There are a couple of key concepts for non-music educators to think about about when trying to learn to teach music.

Learning "about" music vs learning to make music. In other words, non-music educators often feel much more comfortable teaching facts about music history, music terms, or even basic theory, because this is what they actually can learn from reading a book, and they have some limited understanding of it. This to the student is about as exciting and interesting at this early phase as learning history, terms and theories of dance. As daunting as it seems, if we are to teach music, we must go to the actual playing, singing and creating of real music to get and keep their attention. It is primary, not secondary, and the rest is really after the fact nuance that should deepen their experiences, not replace them.

Formal vs informal learning

As with dance, we learn music best by doing, and we also need a judgement free expression rich environment to explore, play and learn. This is often extremely informal. One of my best piano teachers would teach us a simple song a dozen different ways, away from the piano, and the once we mastered it in 10 different ways, from hand signals to walking to singing and even alternative notes with different people, he then said we had to perform the song for each other, with one rule. You could not play it "as written". In other words, the only way you could play it wrong was to play it by rote! The creativity he unleashed with that was profound, and the attitude he cultivated in the classroom of acceptance, support and mutual joy was even more important. We learned so much from our peers it was astounding, and informally, with play.

Start simple, let complexity evolve naturally and spontaneously. When enthusiasm takes everyone into the woods, retrench, go back to something simple that everyone got, and begin the exploration again, with new learning. Introduce music concepts "as needed" in order to play at a more complex and fun level.

How has the learning been going?  What is working and what is not...and why do you think?

Chris Salter

Discover powerful secrets behind music literacy

Discover powerful secrets behind music literacy

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