The 21st century will see children be born that are capable to build such complex thoughts that these will be the reflection of new ways to explain and understand a world that will be becoming more difficult for us to define.
We have to educate them well for the survival of our species, for an increased sensitivity towards other human beings, for increasing comprehension of diversity and for maintaining peace in our planet. All our efforts towards defending what belongs to us, our nations, and the Earth will be wasted unless we consider that mankind needs peace, internally and externally. What good does us to prepare our children other than for the evolution of our species, the advancement of arts and science, the increased understanding of the roles of different cultures, the search for spiritualism? Why prepare our children for other than developing the need for them to become better each day that passes? Philosophy, antropology, sociology, psychology, among other disciplines, highlight themes of importance, among them those that explain the importance of deriving meaning and increasing communication in interactions among men. Each one of our generations sees itself creating meaning for what was defined regarding the importance of life in society, and as the time passes, the new inhabitants of Earth create new ways in which to explain new meanings to facts and acts in which men find themselves involved in.
Men need to comprehend each other. One culture needs to value the others. The teaching of music can provide a favorable environment for a specific type of communication in society and this is why it is necessary to teach music to babies and infants. The earlier we start, the better!
Teaching music provides the learning of signs and/or symbols, which amplify the human capacity to know and create from systems and conventions that the child cannot find in other systems and/or disciplines. And this practice helps develop intelligence. In this opportunity, other concepts are developed. Objects and processes which are unconventional are developed and from this arises the opportunigty for the musical cognitive system to satisfy a specific type of human desire: that of creating with sound, utilizing and thinking with sounds. Communicating with sound!
To live musically gives the child the opportunity to develop meanings which go beyond those simply intellectual. Hence, the child exercises complex thoughts through experiencing music, by participating and integrating him/herself in this ‘difficult to define’ world. When the child is capable to communicate emotional needs, he/she exteriorizes aesthetic meanings, treating the abstract in a concrete way and assigning objective meaning to other types of communication that he/she can create. Practicing music in groups unifies children. To listen to music created by another exercises communication abilities. To have your own music heard by others improves self-esteem. Music is not, however, a language. It results from complex systems of sound utilization, which through form, structure, and the instruments it utilizes, concertizes itself through the works, and conveys meaning. This is why music has to be taught to be understood in all its complexity. The result for someone listening, or making music, is the exchange of emotions. And the exchange of emotions promotes simplicity in this interaction. This exchange also deepens communication. These manipulations with sound and structural models must be linked to the context in which the individuals involved in the musical experience are into. Therefore, each musical experience communicates the disposition, creativity, and traces of different cultures, which reflect themselves in the processes of musical production, appreciation, and reproduction.
In this manner, in order for us to defend the idea that it is necessary to promote internal and external peace for mankind, we need to foment learning and musical experience for our children, since an early age.
Music is life. It involves us since it is a human creation. It can be created and executed by us throughout many phases of our development. It is in the satisfaction of making music that children involve themselves cognitively with processes of creativity, problem-solving, and gaining the initiative to take risks, to express themselves, and to evolve as a thinker and innovator. Musical learning leads to interpersonal relationships, acceptance by the group, the desire to create, and the motivation to communicate.
In the following paragraphs we will suggest some ideas about how to promote teaching/learning music in our families:
1 – How to lead the musical experience?
First, babies or young children need a favorable environment. It is necessary to create success values in the family. In order to have success it is necessary that the parents have courage and take risks to live happy days and each day more satisfying moments for their children. We can enumerate 10 aspects that must be considered if we would like to improve our success in creating a more musical environment for our children:
1 – SUCCESS! Believe that your child is capable to understand and to make music! In the least this will create a person with music appreciation and will be part of an audience that will understand and will derive satisfaction from quality music. S/he will capable to appreciate our collective and historical musical culture of mankind and will be able to maintain it and promote it.
2 – OPTIMISM! Yes, it is possible to appreciate, create, live, and become highly satisfied with the musical activity and learning! Many are those who did and still currently do this.
3 – INITIATIVE! Have in mind an action plan. See how the child is going to be exposed or become into contact with music. Will it be through and/or from listening since in utero? What kind of music will s/he listen to? Only after birth will you expose the baby to music? Who might sing to the baby (nursery rhymes or other songs)? Have you selected them?
Have you found out whether music from a particular musical instrument pleases the baby more? One must remember that any and all initiative must lead to experiencing music daily, and always in an environment of satisfaction and appreciation for music of good quality.
4 – GOALS! It is necessary to know where the family wants to arrive. It is necessary to ask whether experiencing music leads to increasing music appreciation in the family, community and county, or whether it is to develop musical performers/musicians. You should establish goals and follow the development of music cognitive skills and then this will lead to a decision of whether or not the child should dedicate him/herself to professional performance. If the child decides, between 6 and 10 years of age, that s/he wants to deepen his/her knowledge as a performer, new goals will have to be developed and implemented. We have to embrace the idea together with the child if this makes them happy and indeed encourage them to play and pursue the mastery of their favorite instrument.
5 – WORK! Work means regularity, seriously dedicating yourself to the compromise of providing the child with the opportunity to experience music everyday. Work means to develop, through music, habits and attitudes of musical execution. This means that there has to be dedication to learning music theory, vocal, instrumental, and improvisational practices. And that there must be a commitment to theoretical learning (musical concepts) and musical elements essential to the utilization of musical structures and schemes in the process of musical experiencing and creation .
6- COMMUNICATION! Music is an excellent medium for teaching us the importance of communication. A baby’s cry already is an element of communication and it is composed by notes and musical intervals. Many children sing, hum melodies long before they begin to speak. Therefore, when music is already being exercised and played, musical improvisation becomes an example of sophistication reached by those executing the process. It is possible that different culture see themselves through similarities of esthetic emotions promoted by listening to different songs, which bring in their scope similar musical ideas. It is possible for people from one culture to love and admire another due to their music. Music creates communication links and bridges the distance among men.
7- ATTITUDES! It is necessary to believe in the importance of teaching music in order for children to develop in a rich and healthy way. The alignment of the parents’ attitudes to that of valueing music, is understood and assimilated by the children. Parents that dislike classical or popular music, or any other type of music, pass this attitude down to their children. What matters is to help our children by giving them the opportunity to evolve, become better than ourselves, for the benefit of all of humanity.
In this context, attitude means to pass down to your children the family values of musical appreciation.
8- PERSISTENCE! Musical learning only becomes reality when the child has a desire/disposition to make music. In order for us to find our whether s/he has this disposition, s/he has to be exposed and has to experience music. Hence, it is necessary to give time and continuity to the exposure to music so that the cognitive development system can go through the appropriate stages. In order to develop cognitively in a musical context, it is necessary for the parents and children to remain persistent, which will result in the succession of levels which lead to each day deeper knowledge and complex specialized learning.
9- PRACTICING! All the steps above lead to a system of how to experience music. The child that experiences rewarding musical practice goes on to practice music, in a routine of instrumental study which will lead s/he to aesthetic expression through execution of his/her works or works of other composers.
10- CONCLUSION: The child’s process of experiencing music, with parental support, will lead to a unique reality: A dream has been visualized, goals have been set, and the participants have been persistent. There has been practicing of communication, training to reach the goals outlines, and a conclusion about what should be done at each step lived. To “live” and experience music and learning “how to make music” adds much to family life and this increment in quality provides improved communication in society. The overall result is a quest for the evolution of humanity, through the cultivation of art, intelligence, and emotion.
Dr. Eliane Leao is a native of Brazil, South America. She has a background in Education from Purdue University (Masters) and a PhD in the Department of Educational Psychology from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP)/Purdue University (Ph.D.). Dr. Leao has also three Bachelor’s degrees, one in Piano, another in Musical Education, and a third in Voice. Dr. Leao is currently a professor of Music Education and Music Therapy conducting research on the influence of Music in Early Childhood Learning.
Her ‘babies’ have grown to become productive members of their communities. Dr. Leao hopes that the trials and successes of her family may inspire and convince other parents to stimulate their children during early childhood so that they may enjoy a rich, stimulating, integrated, and happy life always.