by Jacquelyne Garms-Forbes, author of "Music In Motion" (See below.)
hat was intuitively understood by earlier generations as an integral part of our lives has become the subject of heated debate in our generation Ė the role of music in education, and by implication, our lives. The reason for the disparity between our generation and the past is that our generation has learned to dissociate from its life while academically fragmenting all aspects of our selves into separate specialties. The result has been to exude an appearance of intelligence and superiority while in truth we have fragmented, specialized, examined and analyzed ourselves to the point of lobotomizing our very souls. Unfortunately we stand in stark contrast to earlier generations who have humbly understood life as a whole, which while appearing less intellectual, is more real, true and wise. They have instinctively known that just as our physical bodies are lifeless without the sustenance of the circulatory system, so are our academic selves inert, without the nourishment of the creative arts.
The truth is that all of life is art, every facet glistening with its life-enriching light and beauty. Until recent years I took a practical view of life. First, take care of substance and then, if there is any money and/or time left, make the substance beautiful; however, an awakening occurred several years ago while I was driving through a beautiful wooded area. My attention was drawn to the trees around me, and I was wondering at the phenomenal technology involved in the workings of a tree. Amazingly it does not look like the factory that it is, although it is an incredibly complex structure. Instead, the technological wonder that we call a tree is cloaked in captivating, breathtaking beauty that is expressed in color, texture, composition, design, form, etc. Indeed, artistry is woven throughout all of nature.
We are art. I am reminded that Ephesians 2:10 refers to humanity as "Godís work-manship", workmanship deriving from the Greek word "poeima", from which our word for poem comes. To think of human beings as poems, the ultimate in painstaking, exquisite artistry, further impresses me that art is woven throughout all of life. I must make an adjustment in perspective. If the Creator designed all of life with an exquisite balance of technology and artistry, then I must conclude that a full, balanced lifestyle always consists of the practical and the beautiful.
Teaching is art. Our canvas is the hearts and minds of our students. The subject matter is a skillful blending of the technical and the inspirational. Although at one time I had to agree that math, science and the technique of reading should be primary, relegating the arts to an "if there is time and money" position, I now know that true substance, even in the classroom, is an exquisite alloy of fact and art.
Dear parents, this is ideally a creative adventure. When I began teaching music in public school, my first impulse was to pray for guidance and then to trust the ideas, nudges and inspirations that came from within as I exposed myself to all sorts of stimuli: 1) the music itself, 2) biographies of composers, 3) geography, history and culture of composersí homelands, 4) stories of their compositions, 5) supplementary materials, 6) the childrenís reactions, 7) opportunities to make connections between different pieces of music and different composers and 8) connections to the studentsí academic subjects.
I learned that it was very important to keep the childrenís listening active and their attention engaged, while presenting the music in bite-sized pieces for their large, but brief, appetites. Some music had a story or extra-musical meaning (program music). Activities included reading, listening, watching a video, imagining, drawing, miming and dancing the story. Occasionally, a guest artist would draw the subject while the entire school watched and listened to the music. Some music had no story or extra-musical meaning (absolute music). While listening to this type of music, we created movement to depict: 1) smooth-bumpy, 2) fast-slow, 3) phrasing (musical sentences) and 4) form (the shape of the music). Sometimes we created words to fit the tune and even sang them using sign language.
You will be able to familiarize your children with the music and composer of the month by spending only ten to twenty minutes per week. Each week talk briefly about the composer, his birth and death dates, his homeland and a little about his life and the music that will be listened to. Then listen actively. Throughout the month you will be aware of opportunities to weave the music into your academic subjects. Some musical compositions will be brief, allowing a complete listening each week. Other longer pieces will need to be split up into sections, listening to a different part each week. It is not necessary to listen to every section; you may want to select certain sections that suit your situation best. This volume has been created to suggest ways that you can introduce classical music to your children, but you may find that these suggestions need to be modified to suit your situation or that they may inspire you to use ideas of your own. That is wonderful. After all, this is a creative adventure.
Some possible activities that are plainly obvious have not always been mentioned in the text. These include reading the composerís biography, studying the history, geography or culture of the composerís country and making math problems of his life dates.
The resources suggested are by no means exhaustive. Explore your library and the inter-net for yourself. Two supplementary materials that would be very helpful are:
"Classical Music Stories" by Cynthia G. Adams, Instructional Fair/T.S. Denison: Grand Rapids, Michigan, c. 1996. This is a wonderful book that introduces twenty classical pieces, including: 1) brief biographies of composers, 2) descriptions of the music, 3) suggestions and materials for cross-curricular activities integrating with social studies, history, art, creative writing, math and science, 4) music glossary and 5) descriptions and illustrations of orchestral instruments. This tool could be helpful to develop your confidence as a music teacher and is available at educational stores and music teacher catalogs. This is to be a fun, warm, intimate play time for you and your children. Many times I have felt like a grandmother warmly entertaining my grandchildren Ė all six hundred of them! I hope that you will be blessed with the many pleasures that I experienced while introducing my students to classical music. Best wishes and enjoy! - J.G.F.
Ms. Garms-Forbesí "Music in Motion" is a terrific "catalog" of supplementary materials for your music appreciation lessons. Each month is dedicated to a great composer, with short biography, a descriptive narrative covering one of the composerís featured compositions, a list of "Integrations" which comprise a unit study approach to expanding your studentís experience, using the music as the core study and finally, a helpful list of Resources, videos, childrenís books, websites, etc., that can be utilized to learn more about the composer and/or the selected piece. This excellent tome can be ordered by phone, fax or email. Ph: 800-445-0649; F: 972-943-8906; email: www.musicmotion.com.
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