By Joel Maki
Lower School Music Teacher/Music Department Chair
This March marks the 46th year of “Music in Our Schools” month. The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) created this month-long celebration to highlight the importance of music education in schools across America. We are extremely fortunate at Harbor Day School to have a music program that is heavily supported and celebrated. Our students receive an average of 37 hours of music class per year, and 336 hours over their HDS career (not including special rehearsals, field trips, and other musical activities outside the classroom).
The music department showcases the talents of our students at the Thanksgiving Program, Holiday Programs, Grandparents’ Day, class presentations, assemblies, and, most exciting, the upcoming Eighth Grade Musical. Much of what we do in music class, however, is not seen at these events. For example, students in Lower School build their musicality by playing Orff instruments, learning the recorder, and ukulele. They are deepening their understanding of music history by studying the great classical composers, as well as Jazz history. They are becoming diverse global musicians by exploring music from around the world and emerging digital composers using technology-based music instruction.
Middle school students self-direct and rehearse performance projects that work toward building confidence and performance skills. Monologue and scene work allows students to refine their acting ability and memorization. Sixth grade students research and create presentations on Rock & Roll and popular artists. Seventh grade students work together to perform Musical Theater projects as a precursor to their upcoming Eighth Grade Musical, which serves as a culminating experience of the Harbor Day School music program.
Studies show, consistent music education improves student outcomes in the following ways:
· Musical training helps develop language and reasoning: Students who have early musical training will develop the areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. The left side of the brain is better developed with music, and music can help imprint information on young minds.
· Emotional development: Students of music can be more emotionally developed, with empathy towards other cultures They also tend to have higher self-esteem and are better at coping with anxiety.
· Fine-tuned auditory skills: Musicians can better detect meaningful, information-bearing elements in sounds, like the emotional meaning in a baby’s cry. Students who practice music can have better auditory attention, and pick out predictable patterns from surrounding noise.
· Musical instruments can teach discipline: Students who learn to play an instrument can learn a valuable lesson in discipline. They will have to set time aside to practice and rise to the challenge of learning with discipline to master playing their instrument.
· Music can develop spatial intelligence: Students who study music can improve the development of spatial intelligence, which allows them to perceive the world accurately and form mental pictures. Spatial intelligence is helpful for advanced mathematics and more.
· Better self-confidence: With encouragement from teachers and parents, students playing a musical instrument can build pride and confidence. Musical education is also likely to develop better communication for students.
· Powerful study habits: When children are exposed to proper music education, they learn powerful study habits. Mastering their specific musical craft takes a concerted effort, consistent practice, and patience. These disciplined habits translate into other areas of study.
The greatest benefit of music, in my opinion, is that it brings us all together. The universal language that is music unites us, as it connects us to each other. Supporting the performing arts by attending live performances, participating in church choir, living a rockstar dream by singing karaoke, or even listening to music at home as a family keeps music in our lives. This month, and every month of the year, I encourage you to take the time to experience music, share your favorite songs with each other, ask your child what they learned in music class this week and don’t forget to join us this week for Something Rotten starring the Class of 2022.
About the Author
Joel Maki began teaching at Harbor Day School in 2018. He received his bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and Jazz studies from Hunter College, a K-12 Single Subject Music Credential from California State University, Long Beach, and a Masters in Music Education from Boston University. Mr. Maki’s research on diverse music education inspired him to create a curriculum that encourages students to be global music citizens. He is an active member of the National Association for Music Education and the California Music Educators Association.