Once In Royal David’s City, a traditional solo for a boy to sing during the Christmas season. Houston Boychoir featured two boys at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. St. Martin’s is the largest Episcopal Parish in the United States and the architecture is that of a gothic cathedral in the french style. It is a magnificent building to the glory of God.
But that’s not what prompts me, a music teacher and director to write. How do I say how proud I am of these two boys. Having taught for 20+ years I can tell you that these are quite ordinary boys. Today 2 sang. One is in 6th grade and one in 7th grade. They’re good students, both like popular music, they both enjoy video games and the computer and they still enjoy their parents. They are ordinary boys…
Until you put them in an environment of adult musicians and ask them to respond accordingly…and they do. They read music with the best of them, and they can adapt to new situations with the flash of a simple instruction. They stand like pros with not a hint of nervousness. They are truly amazing.
They make me so proud and assure me that what I have been called to do is the right thing. The right thing for me, for them, for their parents and for our future world together. How lucky I was to be called to this work, how fortunate indeed that I have been fulfilled in my love of music from childhood.
If you are reading this and you are the parent of a youngster, get them enrolled in music as fast as you can. Not to study music with the intent of making it their life work or becoming great artists. Obviously society would be in trouble if everyone wanted only to be a great musician. But, studies have been done for some time now on basic intelligence as it relates to learning music and every child if given the opportunity will benefit in scores of ways from music.
Music is mathematic in its rhythmic aspects. Time is precisely subdivided into fractions which must be figured out on the spot from the musical notation. And they have to do it in their head, there is not time to work it out on paper.
Music teaches scientific principles of acoustics including sound intensity, tone quality, volume changes, melody and harmony. each of these is related to its aesthetic implications. through learning to tune and handle their instruments or voices, children can learn about harmonic vibrations and overtones. They learn that the faster the vibration, the higher the pitch and the slower the vibration the lower the pitch and what sort of energy does it need to make that vibration at exactly the right speed and intensity.
Music teaches foreign language. Terms in French, Italian and German tell us that there are many ways of saying the same thing. Songs learned in foreign languages help accustom the child to the words and sounds of the language. Text is more easily remembered when set to music. It is truly the universal language.
Music teaches history, Each of the recorded periods of human history has had a musical counterpart. The music of each period expresses the times of which it is born.
Music teaches geography and understanding of different cultures. The nature, the emotional makeup of a people is expressed in its music. we learn specific feelings about a nationality as they are put forth by its composers, who often incorporate existing folk musical idioms in their music to create a nationalistic sense.
Physically, the study of music requires muscular coordination, agility and motor control. Muscles of the hands, fingers, face and diaphragm must work together with perfect timing. Kinesthetic senses develop as they relate to the sound that the ear hears and the mind interprets.
Music is art because it is human expression. It is a medium through which man can express beauty. Great music from all eras is great because it has power to humanize mankind. It teaches us to be more feeling and sensitive. It can take away depression. It can provide impetus for action. It can poetically describe all ranges of human emotion. It can soothe troubled nerves or bring light into a dark world. It can bless us with precious humor and increase our understanding of beauty, of compassion, of gentleness, of goodness and of life. It can inspire men and women to good deeds and bring them closer to an infinite beyond this world.
Few things teach self-discipline as effectively as daily musical practice. The work is not easy, and determination is required in order to reap the rewards. David P. Gardner, president of the University of California, stated the case succinctly in an interview for the August 1984 issue of B.Y.U. TODAY when he said, “I think my capacity to concentrate and to be self disciplined in my approach to problems was significantly helped by my training on the piano and pipe organ.”
Musical training cultivates musical taste. If children are not exposed to music of the masters, there is no reason to assume that they will choose to listen to it. What’s more, it is the music that the children make themselves that has the greatest impact on them. For a youngster, being in the heart of the group, the choir or orchestra, is many times more rewarding than listening to the same music performed by someone else. Children who have a taste for a broad range of the great music will still enjoy what is popular, but they also know something greater!
So as I wish you all a happy New Year and I thank you for the privilege of working with your sons I congratulate you on having the foresight and the fortitude to stick with these extracurricular demands placed on you, on your children and on your family. It is worth it for your son and for the world in which we live.