Music Education

Ella Beck

I was lucky enough to learn the recorder at school, to have regular singing lessons, and to have the chance to learn the violin thanks to a special scheme run by my local education authority.

Now, though, with a much bigger official curriculum to deliver, I often read of teachers saying that music education is not as good as it could be in the UK.

This has led to greater inequality - if you want to learn an instrument, your parents need to be motivated and to have or to find the money to get you private lessons.

Even in the 1980s, when I was teaching in Nottingham, the local orchestras were dominated by children whose parents could afford to buy them independent (i.e. private) schooling.

John Watt

When I was in senior school, grades seven and eight, a music teacher visited as extra-curricular activity.
He sold violins, and if you bought one you could be part of an after-school music class.
In high school there was music as a class, and after the board of education changed that to a credit system,
where you could chose between extra classes, such as art and music, it became a credit.

When I was in grade eleven the provincial government sold out the music stores and instrument makers of Ontario,
taking out all the instruments in schools and provincially funded venues, becoming all Yamaha.
If a music store let Yamaha put their name on the sign Yamaha would supply a new sign for free, even illuminated signs.

The most recent trend in music is the American news that dominates North America.
Music is seen to be unnecessary, and at the worst, pop songs sing about being a musician as being gay.
Now it's all about technology and self-recording, not getting out in bands onstage.

However, what is a special musical treat for me here in the Niagara Peninsula, a place of great wealth,
are the outdoor bandstands and open air venues that are usually empty when I'm there.
I can stand onstage at the greatest point of acoustic reflection and sing and play my heart out.
A few times, on the bandstand at Queenston Heights on top of the escarpment in the park,
performers from the Shaw Festival show up to sing and play, getting away from the public.

I spent an afternoon in the tent with teachers from a new college of music and recording,
when they were working sound for a Niagara Falls event featuring their student graduates,
and everyone agreed it was about using technology to help other people record,
because there isn't the live music scene for professional musicians there used to be.

There is a passage in the Holy Bible in English that describes the downfall of a nation.
It says one of the first signs of depravity and decay,
is the fact that children aren't singing and dancing in the streets.
That hasn't happened in a long time, out in public, and even professionals are staying in.

Here in the Niagara Peninsula, if you throw musical instruments out with the garbage,
they are sorted and sent to music stores and organizations that have signed up for them.
That includes the computers and technology to record.

If you ever hear of a guitarist who stood out in the water at Niagara Falls, above the Falls,
with a water-wheel between his legs to power the portable amp for his electric guitar,
you'll know it's me. Call me "Water Wheel Watt" if you want to, or Riverend John.
You do know me. I'll have a lot to say.

Ella Beck

When I taught in junior schools, I made singing part of the children's learning - e.g. learning songs about the bible stories I was teaching, or shanties because we were doing a project on sailing ships. Copying out lyrics could be made part of handwriting practice, and so on.

The children seemed to respond very well to that.

Ella Beck

One of the nice things about my own education was 'Singing Together', a radio programme for junior schools where each term we learned songs from a little song book. I can still remember some of the songs - 'My Dearest Kate' and 'Let us dance upon the hay', for example, still make me smile.:smirk:

Ella Beck

Another good item in my musical education was 'the percussion band', where we seven year olds were equipped with tambourine and triangle and we tapped or tinged our way through some piano-led tunes. It was great fun - but my sense of time is still pretty weak, so I don't think it can have done much good. :)

In schools that take music seriously, there are a lot more instruments available for young children - even forty years ago, when I started out teaching, there were glockenspiels, for example, and now the ukelele has pretty much taken over from the recorder.

Not sure about the last step, actually...

Ella Beck

From an Australian Music Teachers' Website - so true!



so very very true. but so rewarding to watch them go from a screech to beautiful smooth sound. I remember my viola/string bass days.

John Watt

I'm starting to remember your viola/string bass days, so I must be in a daze,
watching YouTube and typing here too long... when I was writing a song...
"A Cold Love Song"

Ella Beck

We've seen recorders and we've seen ukeleles as a general instrument for use in schools. Recently I 'rehomed' a small electric keyboard to my friend for use with her grandchildren, and I remembered how I used to work out tunes on my gran's piano - writing the notation down as numbers in the key of (middle) c - and I'm sure that helped develop my ear. In this day and age, every child could have his/her own small piano keyboard and learn the main notes and from there possibly graduate to a bigger piano.