Making Music Relevant to Students Lives

Money, Logistics and Enjoyment must be high on the list.

People have a limited supply of money to live. Therefore how they use it is important to them. Priorities in their life will change and so will what they view is valuable enough to spend their money on. If their financial circumstance changes, so do their priorities and values.

Music Lessons are often still seen as a “luxury” rather than a “necessity”.

In this century lives have become increasingly fast and busy. So much so that many people have an activity scheduled for everyday of the week. If one activity needs to change, the logistics of trying to make that change can become difficult. Sometimes 0to the degree that the activity in question may not be able to be continued.

We live in a society where the expectation is for things to happen not just quickly but often instantly. Our use of technology, including wearable technology reinforces that. The need for entertainment and enjoyment is also an extremely strong expectation. Why stick at an activity if we don’t get much enjoyment from it? There are lots of other things we could replace it with.

How does this relate to Music Lessons and how we teach?

I would particularly like to address the expectation of enjoyment. Whether you have been teaching music for a few years, or have been a student yourself, I’m sure that most people will have come across someone who has given up on music lessons because they were BORED. They didn’t enjoy the lessons or the learning (often known as practice!).

Music is a HUGE subject, meaning that there is so much too learn. So many skills to be mastered, styles to develop. How can anyone ever get bored?

Have you ever considered that people stop lessons because what they are learning is not relevant to them?

Relevant in what way?

  • The choice of music they play.
  • The way they like to learn.
  • Where and how they get to make music.

It’s time to move Studio music lessons and learning from being an activity only done in lessons or the privacy of one’s home. To become a skill that is used by the learner within their own life. To develop and strengthen relationships, build confidence and much more. Many instrumental music students are not making music outside of their lesson, home, exams or occasional studio performances. The musical skills they are not being used in “normal life”. Therefore they are not getting the fullest benefits that music can bring to enhancing their wellbeing.

Traditionally, music lessons focuses on developing skills for the student such as reading and/or performing music, perhaps some technical work, theory. The focus is on building skills, knowledge and developing musicianship.

It is often be seen as a long term project. It is not necessarily a quick skill to learn, which makes it more difficult to achieve the instant enjoyment other activities such as video games, movies and even sport may bring.

 

Benefits to learning music

Learning music has many personal development benefits. Building confidence, developing concentration and improving cognitive function being a small selection of them. Music students usually are not aware of these developments when they are happening. Therefore they are not a reason for “sticking” at the ongoing lessons.

Music though, is an activity that is easily shared but as teachers, we need to make it easier for our students to do so.

There are two main ways we can do that:

Provide music that is RELEVANT to each student’s life.
Music such as:

  • Sporting Themes
  • School / Club songs
  • National Anthem / Cultural Songs
  • Celebration Songs
  • Religious Music
  • Favourite Songs or Styles of Music
  • Improvisation & Composition

Provide opportunities where students can USE the music they are learning:

Providing opportunities doesn’t not necessarily have to be big, time consuming events. It may be as simple as a regular once a term, casual visit to the local Aged Care Centre or Kindergarten. Whole families can be involved and even assist in the organisation.

  • Family celebrations – Birthdays, Religious, Cultural festivals
  • Schools & Club Assemblies and celebrations
  • Local community – markets, festivals
  • Aged Care Centre
  • Kindergartens & Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Prisons
  • Special Needs Centres
  • Mental Health Centres
  • Refugee Centres
  • Remote or disadvantaged schools

Where can you find suitable Music Resources?

I would encourage every teacher to “think outside the box”, “work outside their comfort zone” and utilise any learning tools available to them or their students. This will help build a repertoire of music that can be shared.

Make use of YouTube videos, iPad Apps, or other technology. Be prepared to teach by rote, or by ear, or graphically. To achieve the goal of having relevant music to play, can be viewed as just one “stream” or skill set amongst many skills that are being developed at the same time. If a student is able to learn their favourite footy theme song from a YouTube video or a graphic/visual representation of sound on an app rather than traditional notation or learning methods, does it really matter?

Final Thoughts

Weaving an ongoing thread of relevant music into lessons, gives the student the RESOURCES to utilise music in their EVERYDAY LIFE.
Connecting them to their community, creates the OPPORTUNITY to use those resources in EVERYDAY LIFE.
Encouraging, motivating, participating and sharing i.e. making it a NORMAL part of learning Music, SKILL and ENJOYMENT of making music helps make it a part of their WHOLE Life, not just their lessons.

The result, the positive impact and enjoyment of making music is felt by the student. Not only in their own life, but as it forges positive connections in their community. This is surely a way of keeping students engaged and enjoying learning music longer than they would otherwise.

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Wendy Brentnall-Wood

Wendy Brentnall-Wood

I am passionate about encouraging and inspiring people to begin to experience the heart filling joy of making music in a simple, easy and systematic way, enabling them to enrich their lives and the lives of those around them.

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