I had people over today for my daughter's 7th birthday. As the parents were conversing in the kitchen I could hear faint singing coming from my music room. As I listened closer, I realized it was my daughter Eve and my niece Lydia singing the diatonic scale on solfege, very clearly and with good pitch. Then I heard Eve say something, and they progressed into a little vocalise. "My mommy made me mash my M and Ms, oh my!" 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-5-1! I crept nearer to the music room, trying not to be seen, and noticed that Eve had gotten out some little manipulatives I use for teaching piano and had them lined up on the piano keys. The girls were obviously playing and pretending to do a lesson, and enjoying themselves immensely. These sweet little girls, along with others at church, eagerly sing and twirl during worship. They often break out into singing games from our homeschool music class when they are together. Eve (7) and Elle (4) improvise melodies from folk songs on the homemade "Boomwhackers" I have in my studio, and we often sing songs together from our favorite musicals. At our camping trip a few weeks ago, Eve and all the other girls put on talent shows on top of hay bales for us each evening. They sang all the songs in their repertoire, acting them out and adding choreography. My heart was filled with glee. The girls of which I speak have been fortunate to have been introduced to music. I imagine how their spirits would be different if they hadn't had that opportunity.
If there is one thing in this world of which I would like to convince parents, it is the fact that musical training is core to the education and formation of a child. We all love our children, and as educators, we love our students, and we want the best for them. The 3 R's are obviously worthy pursuits. However, the "best" education isn't truly excellent without music. Literacy extends an arm to music as well as spoken language. Music is never to be considered an elective discipline. There are two perspectives for this argument that need to be addressed: the classical perspective, and the theological perspective.
First of all, music has always been regarded with utmost esteem in the classical tradition. Boethius, one of the foremost philosophers of the early Medieval period, discusses this in his famous book, The Consolation of Philosophy. In the 6th century, he coined the term "quadrivium", which refers to the four higher level disciplines of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. In the opinion of Boethius, one must study and master the quadrivium before pursuing the study of Philosophy or Theology. In Plato's Republic it states, “Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.” The fact that music reaches to the soul and to the heart makes it a most unique and human discipline. Aristotle viewed music as a high form of Rhetoric, and believed virtue could be achieved through the study of "good" music. He understood the effect that music can have on behavior. The ancient epics and plays of the Greeks were all accompanied by singing and instruments. In the classical sense, music is a core component of human expression.
Theologically speaking, and from a Christian perspective, music is a necessary pursuit. First of all, it's a main mode of worship. The music and the preaching in a service are both of utmost importance. In addition, music refreshes the soul. God gave music to us as a gift that soothes and uplifts us when we need it most. Think of the story of David and Saul. David played and sang for Saul, bringing peace to the troubled king. But most importantly, music isn't optional because it's commanded by God for us to sing and to make a joyful noise. Psalm 98 declares this. "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise." There are countless scriptures that reveal God's commands for us to worship Him in song and with music. No wonder Martin Luther believed all preachers (and schoolmasters) should have musical training.
Our Creator sang. This is stated in Zephaniah 3:17: "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing." According to Job chapter 38, there was a song at creation, as verse 7 states that "the morning stars sang together" when God "laid the foundations of the earth." If we are created in God's image, that means we need to also sing, and we need to do it well as imitators of our heavenly father. What is very revealing is that God gave us each an instrument, one we were born with: our voice. Do you want to use your voice for harm? Or do you want to use it for good? Doesn't it make sense that we would learn to use the instrument God has given to us? If the opportunity arises for your child to acquire a sound music education, you need to take advantage of it. And if the opportunity does not arise, you need to seek it out. It is our responsibility, since music is not an optional component of the educational "checklist". It needs to be brought back and to remain at the core.