How musical culture influences children’s education
A child’s daily contact with music has many benefits for their intellectual and motor development at early ages. Music is as basic in a child’s development as language is. It enhances the capacities in both hemispheres and facilitates the intellectual processes that are essential in any coexistence. One of the most reputed international researchers in this field is Edwin E. Gordon, teacher and creator of the Music Learning Theory. He concluded that “children gain knowledge of themselves, of others and of life itself” and “it makes them more capable of developing and sustaining their imagination”.
Parents and tutors must know that music is a great ally in educating a child. This is corroborated by Anelia Ivanova Iotova, teacher on the Department of Musical and Corporal Expression of the Complutense University of Madrid and Doctor in Musical Education. “In contact with musical art, children experiment and show experiences that contribute to the development of listening, observation, imagination, the ability to feel and understand the beauty of art and the deepening of their intellectual and emotional life”, she assures.
The earlier a child begins to interact with music, the sooner the results will be seen:
- Good behaviour and self-confidence: according to the Children´s Music Workshop, one of the most prestigious schools in the United States, adolescents who play an instrument are less likely to have disciplinary problems. The University of Columbia adds that they are more self-confident.
- Capacity to work in a group: “All musical activities help to develop the social capacities in the group because most are precisely carried out in a group. Children adopt customs for civic behaviour”, assures Anelia Ivanova Iotova, who adds that a child’s empathy with the emotions expressed in music is a path to forming their values.
- Channelling of the emotions: music also serves as a form of expression. “There are times when children cannot express how they feel in words, but they can use song and dance to communicate with others and develop their emotional intelligence”, says Marina Cuadra, graduate in Children’s Education from the University of Navarre.
Classical music or heavy metal?
Guillermo Fouce, doctor in psychology and president of Psychologists without Borders, appeals to parents or tutors’ common sense when choosing the music the children must listen to. He assures that each style has different rhythms and can be used to relax, activate or stimulate, so the right music must be sought for each emotional state.
However, no style is exclusive, according to Jesús de Blas, Vice Dean of the College of Psychologists of Castilla y León. If heavy metal or pop rock is the music listened to at home, this does not have to stop with the arrival of a new member in the family. “All provide an emotional expression and feelings that are always positive because, if you do not like what you hear, you take it off. Whatever the kind of music, it generates positive feelings”, therefore the child’s responses must be observed to find out their tastes.
Zoltán Kodály, a Hungarian musician and author of one of the most important methodologies of musical education, said that musical education must start nine months before birth. Several researchers analysing foetal responses to sound -Tomatis, Kuntzel, Hansen and Petrie- agree that at around the seventh week of gestation, the foetus can begin to hear. Pregnant women can therefore provide the first contact with notes and chords. On arrival in this world, babies show tranquillity and attention to whispered or sung music. If they cry, they can be calmed down with a bedtime song . The layout of these kinds of songs allows the children’s heart beats to slow and they therefore relax and fall asleep.
When they are a little older, between two and six years old, their capacity to feel and perceive reaches its greatest potential. They have to be allowed to try out and experiment, simultaneously developing their ability to choose. There is no established age to start musical education, but “we must be capable of responding to a child’s curiosity for their musical surroundings”, says Marina Cuadra.
And what if the child shows no interest in music? Do they have to be forced to play an instrument? This is a question that many parents ask. Guillermo Fouce believes that music must be part of the child’s whole education, and although they do not show any particular interest in it, they must be provided with spaces to come into contact with it, to practice and certainly to play, as it is one of the easiest ways to learn.
The problem, assures Marina Cuadra, comes “when some parents try to project their failed dreams of playing in instrument or singing on them, producing unnecessary anxiety”. Our own dreams must not be achieved through our children. They have to be taught the options they have, shown the different types of instruments, and must be allowed to decide what they want to do. Music, as Jesús de Blas says, is to be enjoyed. “It is not good to force them. Children are going to tell you what they like and dislike. Arts in general are the human expressions that produce greatest satisfaction; everything that makes them enjoy must be used. Parents will perfectly realise whether music is gratifying to them, and if so should do everything possible for them to enjoy it”.