I am in the process of reading Edwin E. Gordon’s Music Theory for Newborn and Young Children. So far, I am most impressed with 2 points that he makes:

  1. “Children are ill-equipped to learn what most teachers are attempting to teach. Without the same kind of acculturation in music young children receive in language by parents and caregivers during five years or so before they enter school (the first eighteen months being most important), there is little hope for debilitating circumstances in music education to be alleviated.” (Kindle Location 50-58 of 1975)
  2. “….yet most children have never had a chance to perform music individually before they begin formal music instruction, and once they do begin formal instruction, they are seldom offered or allowed opportunity to perform solo in class. Most formal instruction involves teaching groups of children to sing by asking them to repeat in ensemble sounds a teacher or others make. Yet imagine outcomes in language learning if children were asked to speak only in groups, repeating what a teacher said. They would learn to imitate only what others around them are saying and so would not give meaning to what they themselves said. They might not ever create a sentence of their own to express personal thoughts.” (Kindle Location 212-220)

I am convinced that these two points are connected and will even go so far as to say create a vicious circle. Most children get the idea in their music classes that they are:

  • incapable of creating music without very specific guidelines
  • not musically talented

As a result, we have parents not singing to their children. Personally, I think it stems from the music elite who think that if someone doesn’t have a “perfect” voice or Mozart like talent, they should not sing or play at all. I have heard this said to music teachers, as well. This kills me. This isn’t to say I support mediocre standards in our field, but there MUST be a middle ground:

  1. If you teach music, sing with your kids as much as possible. If you feel that your singing needs improvement, get better. Period. Take classes, get a singing teacher, whatever!! NEVER stop singing and making music together. Think about the message this sends to your kids ~ don’t make music unless you are perfect. How many of them do you think, think of themselves as perfect singers? Also, you have absolutely NO leg to stand on when you are encouraging them to participate in ANY activity in which they feel insecure!
  2. Encourage spontaneous music making and improvising in your class. Continuously send the message that there are times for creating music that may not sound good right off the bat, but it is through this exploration that kids will get to know how music works and will then be better musicians overall.
  3. And, of course, there are times when accuracy in playing/ singing are necessary. This is important, not only because the situation demands it, but also because this will also help us in improvisations and composition.

In the end, we must empower our students to feel confident enough to create and make music on their own. Only then will they always have some kind of music making in their life.