Music is an integral part of education because it offers an outlet for being creative and expressive without fear of judgement. Music has also been proven to have a multitude of positive effects, including reducing stress and increasing happiness. Providing musical experiences in school is important because many students don’t have opportunities to explore musical expression elsewhere.
I teach a music appreciation class that covers a variety of topics such as instrument families, music history, musicals, music in movies, and writing music. In this class, we cover each topic briefly, allowing us to cover as many topics as possible. My goal is to give students a taste of things they may want to delve further into and things that they otherwise would never have heard or seen. During the music in movies unit, we discuss how the success of a movie depends highly on the music. Watching a movie without its thrilling music makes it bland and lacking in suspense.
During the history unit, we listen to baroque, classical, and romantic music and watch videos of concerts in gigantic concert halls. Many students have never been to a formal concert or heard this kind of music before, or if they have, they heard it while watching cartoons as kids. Learning about music history gives context to the music students are listening to today. Chord progressions and musical forms that are used today have been used for centuries. As we progress through these music classes, students show changes in attitude and interest. A student who only showed interest in one genre of music came in one day and told me he had listened to more classical music at home and really enjoyed it. Another student showed interest in the different brass instruments. She had noticed some of them in the music she was listening to, admitting that she had not really noticed them before.
In our small group instrumental class, students learn how to play songs on recorders and drums and read music. Learning drums teaches them a steady beat and rhythmic creativity. Rhythm is the heartbeat that drives music, and playing drums teaches students to create that heartbeat.
This class allows students who may never have learned to play an instrument to do so. Some students learned to play recorders in elementary school, but they discover that picking an instrument up when they are older and more mature is a completely different experience.
Some students choose to take individual music lessons which focus on whatever instrument each student desires. Some choose voice lessons, while others choose instruments such as piano and guitar. The one-on-one instruction allows me to teach each student more advanced skills and techniques specific to their interest. Learning to sing and play instruments, whether in a group or individually, helps students develop dedication and perseverance. Students learn that practice does not make perfect; practice makes permanent. If they practice something wrong, the mistake will stick. They have to learn something correctly and practice it over and over, teaching them to apply discipline and devotion not just to schoolwork, but also to an art form.
My hope as a music teacher is to instill my love of music in my students. I want them to develop an appreciation for music as a universal language shared by every culture around the world. If my students develop a better understanding of music, they’ll have a creative outlet to turn to no matter what challenges they encounter in life.
By Chelsea Gibbs
Chelsea Gibbs is the music educator at The Lincoln Center’s Leadership Academy. Chelsea is also a substitute teacher for five different school districts. Before she taught at the Leadership Academy, she taught music in Maine for four years. Chelsea attended Mansfield University of Pennsylvania for her undergrad in music education and earned her master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Maine.