Fine Arts and Education

Mark George, President and CEO of the Music Institute of Chicago, wrote an interesting article that was published in the Chicago Tribune today. The title, “Trimming Music Ed is a Mistake” set his topic out pretty clearly.

He goes on to discuss the potential parallels between learning language and learning music. All children learn to speak … as they grow or develop, the conversations around them and those directed to them provide enough guidance and stimulation that – voila – children quickly move to ‘mama’, ‘dada’ and ‘no!’

He builds the case that music can be the same way. Exposure to it may be all that is needed to expose ‘talent’, that the door to musical ability is waiting to be unlocked in all children, given the opportunity to experience music.

He talks about the Suzuki Method, which makes music as much a part of the child’s early life as is language, with the same set of expectations. You don’t think about a baby becoming a world-class orator, you are just delighted by the squeals and coos. With Suzuki, you don’t expect to raise a concert violinist, you just operate assuming that “every child can play music beautifully and proceed in the world with confidence and character.”

I, for very good reasons, have no confidence in my singing voice. When my daughter was small and fussing in the car, she would settle right down under the threat of  mommy singing. Sigh. Deep sigh. My children, however, had music education early and then took that opportunity and grew with it. They both became involved in chorus and chorale and have developed singing voices that they are happy to use in public. I envy them the ability to join in with the radio secure in the fact that dogs are not howling and babies are not crying.

They also became involved in band, learning instruments, being forced to learn to read music and be a small part of a larger sound whose beauty depends on the contributions of many under the baton of one. Lots of good lessons in a band. And, generally, lots of good kids who are a little ‘off’ and a lot of fun. I think that whole process of building music together teaches them subtle lessons about appreciating EVERYONE’s contribution and also, the importance of their contribution. The whole band relies on what they need to do as one instrument

I swear the same thing is true for reading. The best thing you can do to help your child be ready to read is to read to them. From birth. Snuggle with a baby and a book and you’ve started something that will benefit that baby for a lifetime. And story time doesn’t need to stop when children begin to read. Auditory reading level (what you understand when you hear it) is always higher than actual reading level and reading fluency. When you read to your early and mid-level readers, you are helping them build vocabulary and fluency skills. Very cool stuff. You sneakily are teaching while you are enjoying a good story and quiet cuddle time with kids who would generally protest such proximity and extended sitting.

 

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