Monday, August 4, 2014

The Universal Language - Why Teach Music?

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  (Ephesians 5:19-20)

The list of subjects a well-rounded homeschool student should cover is not complete without music.  God calls every Christian to use music to glorify Him and edify others.  Music is a language that every person in the world can understand, regardless of nationality or dialect.

Even a casual reading of the Bible makes it pretty clear that God values music highly.  The longest book in the Bible, Psalms, is composed entirely of musical songs written by King David and others.  In the New Testament singing is mentioned often and we are told in the book of Revelation that there will be awesome music in heaven.  The Apostle Paul commands Christians — all of them — to "sing and make music in your heart."

Obviously, if God thinks music is that important, then we should give our children at least an exposure level of training in it.  But, heavens!  Where does one start? It seems that every music teacher, professor and author has a different opinion on how to teach children music!  I don’t pretend to have a the perfect formula, but hopefully I can at least clarify some issues in order to make your music education decisions easier.

There are three basic categories of music.  Folk/pop music, like "Yankee Doodle" or "Let It Go." Classical music, such as "Beethoven’s Fifth." And sacred/church music - think "Amazing Grace."  A well rounded person should have at least exposure to all three forms of music, although your child may want to concentrate on just one form for further study.

"Exposure" means hearing the music and maybe getting a chance to sing it as well.  This should be fairly easy for sacred music since most churches have congregational singing each week.  If your church tends to focus on one area of sacred music, like choruses, it might be helpful for you to get CDs or go to concerts that exemplify other types as well, like hymns and gospel music.  Music has been a part of church history for millennia and there is a wealth of Christian heritage and encouragement in the annals of sacred music.

Exposing your children to good folk music and classical music might require more action on your part. Buying and playing good music in your home is the first and most important step.  Attending concerts gives your children a chance to see how music is created. It can give them a new appreciation for music and possibly an inspiration to play an instrument themselves.  And studying the lives of famous composers brings history and music together in a way that makes both more meaningful.

If your children are completely tone deaf and have little interest in music, you may simply want to stop at the exposure level.  However, a good music teacher can help even a tone-deaf child to play certain instruments, like the piano, which don’t necessarily require a good ear.  So don’t give up if your little cherub sounds like a foghorn!

For those children who want to play an instrument, consider that you must be as committed as you want your child to be.  William will usually get tired of practicing if no one cares whether he practices or not.  In fact, William won’t feel the need to prepare for lessons if his parents are lackadaisical about taking him to lessons. As with any other school subject, your child will follow your lead.  Check his work.  Praise his successes. Talk with him and his teacher about how to fix problems.

Remember, the first reason a Christian studies music is to praise God and edify others with it.  So give your children the chance to do just that.  Beginners can be encouraged to learn a piece for Grandma or for Daddy when he comes home from work.  More advanced students can play at your church, at a party for a friend or at a nursing home.  When music is used to serve others, it makes performance more meaningful and less stressful and gives the student a reason to practice.

Learn the Language
Music is a powerful language.  It can sooth a crying child, rouse an army, or sway a crowd.  Music can influence a culture.  A wise man once said, "Give me the writing of a nation’s ballads and I care not who writes its history."  With this in mind, it would behoove us to educate our children in this universal language today in order that they can play their part of shaping our nation’s tomorrow.

Written by Heather Sheen

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