Music Advocacy Letters
Newsletters to send to parents/teachers/students
In our band classes, we have been practicing our music. Practicing is an abstract concept for students, so it helps to be supportive and knowledgeable about what practice is and what it looks like. The following is taken from an amazing resource called the Music Parent’s Guide.
From my experience as a teacher and a parent, practicing boils down to six main questions:
1) How important is practicing?
2) How much should I be involved in my child’s practicing?
3) How do I solve the “I can’t find the time” problem?
4) How do I solve the “I don’t know what to practice” problem?
5) What does my child’s teacher mean by “work it out”?
6) How do I know if my child is making progress?
The Purpose of Practicing
I would like to suggest that the purpose of practicing is to develop an independent musician. If practicing is approached conscientiously, your child will learn how to teach themselves in a systematic way. Therefore, you need to consider yourself a temporary, but essential, part of the process.
Your child does not start off life as an independent musician. Basic musical skills and literacy takes many years to develop. Add to this the technical challenges of learning an instrument, and your child would need to be exceptionally motivated to learn without any help from you. You need to be involved in your child’s practicing.
How to Find the Time
There are no shortcuts or hacks to get you out of the harsh reality that your child needs to find the time to practice. But how? First, make practicing part of their daily routine and don’t have them do a lot of practicing all at once. What your child will benefit from most, especially in the beginning, are multiple, shorter, more focused sessions. Find five to ten minutes, three or four times over the course of the day.
How to Know What to Practice
When your child comes home from their lesson, you should have three questions for them:
Working it Out
Without going into too much detail, the nitty-gritty of learning music comes down to “working it out”. Generally, the best advice is to play through it slowly for accuracy of notes and rhythms. However, that isn’t always enough. Your child needs to have some additional strategies available to them to help with the more difficult parts. Having the right tool for the job makes the time spent much more effective.
The first year or two of being the parent of a beginning string student can be very challenging, especially if your child is in a school setting. However, you don’t need to be musically trained to guide their progress. As long as you stay involved and informed, and help them meet the challenges methodically, you can ensure their success in becoming an independent musician.
Although I, as the instrumental music teacher, help your student learn music and their instrument, you play a huge role in your students music learning. Students look to their parents and guardians for positive encouragement and that is something you can provide for them. In order to help your beginning music student at home, I recommend the following:
Playing an instrument is frustrating at times for beginning musicians, so it helps to have encouragement and support from their parent or guardian. Having a space and time to practice, helps your student improve and helps them feel like music is equally as important as math or ELA.
As the child develops, it is important to consider purchasing an instrument. Having “your very own instrument” shows the child that you value the experience being gained through participation in the music program and it will energize the student to continue with those musical experiences.
I hope you had a lovely and thoughtful Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day! As we reflect on the legacy and the greatness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I'm sure we all hope to see that level of kindness and selflessness, commitment and passion in our students. As it turns out, music is a way to gain those great qualities such as empathy and compassion!
A year-long study on childrens' music-making indicates that playing music in groups on a regular basis greatly improves a child’s ability to empathize with others. A total of 52 children - boys and girls - were split into three groups at random. One of these groups met on a weekly basis to interact through musical games devised by the researchers, while the other two acted as control groups - one met with the same regularity but activities focused on words and drama but not music, the other received no additional activities. Each child’s level of emotional empathy was evaluated at the start of the study and then again after a year. The researchers found that children in the music-based activity group showed a substantial increase in empathy scores and a higher average score compared to the other groups. (Rabinowitch, Cross, Burnard)
In addition to using music to teach empathy, we can use music to teach social justice and how to address social justice issues with compassion. Protests demanding social justice have been mounted in response to war, political and social inequality, poverty, and other constraints on economic and development opportunities. Although social justice is typically thought of as a political agenda, many justice movements have used music as a way of inviting and maintaining broad-based participation in their initiatives. Songs often serve as inspiration for students to examine aspects of social justice such as “accepting others, challenging discrimination, examining privilege, and rejecting violence” (Levy & Byrd, 2011, p. 64). Music can also introduce societal problems such as “poverty, racism, abuse, and addictions and such global issues as hunger, disease, and war” (White & McCormack, 2006, p. 122).
I hope as you discuss social justice issues with your student, you consider using music as a means to express your feelings, opinions, and ideals with them. Together, we can further Dr. King’s ideals and hope for a better future. Here is a list of music that could help:
We Shall Overcome performed by Morehouse College
Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer
A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke
Where is the Love by Black Eyed Peas
Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson
Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley
This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie
Glory by John Legend and Common
Happy New Year and welcome back to school time! It’s been some time since I have shared information about the benefits of music. Here is an interesting TED talk about how playing an instrument benefits your students’ brains. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0JKCYZ8hng
Music learning can impact on general brain development in children and adults. In the research it is called music training and is generally understood to be the formal and sequential learning of music, through playing music as well as appreciating and listening to it.
Research into the nature of how the corpus callosum impacts on the brain’s functions, and how learning a musical instrument impacts on this, is ongoing. Recently, neuroscientists have dug deeper and found that changes in the corpus callosum may be dependent on the type of musical training a musician does and could be localized to the anterior corpus callosum. This area has shown an increase in bi-manual coordination (where the brain coordinates simultaneous multiple movements like using a knife and fork). Here is some of the latest research.
Here is a video about how music education can enhance brain development.
I hope this brings some more insight and excites you for all the brain developments happening during the rest of the year!
The 2017 Winter Concert is THIS THURSDAY! I hope to see you all there! Tickets are only $5 and your student can buy them from any of the Arts teachers. A benefit of concerts is the opportunity to develop proper concert etiquette. Concert Etiquette is behavior that is considered appropriate and polite while enjoying or performing a live musical performance. Good concert etiquette shows respect for the conductor, performers, other audience members, and the music that is being performed.
What Should I Do As An Audience Member?
1. Sit quietly and wait for the concert to begin. You may talk softly while you are waiting. Do not talk or make noises during the performance. It can be very distracting to the performers.
2. Applaud after each full piece of music has been completed.
3. Sit quietly during the performance. When a performing organization presents a concert, they are putting forth their best effort; and they should expect the same from those in the audience.
4. Keep concert programs quiet during the performance.
5. If you must get up to leave during a concert, do so only at the end of a groups performance or between pieces. It is best if you stay for the entire concert.
6. Cell phones should be turned off or to mute. Watches set to beep on the hour should also be turned off. These high-pitched beeps are distracting to everyone. Listening to ipods or playing games during the performance is impolite to the performers.
7. Please use discretion in taking photos. Flash photos during a performance are extremely distracting for all.
8. Parents should keep small children seated with them and not allow them to move around during the concert. If very young children become restless and disrupt others' ability to listen, please take them from the performance area until they are quiet.
9. Please remove all hats.
Thank you for being a good audience member to our beginning performers and thank you for your support of the arts!
Music study enhances teamwork skills and discipline. Music training and performance requires, among many other things, practice and performing with an ensemble.
Each of these endeavors requires a significant degree of self discipline -- to stick with the (often boring) practice regimen, to train your fingers, eyes, mind and mouth to all work together and to play precisely in the ensemble with others. The ensemble, whether it's the band or orchestra, relies on each musician to prepare his own part making each musician responsible to every other musician in the group. The music educators feel strongly this sort of training has an impact on all the other non-musical aspects on their students' lives -- forever.
Creating music requires a great deal of focus on many things simultaneously: pitch and rhythm reading and interpretation, fine motor skills, listening, etc. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”Undisciplined rehearsals yield undisciplined performances. Practice lacking in disciplined fundamentals yields poor musicianship. We are what we do. Music students are often high achievers academically. They have the personal discipline and focus needed to study for long periods of time. The work ethic developed during personal practice, lessons, and rehearsals becomes a part of their character. And this strength of character brings successes in every future challenge they engage in.
If you would like other benefits of music, this article lists many.
I hope that your school year is going well so far! As it is now the second marking period, I would like to extend information about the benefits of music education each Tuesday. The reason for doing this is not only to share information on music education, but to express how music helps students in their classes and in life.
Music and Language
Early music education exposure helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning. It is thought that brain development continues for many years after birth. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds.
Music and ELA Class
Students who study music surpass non-music students in assessments of writing, using information resources, reading and responding, and proofreading. The gains in achievement of music students compared to non-music students increase over time (Baker, 2011; Catterall, 1998).
If you would like more information about how music helps language acquisition, this article is a good resource.
Hope this was informative and helpful. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to respond to this email or contact me at the school!