Over the last few days I have been promoting my musical theory books ‘ Beginners Music Theory ‘ . With that in mind I decided to write about music education in primary schools and the benefits.
“The early bird gets the worm!”
Many moons ago as a child I remember asking one teacher “why do adults try to cram in so much learning into small children particularly and why can’t they just teach them all these things when they are older, more mature and more interested?”
Well, the answer I was given was along the lines of “young children are like sponges and thrive on utilising their minds, cognitive processes and learning skills, especially in their younger days. They absorb information incredibly quickly and can assimilate a staggering amount of such information, provided it is taught to them in an absorbing and helpful way. The older people get the more difficult it is for them to keep learning and to retain the material they are trying to learn. Children find it much easier to study once the subject at hand is suitable for their age and ability. That is why we try to teach so much when people are young.”
In this way, children also benefit greatly from exposure to music in their early years and with the right encouragement and teaching they can actually succeed very well in their musical studies and practice.
Languages like Irish are taught extremely well in primary schools from a very early age but until more recently modern languages like French or German were not taught at primary level. When I was in 6th class we had to go to do a French – Irish School Exchange and I remember very clearly my 6th class teacher, who was incredibly gifted at teaching French, advising my parents and the other parents of children in the class one powerful element: That this early exposure to French at that age was a great preparation for the junior certificate and leaving certificate French course. He enthused that his pupils who took his after school course in basic French and who went on the Irish – French Class Exchange performed dramatically better when undertaking the French courses as part of secondary school.
When I eventually did study French in secondary school I must say that I found it very easy as I had already heard the language spoken so much and because, indeed, I had been immersed in the language when I stayed in France for the two weeks of the exchange at primary level. Being taught music education at primary school will have a similar effect.
A huge barrier to advancing in the study of music is the problem of music theory. When jazz musicians start talking about “minor ninths” or classical musicians wax lyrical about “a recapitulation of the second subject modulating to the dominant” even older and experienced music students can feel either extremely bored or overwhelmed by staggeringly baffling information that is of no interest of them in any way. For some people discussions about such topics in music can be immensely soporific and could actually be used by them as a non-addictive sleeping medication.
However, if music theory is gradually explained to children from primary school age (though obviously not material like “minor ninths” at primary stage!) they will be more able to understand more advanced concepts with less difficulty when they are older. Elements of music theory and harmonic practice such as modulation are impossible to learn and understand if the student does not have a good command of key signatures and accidentals.
Teaching music education in primary school will create a solid foundation and will instil a bedrock of basic knowledge in place. One teacher told me during my college years that the rudiments of music theory are essentially like the basic grammar of a language for musicians and I have to agree. Just as the grammar of a language are introduced at primary school age, music grammar will greatly improve the child’s command of the dialect. This is exactly the same in music.
I have said in several of these blogs that “the greatest joy of making music is to play in ensembles, bands and orchestras.” I really cannot stress how exciting this experience can be and it is obvious that when children are exposed to playing in ensembles and orchestras from primary school age they will feel more confident to perform with others and it won’t be a tense feeling or a daunting task to take part with others.
So in conclusion, there are numerous reasons why teaching music education in primary school is so beneficial!
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