The Music WITHIN

Article excerpt

Music, if it be in reality an expressive language, suggests everything to children if they are left to themselves.

-Maria Montessori (1965, p. 346)

Providing opportunity for musical exploration is essential to any early childhood program. Through music making, children are actively engaged with their senses: they listen to the complex sounds around them, move their bodies to the rhythms, and touch and feel the textures and shapes of the instruments. The inimitable strength of the Montessori classroom is the focus on child-centered learning. Music stimulates the senses, and guided by the teacher's direction, children begin taking ownership of their music making and, in turn, share their experiences with their peers.

Montessori clearly recognized the importance of music education for young children as she integrated methods of instruction throughout her curriculum. She believed that children should be "charmed" and invited to make music (Montessori, 1964, p. 207). She spoke of many observations she made, noting how children's natural rhythms and movements demonstrated an intrinsic musicality:

The children feel the legato, answering it with very reserved movements. The staccato lifts them from the floor. The crescendo makes them hurry and stamp their feet. The forte sometimes brings them to clap their hands, while calando restores them to the silent march, which turns, during the piano, to perfect silence. (Montessori, 1965, p. 344)

The Montessori classroom is replete with opportunities for fostering musical growth. Montessori's methodology includes materials for aural training, singing, muscular development, memory retention, and musical notation. She developed and outlined techniques and exercises for engaging children in various musical activities. Montessori found that children responded to and were persuaded by music. They smiled, sang, skipped, walked, and, at times, simply listened in silence. These experiences were often unguided, driven primarily by the children's musical exploration and discovery. Montessori believed that music was a necessary part of a complete education, one that supported sensorial education and child-centered learning. Most importantly, it was her intense belief that all teachers can, and should, integrate music education into their classroom.

Music and the Senses

In a pedagogical method . . . the education of the senses must undoubtedly assume the greatest importance.

- Maria Montessori (1965, p. 167)

An integral aspect of Montessori's educational philosophy is the idea that children learn best through sensorial experiences; they use their senses to reach natural and logical conclusions. Musical education provides a sensorial and aesthetic experience for children, and engages their tactile, auditory, and visual senses. Children begin using sounds and rhythms to categorize their emotions and actions as they express themselves through their music making. Musical experiences also provide children with opportunities for collaboration and communication. In addition to the materials she designed for the general curriculum, Montessori created musical instruments specifically for children. As an introduction to the musical scale, Montessori (1965) constructed a series of bells that represented whole tones and semitones within one octave. Although these materials were constructed for musical education, the instruction actually paralleled the techniques used in the sensorial method. Materials used in the sensorial method "differ from each other in one and only one quality, the one which concerns the stimulation of the sense under education" (Montessori, 1965, p. 319). Each of the bells, though similar in shape and dimension, produced a different sound from the others. The exercises complemented the methods used in sensory education; the child began by pairing materials, then distinguishing differences between objects, followed by a steady introduction of terminology from the teacher. …