We love the Christmas season since we’re a musical family. My wife and I help lead a small music ministry in our church. I enjoy playing violin, piano, guitar and leading young musicians. I love to make music with my wife who has a wonderful taste in music, has a great ear for balance and sings a mean “alto” line.
As Advent and Christmas approach, it’s difficult to not get excited about all the opportunities to make music together and celebrate our faith through music making. Through this anticipation, I started to reflect upon the role music has had in forming me as a father, leader, and computer science professional. I wanted to share a few insights from my personal reflection.
Motivations for teaching music
- Students need to practice the craft of making: I believe our capacity to create is one of our greatest gifts in personhood. In the act of making music, students learn the craft of pure expression. True music goes beyond reading notes on a page, reproducing guitar licks or simply imitating a master musician. True music happens when the notes, the silence, the timing, and the dynamics appear in the right proportion. True music happens when the student says something with their music from their soul. The craft of making also teaches students courage. It takes a lot for a young composer to share their gift/song with an audience. It takes a lot to get over fear: What if they don’t like it!?
- Discipline: I have to say that I hated practicing music as a kid. I have to confess my parents were very effective at holding me accountable for practicing. While I didn’t appreciate this at the time, I have to admit that the discipline of practicing music got transferred into my discipline for learning computer science and the many other areas of my life. I still need to practice more!
- Integrated thought: From a perspective of biology, music helps students develop both halves of their brain. The creative part of your mind becomes engaged with your creative mind.
- Listening: Bernard M. Baruch has a great quote: “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.” Students of music have to learn the craft of listening. Why? In group music making, students learn to listen for their entrances. In a choir, singers learn to listen to the phrases from the other voices. This act of listening helps the choir make one unified sound and communicate a unified emotional experience.
- Team work and cooperation: Through the act of music making in a group, students learn how to follow each other. In the case of band or orchestra, students learn to follow the leadership of a master. On a personal level, I learned my first lessons about leadership from music, not computer science. In college, I was asked by my pastor to take a leadership position as a choir director and worship leader. Building on my experiences of great music teachers and choir directors, I was able to make that transition from being a player of music to someone who can encourage others to share their talents.
Schools, like any organization, have limited resources. How do we ensure that young person has the opportunity to grow their character and personhood through music? How do we protect arts education so that our students value being innovative and creative?