First, Teach Music

By Truitt, Carole | Pastoral Music, April 2009 | Go to article overview

First, Teach Music


Truitt, Carole, Pastoral Music


If children and young people are to learn music's place in worship and to learn how to participate in sung worship, and if they are to prepare for music ministry, they must learn how to make music. Music education programs in Catholic schools should teach the principles of making music as well as the use of music in liturgy, of course, but any education in liturgical music and musical leadership must be grounded in a firm program of general music education. In their description of the "obligation" that Catholic educational institutions have "toward music and the Sacred Liturgy," the Latin Church bishops of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops make this very point. They tell us that "Catholic schools are called to foster the joy of singing and making music" before the bishops talk about specific repertoire for the liturgy.1

In their own formation, music educators are introduced to many philosophies of music education, including those of Kodály, Orff, and Dalcroze-to name but a few key theorists and practitioners.2 Each of these educators espoused certain methods of teaching in the music classroom. While each approach is different from the others in its purest form, taken together they reinforce each other by highlighting one or another element of music making as a way to learn (singing, instrumental music, and movement). The approach promoted by Zoltán Kodály, for instance, focuses especially on "folk" music. Learning the music of their native land, he believed, would lead students to competence in the necessary skills for reading the language of music. Carl Orff introduced the use of melodic and rhythmic instruments in the music classroom, and Emil Jacques-Dalcroze developed the approach known best for its focus on movement, called "eurhythmies."

These three educators-and other musical scholars-believed that we are naturally musical beings and, therefore, children and adults have a right to a musical education that develops this part of the human person. In fact, they believed that children and adults should receive the best musical education available so that each person can develop and express as fully as possible his or her natural musical abilities.

The Foundational Premise

The foundational premise that any major philosophy of music education accepts is that we are musical beings and, indeed, everything in our being is related to music. Consider how different this approach is from the approach to music education taken as late as the nineteenth century, against which contemporary music education has rebelled so successfully, though that earlier approach still dominates popular understanding. In the United States in the nineteenth century, music education had one of two purposes: refinement or performance. For the most part, music classes in schools were directed at cultural improvement: Learning to sing, play an instrument, or appreciate the corpus of "classical" music marked someone as a refined member of the upper class (and, eventually, of the middle class). Otherwise, music class-usually in a conservatory setting-was intended to develop someone's native talent so that this person could make a living by composing or performing either in church or in the secular world.

The notion that music education should be for everyone because music develops an essential part of human nature did not develop until the twentieth century, when philosophies of education in general became a focus of careful study and (sometimes) careful experiment. Studies of music's central and even ordinary role in cultures-and therefore its role as a key component of those cultures-developed as part of anthropological studies in that same century. So, for example, anthropologists noted that Sotho villagers (living in what is now Lesotho, a small nation surrounded by South Africa) "consider singing an ordinary, everyday activity performed by everyone, young and old, men and women, and not an activity reserved for a few. …

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