The Importance of Music Lessons

Its time for another issue of Music Teachers’ Q and A.. and in this episode we cover a very important issue.

Today’s question came from Doug, from the USA, and he said:

“I am a general music teacher who teaches 6,7,8 and high school students. My question is: How can I motivate my students to take my classes seriously? A lot of the kids feel music class is not as important as their core subjects.”

Here is our thoughts on this topic on video:

Janice mentioned the TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson – one of the most popular and entertaining TED Talks ever recorded. If you’ve not seen it before, you can watch it here:

Other Resources on this topic:

23 Comments

  • By Lyndell Miller Reply

    Thanks for a great Q&A again. I totally agree with your sentiments. I also keep thinking of what Jim Gill said about teaching music,”you are teaching them to think abstraction, (or something like that). . I hadn’t thought of it in that way. I love what I do! So lucky to be doing something I love for a job.:)

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Lyndell – You are absolutely right. I think you mean Richard Gill – we know who you meant! 🙂 He made the point that it is because music is an abstract art that it is so good for the brain. You can use the link above to review part of my discussion with Richard on this topic.

  • By Susan H. Reply

    I wanted to let you know how much this lightened my heart. After negotiating to have a string quartet come to my school for the 5th graders, a student came up to me later and said that I had ruined his day. He was looking forward to PE and had to come to hear THAT!

    I was extremely(and still a little) discouraged and started second guessing why I do what I do. This is just one of many incidences that have been slowly killing the joy of teaching music for me. For the first time in my 10 years of teaching I was thinking I may need to change my career.

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Susan,

      I think everybody can feel for you on that one. The thing is… I don’t think you should focus on that child, and what he said to you – I think you are best to forget about it. The thing is.. there were probably 100 or more students who saw that concert. I wouldn’t mind betting that at least one, most likely more than one child at that concert was really inspired by it, and may go on to become musicians as a result.

      Now… what do you want to focus on? The fact that a child missed their PE lesson, (which they will get over, and not even remember in a years time!), or the fact that you may have just inspired a child to have a lifelong love of music?

      Its human nature to focus on negatives. We all do it. One person will say something negative to us, and despite the fact that five people say positive things we focus on the one negative thing that someone had to say.

      The only way to do this is to consciously make an effort to remember the good things people had to say, and block out or forget the bad ones. I’m not saying to ignore feedback.. but I am saying you should not focus on those things.

      I know you’re a great teacher – so keep it up!

  • By Orlando Wayne Gonzales Reply

    Thank you very much Janice. You are so right. I am going to ensure other music teachers in my schools see these short videos.
    Keep up the fantastic work in your organization. I teach
    Pre-K through 8th grade.

    Wayne

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Wayne,

      Thanks for sharing our videos with your colleagues – I’m glad they can be helpful for you 🙂

  • By Orlando Wayne Gonzales Reply

    PS: Keep on making wonderful resources!

    Wayne

  • By Judi Reply

    I personally have seen children (even interlectually handicapped who can not talk with anyone), come alive learning music and even develop the ability to communicate. This is really exciting.

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Judi,

      Thanks for sharing your story – We know that music brings such joy to children, especially those with disabilities. We’re glad you’re using music to help communicate with them

  • By Danielle Reply

    Hi there Janice! What can be done in a situation where you are already approaching your music classes in this way, and still are not having success? The downfall in said situation is the parents and teachers. They do not see music as important in child development and haven’t for years, and have no desire to change their way of thinking. Speaking out in the community and implementing interesting, fun, and educational music programs has not yielded any positive change in thinking. In fact, speaking out for a new way of thinking can get a person ostracized in this situation. Do you have any suggestions for this type of situation? I realize there is no cure-all but thought since it is on-topic with your video that I would ask. 🙂

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Danielle,

      Thanks for participating, and being honest enough to share this question. Don’t worry – you’re not alone in feeling that. I know that even the most experienced teachers face this as a battle every day.

      We’re thinking of doing another Q&A session focusing around how to get the parents and other teachers on board – so hopefully that might spark an extra idea or two in the coming months.

      Here is something else to think about: What happens in your school when you have a big open day or performance? Remember its the music teacher that suddenly is looked to to provide a performance opportunity for the students. So, while you might feel undervalued on a day to day basis, remember that the principal is very grateful if you can make the school look good on these occasions in front of the community.

  • By Anne Arksey Reply

    Hi Janice,
    Loved your video. It is very dear to my heart. Right now in my county, music is not in the schools. I have tried teaching piano, violin and voice as a private teacher, but my next step is to have principals allow me to come into their schools for eight weeks and teach classes a half hour lesson a week. I am so disappointed with how music is not valued, and unfortunately the parents do not value it. When we don’t have it in the schools, the community does not seem to want to push for it.

    As far as Sir Ken Robinson’s video, I feel he has hit the nail on the head. I am a Faculty Advisor for the Nipissing University in Canada. My push with the teacher candidates is to look at how the student learns, and what they are good at doing. I relate many of my music experiences to them, and it is a joy when I observe the student teachers to see that they are looking at the whole child. However, the province and the Board are still very focussed on literacy and numeracy. I do feel they are missing the big picture!

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Anne,

      We totally agree with your sentiments, and we appreciate your feedback on this video

  • By Carl Smith Reply

    Janice- your comments regarding “Why music education” is great. May I submit these statements?

    1. I believe humans seem to have the need to express certain significant ideas in forms other than ordinary writing or speaking.
    2. I believe humans seem to have the capacity (or ability?) to perceive the beautiful.

    These two statements constitute my rationale for the arts in human experience and the rationale for arts education (for me, MUSIC EDUCATION) in a child’s education.

    Whatcha think?

    Carl Smith, Ph.D., Music Education

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Carl,

      I couldn’t agree more with your statements! Its obviously a very interesting area of research, how humans perceive music and all art forms.

      Thanks for the contribution – and I look forward to keeping in contact with you.

  • By Cindy Bruce Reply

    Many moons ago humans arrived on this planet by whatever means!! I am pretty sure that we weren’t discussing maths or science or Engineering or any of the other academic subjects taught in schools in these modern times. In fact, I believe that the early humans would have been communicating via a system of melodic and/or rhythmic syllables which were stringed together after a time into intelligible “phrases” and “sentences”. In the centre of the human developing brain was the music intelligence(Howard Gardner),one of(if not) the lowest forms of intelligences.( I am not a neuro scientist or anthropologist by the way.)The earliest language patterns(to me) would have been based on music, a system of sounds,silences and dynamics(my definition). The early gurus(Aristotle, Plato etc) knew the value of music to human learning. I find it difficult to understand the arrogance of the mathematicians, engineers, scientists and school curriculum designers and etc who believe that music is of no value in a human education, especially a human child’s education. If all of our senses were taken away and we were only left with our hearing what would the world around us sound like. Music to our ears I will guarantee. None of our skills in sport or building design or financial matters or much else would be of any use at all!!
    I am a strong advocate for music education for the holistic education of children and believe that children are being disadvantaged if they are not offered some form of music education from birth -especially in school.
    The children should understand that the world means nothing without it.Ask them to record how many different places they hear music each day-from games to advertisements, the radio, their downloaded music, in the supermarket and a million other places. Ask them to watch their favourite show on TV and mute the sound.Ask them to just sit and listen to the world around them.

    Cindy Bruce
    B.Mus, MEd(Music)

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Cindy,

      Thanks for your contribution – Its most interesting, and you are clearly well researched on this topic! We look forward to keeping in touch again

  • By Joan Reply

    Hi,
    First of all, thank you for all of the work that Fun Music Company does. I love having you in my corner. Here’s my two cents on this subject:

    The esoteric conversation about the value of music education is one thing, and they actual delivery of a valuable music program is another. I have a fairly “traditional” music training background, including private music lessons on violin, voice, and piano, then my B. Mus, (and B.Ed.) and my Level 1 Orff. I teach Nursery (aged 4) to Grade 6 students, and have taught up to Grade 12. The biggest motivator for me to become a teacher was my love and passion for music. So my biggest motivator for my students is exploring their love and passion for music. I was once beginning a unit on composers and started with a teacher talk on Bach. One kid put up his hand and asked “Why are we always studying dead guys in music?” Good question! And one which made me realize that our students are very sophisticated consumers of music today. Show me one teenager who does not, at some point during day, have a pair of earphones in. What are they listening to? What are they watching on tv, or in the movie theatre, or on youtube? Start with that (download the clean version!), and then talk about sources of inspiration for that song. Where did it come from? What inspired the writing of the song? Why does your student like it? What do they know about that artist? Before you know it, kids will be clamouring to tell you about their music. My Halloween classes were taking short clips of famous scary movies (not slasher or too gory) watching them with no sound, and the kids had to create music to suit the scene. I don’t care what kind of instrument they use – could be bunch of sound effects gathered together. The point is the are engaged, they are collaborating, they are included, they have choices, they are being creative and isn’t that what its all about? All music has rhythm, beat, and dynamics – it doesn’t have to be one in the music book! After your students are coming to class with a more eager attitude, then you can introduce them to more traditional forms of music if that is your desire. I have found that my music classes are noisier, and messier, but much more interesting for everyone, including me!

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Joan,
      Thanks so much for the great advice – You clearly have a great way of ‘meeting the students where they are at’. I loved your idea about putting music to a scary movie clip.. you could do that with all sorts of stuff.

      Anyway, thanks for the contribution to our discussion, and I look forward to keeping in touch

  • By Francis Be Reply

    I also face similar reactions by my music students at the university level. Not only students but in my country Papua New Guinea, parents also regard the creative arts industry as the last option for their kids if they do not score better grades in the core subjects (science, maths, Literature.

    So what I tell my students is that, if you have a passion for music, no body can stop you to be a professional musician in future whether as a music teacher, a researcher etc. I tell them it is their future and not anybody else including their parents so take it if your strength, talent, skill, is in music as an art.

    • By Janice Reply

      Hi Francis

      You Rock! Keep strong and keep your belief and focus in what you’re doing. You’re doing a great job!

  • By LadyD Reply

    Wonderful, inspiring message. Let’s bring music back to the public schools!

  • By Playback Singer Binny Reply

    Really inspiring and motivating video i can say…And yes there is very much necessity of the music in the education with the other subjects as well….Music is really needed in today’s life…!!!!!!!!!!!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

3 × 5 =