The Etude magazine, February 1929, p 86

Why Music is Really a Necessary Part of the Child's Education

By the Well-Known Expert in Music Education


IN THIS time of seeming mad rush, chaos, and general desire for speed land short-cuts to everything pertaining to man's spiritual, mental, and physical well-being, the word "specialize" is used to the extent of being almost inane. Everywhere one hears the instruction to specialize. In order to specialize, one must have a decidedly broad, substantial foundation. One does not build the twentieth story of a structure first. One begins not even with the basement but with the sub-basement. Someone has said that, were he to try to educate a child, "he would begin with the great grand-parents."
    "Thought is valuable in proportion as it is generative." The child of today is, figuratively speaking, the citizen of tomorrow and the grand-parent of day after tomorrow. Does it not behoove us to so guide and develop him that his thought may be of value, be generative?
    The birthright of every child is the means of developing all his faculties normally and naturally. Society owes him his opportunity for an education.
    Just what is education?
    I quote Mrs. Jameson: "The true purpose of education is to cherish and unfold the seed of immortality already sown within us, to develop to the fullest extent the capacities of every kind with which the God who made us has endowed us."


Living—Not Just Existing

    TO BE REALLY well-educated is to know how to meet life. To live one must give. To give most and get the most from life, one must "cherish and unfold the seed of immortality already sown within us." That is, one must develop and train spiritually and mentally, with love and tenderness. The explanation of so many "square pegs in round holes" in our social system today is the unbalanced training of the individual. To instruct a child mentally or scientifically, with the thought of eliminating all of the esthetic or cultural side of his nature, is to produce but one result, an inequality or disparity he will be conscious of all of his life.
    The value of music in a child's education is no longer questioned. Educators are agreed that it ranks with the most profound of sciences, to say nothing of its limitless worth in developing a liking for and appreciation of the principles underlying beauty. Music, as an art, appeals strongly to the emotional nature. And as a science it appeals with equal force to the mental faculties.
    The earliest recollection of the average child is that of his mother singing lullabies to him. Herein lies her God-given opportunity to so inculcate in him a love and desire of all that is good and beautiful in music that it will ever remain a mighty factor in his life. In the beginning is the time to start teaching and training.
    That reminds me of a little story I once heard and which seems quite applicable.
    The story relates that a lady had acquired a tiny dog. Being very desirous of having him develop into a second Rin-Tin-Tin she called upon a noted trainer, asking him how old the dog should be before she began training him. Said the man, "How old is your dog?" The proud owner replied, "Oh, he is only six weeks old." The terse response was, "Madam, you have wasted six weeks of the most valuable time."
    The child should learn music as it learns its mother tongue: first, by hearing; second, by rote; then by voluntary expression. The richer and fuller his musical experience shall have been, the greater the possibilities for expression will be.
    If the mother is so unfortunate as not to be able to sing or play, let her make haste to bring good music into the home. In this day of marvelous reproducing instruments, there is no excuse for anyone being deprived of hearing our best singers, pianists, orchestras and bands, in other words, the world's best musical literature. Becoming musical or acquiring musical appreciation is largely a matter of hearing good music and more of it. It is by comparisons that knowledge is gained.


Culture Creeping In

    OUR GREAT movie theaters are doing an excellent thing in bringing good music to the general public. Here the average man who shrinks from being dubbed a "musical highbrow" by his acquaintances drops in under the pretext of seeing the film, and, oftentimes, much to his own surprise, finds he is enjoying what is known as "classical" music. The motion-picture orchestras have increased in size and quality, being augmented by pipe organs, until today one finds them presenting programs of surpassing merit.
    Song is the universal language of childhood. No child should be deprived of the joy of singing, for nothing, probably, gives him greater pleasure or has a more beneficent and widespread influence on him. There is a large and excellent collection of "Songs for Children" from which to choose.
    As rhythm was known and experienced long before measure signs were used one cannot begin too soon to establish or instill within the child the idea or feeling for inner pulsation, teaching him that the reason he responds to marching, waltzing or running, as the music may demand, is due to the fact that the pulse of his own little body beats in time and harmony with the pulse of the music. Teach him that there is rhythm in everything—the singing and running of the babbling brook, the swirl, swish and boom of the mighty ocean waves as they break upon the beach, the singing of birds, the gentle lowing of cattle, the swaying of trees as the wind blows through their branches.
    Now that he has been given a big experience of the best of music and led to sense rhythm and its beauty, teach him that it is as readable and writeable as the language which he speaks. Lead him from the known into the unknown. Create within him the desire to read and write the lovely songs he can sing. Go one step further and help him set his own little original songs to melodies. For children live in a world of imagery and make-believe. Who knows where these dreams may lead, if rightly directed?


The Beginning Teacher

    THE MOST appalling mistake coneivable is the benighted idea that "any teacher will do to begin with." To me the most crucial period of the child's musical life is his first years or first few years. Children are as the clay in the modeler's hands. Within the formative period (the first seven years are usually considered of greatest consequence) there lies the possibility of "cherishing and unfolding the seed of immortality already sown within them." They literally drink in every word and act of the one who teaches them. Is it possible to visualize the far-reaching influence wielded at this time?
    Repetition makes habit. Habit is of two distinct brands, good ones and bad ones. There are no half-good-half-bad ones. Now habit becomes spontaneous, eventually producing the unconscious act, be it deadly or glorious.
    Emerson, in his "Essays of Spiritual Laws," tells us that "There is no teaching until the pupil is brought into the same state or principle in which you are; a transfusion takes place; he is you, and you are he; there is a teaching; and by no unfriendly chance or bad company can he ever quite lose the benefit."
    Having decided that "music is really a necessary part of your child's education" because
    God is its author, and not man; he laid
    The keynote of all harmonies; he planned
    All perfect combinations and he made
    Us so that we could hear and understand
and because, through the correct study of it, he will develop that necessity known as character, receive a mental stimulant offered by no other one subject and acquire an appreciation of the esthetic obtainable in no other way, the parent should proceed to find a real teacher for him—that is, one capable of bringing the child "into the same state or principle" in which the teacher himself is.
    But there are teachers and teachers, teaching and teaching. What heinous crimes are committed in that name! ! !
    Because one is a concert pianist of well-earned renown, it does not follow that one is a "real teacher." Nor does being only a fair performer on the piano necessarily indicate that one is a poor teacher.


For the Perplexed Parent

    HERE ARE a few fundamental principles of what constitutes "good teaching." May they prove of some benefit to that group of honest parents who say so frankly, "I know nothing of music but I love it and I do so want to give my boy and girl the opportunity that I missed!"
    Since the principles involved in teaching children and adults are so different, one seldom finds a teacher who is equally successful in both fields.
    The successful teacher of children is not only an intelligent musician but also a person who has been thoroughly trained in child psychology—a person of poise and a certain charm which makes her capable of instilling within the child the thought that, "Of all the arts, great music is the art to raise the soul above all earthly storms."
    The "real teacher" teaches the truth. She designates all things and concepts by their correct names. She knows that if she is to arrive at conclusions quickly and accurately (in the mad rush for specialization) she must not waste this second of most precious things, time, by teaching the child names for musical terms that he must eventually forget and relearn correctly, causing him to go through the needless process of destroying the old thought before he can think the new.
    She would be wasting valuable time. She would be establishing a habit that may take him months, yes, years to correct so that he can automatically think the right thought. Why cause a sensible, normal child to learn that silly sentence, "Every good boy does fine," for the lines of the treble staff, when the same knowledge, with a recognition of the whole grand staff, may be presented accurately and in a manner fitting to his intelligence?
    Facts are fact, regardless of time or place. Why wait until a child has studied from two to four years, or perhaps longer, before teaching him how to build the tonic triads when he may just as well know it in his first lesson? Why delay in training his ear, eye, hands, and voice when, psychologically presented, with lovely melodious songs and pleasing, interesting games, he may soon acquire a skill with all? Why wait for years to learn that most interesting of subjects, "The History of Music," when, through it, he may correlate the world's literature, history, art, and geography? The pleasure and knowledge to be derived from such study is limitless.


Phrases in Music and Speech

    THE "REAL teacher" will cause the pupil to understand the close relationship between English and music. (Both, for instance, recognize the comma, or first phrase and the semi-colon or second phrase.) Musically the two phrases give us the first section, which so often asks a question. Then there are the third phrase and the fourth phrase making the second section which answers our musical question.
    With the true teacher's encouragement and direction, the pupil will learn to write down and harmonize the charming little tunes he has invented in his make-believe world. She will teach him to learn "to see what he hears and hear what he sees." He will learn to be an independent thinker, to think accurately and quickly under all conditions and circumstances, to apply what he knows and to do so with great dispatch and system. He will become efficient.
    This "real teacher" will present her material in such an interesting psychological, pleasing manner that she will create in him the desire to go and learn, and, as Carlyle tells us, "Thought once awakened does not again slumber."
    Realizing, as you must, the significance of this most momentous of questions, the choosing of the one who is to help shape your child's life—his very soul—can you still conscientiously say, "Anyone will do to teach my child at first"? On the contrary, you will make certain that she is not only a good musician but also well trained in the best methods of teaching children.
    Is music really a necessary part of the child's education? Unquestionably, yes. It is impossible to overvalue the knowledge of a subject, "Untwisting all the chains that tie the hidden soul of harmony."
    To that mighty army of loyal, ever-giving, ever-serving co-teachers, I would ask, as did Cicero so long, long ago, "What greater or better gift can we offer the republic than to teach and instruct our youth?"


    1. Why are the early years most important?

    2. What is the harm of such memory devices as giving names to the lines of the staff?

    3. Describe your idea of what "teaching" ought to be.

    4. When should the tonic triad be taught? Why?

    5. What are some similarities existing between literature and music?