Making musicians. During a discussion a few years ago with a colleague of mine at Foundations of Music, the words “making musicians” were spoken. We were teaching weekly general music concepts to kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade classes at a school on the west side of Chicago. During a very philosophical conversation we had one day (or at least a conversation WE found to be particularly philosophical), we were examining the bigger picture of defining our work through the lens of these vibrant and energetic children. We hoped our work would plant seeds which would eventually grow into a lifelong love of music while simultaneously prompting some of their own journeys to becoming musicians.
Hopefully, you had a moment or two as a youngster in which the musical flame was lit and you discovered a passion for music - perhaps even a live experience in which you actively participated? Do you remember a specific song you sang as a child? An elementary school solo on a triangle, drum or maraca? Maybe it was a dance or other performance of some kind? I myself remember playing a medium-sized Orff wooden xylophone as accompaniment for a song titled “Harvest is the Season to Behold” at a fall/Thanksgiving assembly in 2nd grade. I remember how I held the mallets, listened for my musical cue and played. I was part of an ensemble of other instrument players and singers. I was becoming a musician, and I felt very proud.
This year through Foundations of Music I am teaching General Music once a week at Harte Elementary school in Hyde Park to pre-k through 2nd grade classes, trying to plant those same seeds and (hopefully!) memorable experiences. We sing, clap, tap, move and play drums, shaker eggs, rhythm sticks, triangles and tambourines. The music itself is the motivator and at times, I see the flame lit with these children. I see it through their active participation and facial expressions and sometimes in their requests, “Can we do that one again????” Last week a 1st grader at Harte asked if he could sing his own song for me as I was leaving his classroom. He was so motivated by music, he composed a song and sang it right then and there. He shared his composition and I felt very honored to experience this brief part of his musical journey.
Music consists of sounds and silences created in an endless number of ways. These kids are listening, watching and becoming aware of it all - they are comprehending and recognizing rhythms, note values, dynamics and rests. They are expressing themselves through high, low, fast, slow, loud. and soft sounds. Music is one of the 8 intelligences in the famous developmental psychologist Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. It is described as "sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, meter, tone, melody or timbre." We all have some of that intelligence, that inner “music child” in us and we automatically tap into it every so often, whether we realize it or not.
I have the honor of being part of the process of “making musicians” at Harte Elementary each week and it is a privilege. I am proud to be a part of it and I look forward to the remainder of the 2018-19 school year with them.