08Mar/17

Bringing Music to Our Schools: AMI Mini Campus for Public/Private Schools

By Kaitlin Fron, AMI Voice Teacher & Program Coordinator

With the start of Music In Our Schools Month, educators and legislators are once again discussing the importance of having a music program as part of traditional education. In most schools, music is seen as an elective rather than a part of core academic curriculum if it is even offered at all. Some schools no longer have music teachers or programs, as music and other electives have been first on the chopping block when budget cuts require downsizing. Neryl Jeanneret notes that “It is interesting that even where there are specialist music teachers in primary schools, other concerns surface. For example, the specialist only sees a group of children, perhaps, once a week, for a short period and music is seen as isolated from the general curriculum as the generalist teacher frequently passes total responsibility for music to the specialist (Askew, 1993)” (Jeanneret, 93). It is strange that music should have such a lack of emphasis in educational settings, especially given the tremendous amount of research which supports the positive influence of musical study on students’ abilities to excel in “core” subjects like mathematics and language arts. In a country where educational resources are limited, what can we do?

At American Music Institute, we want music to be a part of every child’s education. That’s why we have our Mini Campus Program. AMI Mini Campus enables our faculty to work with area schools to create or supplement music programs, according to the needs of the school. We can teach it all- from the basics like Music Appreciation, Orchestra, Choir, and Band to more specialized courses like Genre studies (Jazz, Classical, Broadway), Music Theory, Music History, or Private Lessons on campus. For schools with existing music programs, we can create clinics and workshops to give students a chance to work with our professional faculty members. This program is tailored to each school community and can offer courses during school hours or as part of an After School Care program. Our Mini Campus Program is important to us because it provides an opportunity for communities to come together to support arts education and to enhance the educational opportunities of area students regardless of what cuts the school systems have to make.

Music in schools means that students have an opportunity to practice learning in a way that engages all learning styles and requires physical and mental coordination. When your child studies music regularly, he or she will experience benefits in many other subjects.

Music and Math: It may seem strange to compare performance art to mathematics, but music is very mathematical! Musical compositions are divided into measures by number of beats, so students learn to count and group beats from the onset of their musical education. Kathryn Vaughn asserts that since music improves spatial-temporal reasoning, it also improves student comprehension of mathematical processes which require the same type of reasoning (Vaughn, 149). Her evaluation of many studies and experiments on the correlation between music education and mathematical performance found that the best improvements came from the addition of musical education to a mathematical education built on similar spatial-temporal reasoning concepts (Vaughn, 158). This means that ideally, math and music teachers can work together to create lesson plans that will enable the best student success.

Music and Language Arts (and Foreign Language): The correlation between music and language arts is more readily seen since both subjects fall under the broader category of “Humanities” or “Arts.” While the structure of music is inherently mathematical, it also mirrors language in the use of larger forms and phrases. Janet D. Harris states that “The cause of some reading problems may be due to a deficiency which affects not only the child’s reading, but his other work as well. There are many areas in which activities used in music and reading can prove invaluable to both” (Harris, 29). She discusses the benefits of Ear Training (pitch matching and phrase memory) in improving a child’s ability to learn language patterns and sounds and notes that learning music requires the development of reasoning skills which improve the ability to comprehend and evaluate language when reading (Harris, 30). Learning to read and understand musical phrases facilitates learning to read and the ability to comprehend grammatical phrases.

Musical study also carries benefits to historical and scientific education built on the benefits already discussed, making it a critical part of regular education. With so many extracurricular activity choices, it helps to have music as a part of standard curriculum, whether during or after school hours. AMI is proud to help make this opportunity accessible to as many schools as possible. How can you guarantee consistent music education at your school?

The best way to make your voice heard at your school is to be active in attending PTA meetings and to talk with your teachers. Introduce your PTA organization, music teacher, and principal to the AMI Mini Campus Program and encourage your school’s participation. Invite your AMI teacher to your music class with your school music teacher’s permission. Talk to your friends and family about how music education has improved your child’s learning experience. Help your child to create his or her own experiment or study on the benefits of learning music for their next science fair. We make a difference when we speak up and celebrate successes!

We wish you a wonderful and eventful Music In Our Schools Month.

To have AMI create a program for your school and for more information, please visit the AMI Mini Campus Program page and/or contact AMI at ami@amimusic.org / 630-850-8505.

Sources:
Jeanneret, Neryl. The National Review of Music in Schools and the Endless Debate about Music in Primary Schools [online]. Australian Journal of Music Education, No. 1, 2006: 93-97. Availability: ISSN: 0004-9484. [cited 06 Mar 17].

Music and Mathematics: Modest Support for the Oft-Claimed Relationship
Kathryn Vaughn The Journal of Aesthetic Education Vol. 34, No. 3/4, Special Issue: The Arts and Academic Achievement: What the Evidence Shows (Autumn – Winter, 2000), pp. 149-166

Music and Language Reading
Janet D. Harris Music Educators Journal
Vol. 34, No. 2 (Nov. – Dec., 1947), pp. 29-30

20Feb/17

Benefits of Music for Adults

By Kaitlin Fron, AMI Voice Teacher & Program Coordinator

We spend a lot of time evaluating the positive effects of musical study on children’s abilities to succeed in other academic subjects, but the benefits of making music a priority continue regardless of the age of the participant. We know that music aids with brain development, so it follows that continuous study or exposure would continue to support brain activity. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America states that “[w]hen used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.” These benefits are significant and make a strong case for participating in musical activity even in adulthood.

Because musical activity engages multiple areas of the brain at once instead of one specific area, studying music trains the brain to improve connections between those areas. Brain involvement with music also changes with education, and a study from Bakin, Edline, and Weinberger demonstrates the importance of musical learning to brain response to specific tones and melodic contours. The study reveals that with more musical study and training, greater brain response is developed. Of course, this benefit comes regardless of age, and while early musical study is beneficial to brain development, continued or later musical study still results in increased brain activity.

Musical participation is a psychomotor skill, which also means that the coordination between complex thought and fine motor skills is developed by learning to make music whether with the voice or an instrument. Other physical benefits to musical study also include the ability to lower blood pressure through learning controlled breathing, a skill which is necessary to singing or playing brass and wind instruments. The concentration required to study music also provides a healthy outlet from the stress of a work or other obligations.

As the brain ages, many find themselves struggling with Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and music therapists have found that sufferers benefit from musical activity. Researcher Linda Maguire notes that “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.” By engaging in musical activity, sufferers continue to stimulate multiple areas of the brain while gaining confidence through ability. Dr. Aniruddh Patel explains the connection between musical study and the confidence that results from pattern recognition. This feeling of empowerment may significantly improve the outlook of a person struggling with Dementia who may otherwise feel powerless amidst all the changes which come with age. Because music elicits emotional response, familiar songs may even help patients to recall associated memories.

Though we generally consider education to be completed following either high school or university, choosing to study music as an adult carries significant benefits. For the aging adult, musical participation is a healthy way to stimulate the brain while maintaining an emotional connection to memory which may even help Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients to improve.

Sources:

file:///C:/Users/Kaitl/AppData/Local/Temp/music%20and%20the%20brain.pdf

http://search.proquest.com/openview/cefe14496362e3f06aeb3b1993d48460/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=35973

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/singing-boosts-brain-activity-in-alzheimer-s-patients-scientists-say-8933021.html

http://www.alzheimers.net/2014-07-21/why-music-boosts-brain-activity-in-dementia-patients/

https://www.chorusamerica.org/advocacy-research/singing-and-brain

30Jan/17

Vocal Tips for Little Ones

By Kaitlin Fron, AMI Voice Teacher & Program Coordinator

Vocal Tips for Little Ones 

If your child enjoys singing along with movies and the radio, you might wonder whether voice lessons are the next step and what you can expect from studying the technical elements of singing at a young age. Teachers have debated the subject intensely for years, and many agree that children will sing regardless, especially since shows like Annie, The Secret Garden, and Matilda are so often performed. In lessons, your child can expect to learn how to sing sustainably and how to learn new songs. When making the choice to pursue private lessons, you may have a few questions.

“Sing out, Louise!” What standards will my child be expected to meet?

 In a healthy voice lesson, your child will learn how to use his or her own voice just as it is. The voice is produced from a combination of muscles and cartilages that are still growing in children. In fact, the voice does not reach maturity until well into adulthood! Lessons teach children how to navigate the growth and changes which occur while being patient with themselves. Children may expect to learn new songs with the help of their teacher and to master a few basic techniques.

What techniques?

Breathing, Phonation, and Resonance

Singing begins with breathing. Your child will learn how to breathe deeply and will practice concentration. Though the vocal instrument is located in the throat, it is heard through resonance found in the face. Your child should not expect to feel a sore or tired throat after singing, and lessons are a great way to help children to avoid straining their voices. Teachers will help them to master using their breath and finding a space for tougher notes rather than reaching for them. They will also guide children to a natural phonation which relies on resonance rather than on excessive pressure.

Diction and Expressiveness

Singing words requires clear diction, or enunciation. Children will learn how to pronounce words clearly and efficiently, removing excessive effort which may hinder their speech or result in tension. They will also learn how to evaluate a character and his or her words in each song and how to express what they have discovered in the text. They will learn to use their breath to support their expressiveness, which will prevent “acting” from negatively impacting their singing.

What will my child gain from singing?

Aside from the ability to sing healthily and confidently, the complex physical and mental coordination required to learn and sing music will help your child to engage multiple sections of their brain which may improve their ability to connect other school subjects. Kenneth Phillips classifies singing as a psychomotor skill involving pitch perception and vocal coordination (Teaching Kids to Sing, p. 15). This connection is reflected well in the connection between breathing and acting. As children learn to connect breath with intention, they will learn how to use their breathing as a method for emotional control and healthy communication outside the classroom as well. Researcher Aniruddh Patel has discovered that singing benefits the connection between different parts of the brain and that language and prediction become more accessible through melodic learning. This means that your child may see improvements in language arts classes and may also become more confident due to being able to successfully recognize patterns and predict what will come next musically and linguistically.

Singing provides children with a fun, engaging way to develop their mental and physical coordination, focus, and communication. The physical engagement of singing offers a productive outlet for energy, while the mental focus and listening skills required helps children to refine their intellectual development. Ultimately, they’ll gain confidence and creativity, so that next sing-a-long children’s movie might be a good idea after all!

Resources:

https://www.chorusamerica.org/advocacy-research/singing-and-brain

Phillips, Kenneth H. Teaching Kids to Sing. New York: Schirmer Books, 1992.