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.