a sublime rendition of Ubi Caritas by Albrecht. The pure young voices of two solo choristers soared around the Parish church of Leamington Spa and set the tone for the rest of their performance; including music by Jefferson, Poulenc, Frank and Schwartz.
The boys, aged between 7 - 12, perform music that you would not think they have the maturity to manage. Le Chien Perdu by Poulenc was simply sensational; unaccompanied and without a conductor.
The reason they can do this is because of the unique relationship that Garry builds with them. This is developed in no small part by his rehearsing style. I have sat in many rehearsals and it is not unusual for Garry to spend up to 10 minutes on one sound. The boys come into a choir where excellent is simply taken for granted and the hard work needed to achieve that is there for all to see.
The results of a research project by Northwestern University, published in July 2015, suggest that music training, begun as late as high school, may help improve the teenage brain’s responses to sound and sharpen hearing and language skills.
The research indicates that music instruction helps enhance skills that are critical for academic success. The gains were seen during group music classes included in the schools’ curriculum, suggesting in-school training accelerates neurodevelopment.
Professor Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Communication, and her colleagues recruited 40 Chicago-area high school freshmen (14-15 years-old) in a study that began shortly before school started, and followed them until their last senior year (18-19 years old). Nearly half the students had enrolled in band classes, which involved two to three hours a week of instrumental group music instruction in school. The rest had enrolled in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), which focused on fitness. Both groups attended the same schools in low-income neighbourhoods.
All participants improved in language skills, but the improvement was greater for those in music classes, compared with the JROTC group. According to the authors of the report, high school music training might hone brain development and improve language skills. The stable processing of sound details, important for language skills, is known to be diminished in children raised in poverty, raising the possibility that music education may offset this negative influence on sound processing.