Music teacher, Alice Cotton, author of The Case of the Flying Note, discovered that many of her youngest students just want to “put a band” together and imitate their favorite musicians. Others want to play an instrument in the orchestra or they long to play and write songs with their best friend.
“So, the first order of business, “ says Cotton, “is to learn how rhythms and notes work, to read and write them, and to attach meaning to what they are. Then, it is essential that students learn to really listen to one another and to create a vibrant musical language together.”
“Then there is the task,” says Cotton, “of communicating one’s ideas. How does one reject another’s idea in a kindly manner and in the end how will it all come together?”
There are so many places to travel within a musical endeavor. Students can decide what these places are and how to phrase and construct them. There are crescendos and diminuendos, light hearted and sad or angry expressions. Since it is the story and the feelings that are most worth sharing, how do you do this? These are the kinds of questions and issues, music students are faced with in a class such as this.
Another important skill students must learn in music class is how to support one another musically, particularly leading up to and during a performance. And when it is time for someone to do a “solo” where he or she plays alone with the support of the musical group around them, what is the best way to do this? As the soloist, what do you wish to say musically? And then, after the solo, how do you rejoin the musical group as an equal member and how does each musician accept the soloist back into the group?
As rhythms and notes flow onto and off of the page of music and as musical repertoires develop, the intent is to train the ear, eye and hand to stay focused, on task and within the vision of the composer’s intentions.
These skills are especially useful in today’s world as they encourage cooperation, communication and what are the best ways to help yourself and others achieve their very best.
With music education waning in schools, Alice hopes that music classes and books such as hers will entice young learners to include music in their lives. It is interesting to note that music classes include the study of mathematics, art, self expression, composition, reading and how satisfying it can to be part of a creative effort. In addition, music classes help students see what it is like to work through and how to negotiate conflicts and disagreements.
The fact that the brains of our children come alive with these kinds of quality musical experiences, students may wish to go further. He or she might want to become a fluent instrumentalist, a songwriter, an arranger, a composer, or a performer with a band or orchestra and even if they do nothing else musically, these kinds of experiences set the stage for a creative life working successfully with other human beings.
Alice’s final words:
“Music, should never be an afterthought in our children’s education. It is every bit as important as learning to solve mathematical problems and to read and write fluently in any language. It helps to create the thoughtful human beings that we need and are to become
in the world.”