Developing a Musical Child
In a musical environment where foundational musical experiences involving the whole child – mind, body and spirit – form the basis of the developmental process, a solid musical foundation is laid that ensures much more sustainable musical development for the child in years to come. Such musical foundation includes developing a true passion and motivation for this art, musical discernment, auditory acuity, pitch and rhythmic competence, motor coordination, and expressiveness.
As an area of learning, music is a challenging topic that requires perseverance and inspirations. Many children had ‘fallen out’ with their musical pursuit within a short time because they were ‘jump-started’ in their musical development, going into learning to play an instrument before any of the above musical skills were in place. It is evident in children who were fortunate enough to be nurtured musically before being put to the rigors of formal music instructions, which they are much more likely to thrive and succeed in playing the instrument well.
The type of pre-instrumental music instructions that nurtures holistically a musical child should be started as early as infancy, but taken to a higher plane at 4 – 6 years of age. These are often weekly group sessions that engage children in a fun and developmentally appropriate manner. The following areas of development must be in place:
• Vocal development – the voice is the most important musical instrument that every child possesses. A musical child ought to be able to sing in pitch.
• Listening development – the human ear is able to process information and discriminate between sound sources and discern qualities of sounds. It also governs attention and focus. A musical child will have a high command of this important sensory faculty.
• Movement development – dexterity, and coordination are motor skills required to play instruments well. Children who have danced and moved and experienced use of their body in a variety of ways will be able to transfer the same skills onto instrumental playing with ease. Music, when played expressively on an instrument, needs to be supported by an equally expressive body movement. A musical child will be relaxed and uninhibited in expressing his music through the body.
• Simple Instrumental Play that promotes eye-hand coordination and pitch association – the skill of reading music and playing at the same time is a challenge faced by many musicians. A young child can be prepared for this by working with simple melodic instruments like xylophones or glockenspiels.
• Musical ensemble works – music is a community art form that is most enjoyable when playing together with others. Different tasks requiring different levels of competence in a musical ensemble allow children of different abilities to enjoy playing together and making ‘complex’ music. Ensemble opportunities in music classes also promote focus and confidence – both important traits for musicians.
• Music Literacy – reading and writing and composing music can be as easy as ABC if the child starts learning musical notations and putting them in musical context. This can start at age 4.
• Learning about musical styles and genres, composers, musical instruments, and musical terminology – these are all knowledge that widens a musical child’s horizon.
To accomplish all these, the weekly session should be at least 60 minutes long and preferably inclusive of parents or caregiver in a portion of the session. So that each child gets sufficient individual attention, the group should not be larger than 12 – 15.
If the child loves what he does in a music class, he will be much more likely to make music his life-long passion, whether or not he chooses the path of becoming a professional musician.
The Musical Classroom Experience:
• Vocal enhancement and singing – The use of musical language may sound odd to the average person, but it plays a vital role in preparing children for reading and writing easy rhythm patterns. You will hear tonal sounds like “do”, “re” “mi” and combination of rhythm and pitch like “mi-mi”, “ti-ti” and “fa-fa”. This is the language of music.
• Moving – Children already love to dance, and this kind of musical program encourages moving and dancing to the rhythms of musical pieces. This exercise helps improve coordination and promotes musicianship.