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KIDS: Music should be fun. IF YOUR LESSONS ARE NOT FUN, GO TELL A RESPONSIBLE ADULT!

ADULTS: Music should be fun. Your lessons should not be used to impress anyone.
IF YOUR LESSONS ARE NOT FUN, GO TALK TO A KID!

Now go ahead and read this point of view!

A PHILOSOPHY OF MUSIC EDUCATION

Copyright 1997,2006 John P. Giunta

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In Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s, almost every family had an accordion. I loved my accordion. My parents wisely chose this instrument for me. (I could have used a better teacher, though, someone like me, for example.)

A balanced attitude toward lifelong learning should be cultivated in every person. The benefits of music education have been well-documented and should be considered a necessary component of the curriculum of every child. Music should be included in the recreational activities of every adult as well. Music does not have to displace other activities, but can be worked into a schedule even if only twenty minutes a day are available. Every effort should be made to find ways to incorporate the various components of the music lesson metaphorically into the rest of our lives. The lessons from music study are various: patience, problem-solving, creativity, self-expression, concentration and memorization, to name a few.

A student should be able to look forward to attending the lessons and practicing. A good teacher will know how to adjust his or her teaching methods according to the learning style of the student. The student should be guided through the challenges of learning new skills with patience and understanding. Everyone can enjoy playing a musical instrument at a level that is appropriate for the individual. Although not everyone can expect to be able to perform music for the benefit of a paying audience, everyone can experience some success with the rudiments of music, even if just to learn to recognize a simple melody or some rhythms in music as listeners. A good teacher of music does not look for future celebrities in the arts, but should regard every student as an individual star of that studio.

There are gaps in our culture that seem to become wider every year. Music and other arts can serve to show us that on a deep level we are basically all the same, with the same hopes and desires for happiness and understanding as all the worldís people. The cultural gap between younger people and their parents can be bridged if the parents take active interest in the creative interests of the children. Setting an example is crucial in this area. If you are a parent, follow the progression of the lessons as the child brings them home or, better yet, take lessons with your child. In this way, the adults can grasp the process of learning music. They can more fully understand what the individual child has to work with and what is possible for her or him in their future with music. Further, if your child sees that music is important to you, he or she will more likely feel that it is important as well. You may find that the closeness you develop with your children cannot be compared in any other area of your lives.

The parent of the child studying the arts is playing a role that requires constant refinement. The role itself is an art. The parent will need to be careful not to live vicariously through the child. A common thought expressed to me by many adults is, "I wish my parents had pushed me to practice my instrument when I was a child." This thought, when examined carefully, can lead to unhappiness if the desired change in history is projected into the childís life. We have to realize that sometimes the adult who is speaking is really saying, "I wish I could play an instrument now without having made the sacrifice of practicing or without the unpleasantness I remember." This is very different from saying, "I wish I had had the opportunity to practice a musical instrument."

If music lessons are not pleasant to the child, we must find out why and improve those aspects of the lessons. If the teaching style is not appropriate for the student, it must be modified. Some suggestions for parents will come in handy: Donít use condemnation of the child for playing poorly. Donít dredge up past failures long after they have passed. Donít point out errors in front of other students or compare the child to siblings or others who may be more talented. Donít ridicule the child or raise your voice unpleasantly. Donít expect that your child is going to become a professional in the arts simply because she or he is curious about music. Do praise the child and show respect for efforts shown. Do be convincing in your praise of the child. Do remember that when a child makes a mistake, she or he is trying. Do try playing your childís instrument yourself and be a positive role model about learning new things. Above all, make the experience of music lessons fun so that if the lessons end due to lack of interest, the child will feel that the door is open in the future for music again, if she or he wants it.

With the stresses of modern urban life, many people seem to spend a great deal of time competing, struggling against a river that already knows its rate of flow. Through the creative arts it is possible for us to increase our self-knowledge, to find ways of relieving the stresses which challenge our personal relationships. Performance anxiety is an affliction of some individuals. I offer assistance to people with this condition as an experienced counselor and certified teacher of Yoga and meditation.

I am particularly touched by adults who have unpleasant early memories of music lessons, or memories of being criticized unkindly. There are too many people I have met who wish they could play a musical instrument, yet they lack the confidence to sit with a teacher for a private lesson. This special group of people can benefit from protective situations in which they can regain their confidence. I have designed a workshop-- a safe container--just for these people: "Adult Learners Returning to the Study of Music."

As a certified teacher of yoga and meditation, I have combined my interests to develop a set of materials called "Yoga for Musicians". I teach a course by that name at the Levine School of Music in Washington, DC. My materials help individuals, ensembles and school music departments with concentration, memory improvement and the management of stress and performance anxiety.

The concerns of performers are intimate to me because I maintain an active performance schedule. The instrument in which I received my Master of Arts Degree is the classical guitar. I also play flutes, recorders, accordion, theremin, glass harp, and percussion instruments. I provide entertainment for all social occasions, poetry readings and theater events. My performing credits and academic resume are cheerfully available for inspection upon request.

The study of language, mathematics and other academic disciplines benefit from the studentís study of music by researchers is so voluminous that quotations are hardly necessary. One newspaper quote is worth repeating. In The Washington Post, "Science Notebook", Monday, March 3, 1997, it was said that "Psychological research suggests that mastery of a difficult skill in childhood often produces mental benefits that reach beyond the skill."

Educators, parents and students who seek to increase support of music education in our school systems will have no shortage of such literature.

READING LIST

PSYCHOLOGY OF MUSIC EDUCATION

Azar, Beth. "The brain knows the score, studies show." Monitor Apr. 1996: 22.

Azar, Beth. "Music is instrument for research on cognition." Monitor Apr. 1996: 23.

Azar, Beth. "Musical studies provide clues to brain functions." Monitor Apr. 1996:1.

Cassidy, Anne. "The Power of Music". Working Mother May 1996: 47-51.

Elbert, Thomas, Christo Pantev, Christian Weinbruch, Brigitte Rockstroh, Edward Taub. "Increased Cortical Representation of the Fingers of the Left Hand in String Players." Science 13 Oct. 1995: 305-7.

Heiser, Regina M., Kathleen Chiles, Mary Fudge, Susan E. Gray. "The Use of Music During the Immediate Postoperative Recovery Period." AORN 65.4 (1997): 777-85.

Miller, Marguerite. Interview. "The Joys of Music Education." by Jane Magrath. Clavier. Apr. 1996. 28-30.

Rauscher, Frances H., Gordon L. Shaw, Katherine N. Ky. Letter. Nature 365.6447 (1993): 611.

Rauscher, Frances H., Gordon L. Shaw, Katherine N. Ky. "Listening to Mozart enhances spatial-temporal reasoning: towards a neurophysiological basis." Neuroscience Letters. 185 (1995) 44-47.

Rauscher, Frances H., Gordon L. Shaw, Linda J. Levine, Eric L. Wright, Wendy R. Dennis and Robert L. Newcomb. "Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool childrenís spatial-temporal reasoning." Neurological Research 19.2 (1997): 2-8.

Richmond, John W. "Ethics and the Philosophy of Music Education." Journal of Aesthetic Education 30.3 (1996): 3-22.

Shreeve, James. "Music of the Hemispheres." Discover Oct. 1996: 90-100.

Solomon, Andrew. "Questions of Genius." New Yorker 26 Aug. and 2 Sep. 1996:112.

Spychiger, Maria B. "Rationales for Music Education: A View from the Psychology of Emotion." Journal of Aesthetic Education 29.4 (1995): 53-63.

Stepp, Laura Sessions. "The New Score On Piano Lessons: Teachingís Changed--For the Better." The Washington Post 2 Mar. 1993: E5.

Tousignant, Marylou. "Playing With the First String." The Washington Post 13 Jun. 1997: D1.

Williams, Wendy Swallow. "Perfecting Practice: It Takes a Very Special Commitment to Get Consistent Results." The Washington Post 7 Apr. 1997: D5.

Further, the following refereed journals, all published in the United States, can be consulted for more information in the field of music education:

Journal of Research in Music Education (JRME)

Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education (CRME)

The Quarterly Journal of Music Teaching and Learning

Update: Applications of Research in Music Education

The Bulletin of Historical Research in Music Education

Journal of Music Teacher Education

Philosophy of Music Education Review

These periodicals, published by the Music Educators National Conference in Reston, VA, will also be helpful:

Music Educators Journal

Teaching Music



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