Quality music classes: what to look for
With so many music classes available today, it can be extremely confusing for parents who want to select a high quality music program for their child – one that helps them develop a sound musical foundation for life.
The following characteristics can help to distinguish between an ordinary and a great music program.
- Teachers must sing live. Recordings can be fun to listen to but in a music class it is vital that the teacher is a good model for the children. The children need to hear their teacher sing and hear their own voices.
- Teachers must help children explore their voices. If adults sing in an adult friendly pitch, down low, this is not going to serve children best. These will only serve to turn your toddlers into droners and they will confuse their singing and talking voices.
- A program where children sing and hear a range of traditional folk songs, nursery rhymes, chants and quality material specifically written for children (not pop songs).
- Where movement is an intrinsic part of the music program, folk dance, creative movement, finger play and more.
- Developing beat and rhythm is essential. The teacher must understand the difference between the two to effectively teach these elements to children.
- Children need to be able to hear their own voices. Good listeners become good learners and with the right experiences good musicians. Audiation is central to teaching musicianship.
- Using instruments in a way that engages children’s other musical skills is key. Teachers should explore how children can use their listening and audiation (inner hearing) skills to play the instruments with greater awareness of sound produced, with sensitivity, accuracy and dynamic range. (It is not helpful if teachers simply encourage the production of noise with the use of instruments.)
- A developmental skills based program is most effective.
- A program that takes account of difference. It is important to remember that each child learns differently at a different pace but all children learn through repetition.
- An interactive program is the most successful where the teacher can elicit wonderful musical responses from children.
By Anna Mlynek-Kalman, M. Mus., B. Ed., Dip Teach
Director, Music Works Magic