Music-lessons-for-5-year-olds-300x200Does anyone really know the best way to learn music? The way our children are learning is changing. The way music education needs to be administered is changing too.

First we must define what we consider successfully learning music. Is it meeting a certain grade? Is it passing a specific exam? Or is it being able to comfortably sit down with some friends around a campfire with guitar and play all of your favourite songs?

Maybe it is a combination of the two. But we are slowly moving away from a strictly exam focused definition of musical success. Music educators are now learning that just because someone has passed their grade 8 RCM exam, does not necessarily mean they will have music for life.

The established music education sector remains fixated on formal learning (an area that draws an alarmingly narrow demographic) and in doing so fails to reflect the diversity of young people, the ways in which they engage with music and the achievements of those who learn away from the exam system. Via TheGuardian

cello-ImgurBut the progression from that point becomes fragmented – a bit like a first date without a follow-up – and there’s a whiff of snobbery towards those who provide routes to musical progression that aren’t measured by a pass, merit or distinction. Those who wish to follow the formal exam route should be encouraged and welcomed, but so too should the child who wants to play in a band, sing in a choir or learn an instrument just for the hell of it. Progression – that is, getting as good as you can – is an important part of all routes.

It may come as a surprise that almost half the children who currently play an instrument presently don’t have lessons and almost a fifth of them never have done. That’s a large slice of our musical youth who are choosing non-formal routes, for example through the participatory work of our professional ensembles, or by providers trying to meet the need of their local communities. Via TheGuardian

Music exams are perfect for self reflection. Having an unbiased, truthful telling of your knowledge of various forms of theory, ear training, harmony, and rhythm is useful! Knowing where you stand in each area of music helps you focus your efforts on those you could improve in. It also gives students the opportunity to be proud of their accomplishments.

Should music education revolve around exams? No! That is not what music is about.

Recitals, shows, student compositions, student bands. These are some of the best learning opportunities for music students. They inspire, and give relevance to the tedious hours of practicing scales and learning music theory.

The key to lifelong engagement in music is enjoyment, whether young music enthusiasts ultimately become professional musicians, amateur music-makers or keen listeners. The challenge is to ensure that every child has the chance to realise their potential.

Conductor Marin Alsop put it nicely in her Last Night of the Proms speech, describing the children of Baltimore Orchestra’s OrchKids programme: “listening to each other, responding to each other, making beautiful music together, they’re proud of themselves, they’re proud of their community, when I see them it gives me great hope for the future.” Via TheGuardian

We need to focus less on the “best” way to learn and more on the fundamentals of engaging children and young people in excellent music of all kinds – in all settings. The starting point is to define clearly the building blocks of musical learning, which are, to my mind: singing; reading music; access to instrumental tuition (both formal and informal); digital technology; attending live performance; creative involvement in composition; improvisation and performance of their own work.


How Playing Music Benefits Your Brain More than Any Other Activity | Brain Pickings Maria Popova Playing music is the brains equivalent of a full-body workout. Each note rubs the others just right, and the instrument shivers with delight. Playing music is the brains equivalent of a full-body workout Playing an instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. This may allow musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively, in both academic and social settings. Via

How I Use Music to Inspire Math Students Bright Medium jurys out on the link between the two disciplines. That said, music has taught me how to reawaken awe and passion in my math students. By Marcus Miller Hate to burst your bubble, but the renowned relationship between math and music doesnt stand up to scientific scrutiny, at least not in the way you probably want it to. How I Use Music to Inspire Math Students Bright Medium