Thanks for stopping by A Family Place. I enjoy working with families, and sharing the power of music with them. Kindermusik provides this outlet for me. This blog will allow me to share thoughts and ideas that can help families in their journey.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Listening to Music, Part 3

I previously admitted that I don't listen to much music, not by electronic means anyway.  Most of the music I listen to is music that I make, students are learning, or other live performances. Despite my lack of  listening, I do believe that listening to music has many benefits.  

In a recent article in Scientific American renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks of Columbia University had this to say concerning music, “Certainly music seems to be the most direct form of emotional communication.  It really seems to be as important a part of human life and communication as language and gesture.”  Emerging evidence also indicates that music brings out predictable responses across cultures and among people of widely varying musical or cognitive abilities. Even newborn infants and people who cannot discern pitch enjoy music’s emotional effect. 

When I was pregnant with my first child I was also in graduate school studying piano pedagogy. One of the pieces that I was working on in my private lessons was Nocturne in B Major, Op. 32, No. 1 by Chopin.  I would spend hours at the piano -  practicing, refining and memorizing this beautiful composition.  I never really considered the effects of all of this music on my unborn child until several months later.  My son, Aaron was a fussy baby.  We did many things to quiet and calm him.  One night after much exasperation I suggested that my husband bring him downstairs in my piano studio.  As he held this squirming and screaming infant, I began to play the Nocturne.   After only a few measures, Aaron became very quiet and gazed up knowingly at his father.  It was as if he was saying "this is my music".  It was at that point I realized the power of music. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Listening to Music, part 2

I admitted that I don't do a lot of "leisure" listening.  In fact, I prefer silence to background sounds.  My kids are used to it, but they do think it is weird.  They probably prefer "no music" to the talk radio they get with their dad, but that is another story!

Though I'm not a listener in my down time, I do believe listening to be beneficial.  Just as children learn to talk because their environment is filled with words, music can be learned in the same way.  Shinichi Suzuki developed his music education philosophy based on "Japanese children learn to speak Japanese".  The premise is that children learn based on the environment in which they live.   He taught that children who listened to music could learn to be musicians. 

In a nutshell, here is the Suzuki philosophy:  A child and his mother would come for a violin lesson. The child is taught by rote, and the mother also.  When the child goes home, the mother is the teacher.  The mother makes sure the child practices daily, and that there is a time for listening each day too. The child would listen to recordings of the songs he is learning on the violin. The listening might occur during the meal, rest time, or while the child is playing.  Thus the environment is saturated with music.  The child that learns in this way develops a sense of musicianship before he is encumbered with reading the music.   The lay term that is often used is, "he has a good ear".

Kindermusik has a similar philosophy.  The classroom is filled with music, and activities that promote steady beat, vocal expression, exploration and improvisation of sounds.  When the families leave the Kindermusik class, they take CD's home that allow them to saturate their environment with the same songs they enjoyed with the group.  When the children are between 4 1/2 - 7 years old they are introduced to the notes, rhythm and terminology they have already experienced.
Does this transfer to learning songs?  YES!  
The children have it in their body, because they have moved to the song. The children have it in their voice, because they have sung the song.  

In my next post I will share the benefits of music listening through a few personal stories.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Listening to Music

As a musician, I admit to listening to very little music.  I know that seems strange, but let me explain.  Most people have music playing in their car, and in their house.  The majority of the time this is just filler...background music.  Nothing wrong with it.  In fact, society promotes it.  Elevator music, music while we shop, music while we are 'on hold', commercials and tv shows with music.  I get a lot of strange looks, and comments when I tell people that I don't listen to music.  They usually think I am kidding.   

Music is my job.  I have to listen to it, right?  Yes, but even my leisure listening is with a definitive purpose.  I turn on Copland, and really listen to the motifs that occur throughout his symphonic works.  I listen to Bach, and enjoy the polyphonic texture he created with elegance and proficiency.  David Holt sings a folk song, and I listen to the instrumentation as it compliments the text.  At church I listen to the blend of instruments and voices. During football season I go to hear the band at half-time!

Yes, I sing along when I listen to music.  I will tap my toes, and sometimes conduct the music.  I may not listen the same way as other folks, but I embrace music with my heart, soul & mind.