This past month, I had the opportunity to attend the Experience Conference held at Walt Disney World’s Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. There were over one thousand participants at this year’s conference. I visited exhibits, attended workshops, networked with colleagues, and enjoyed motivating concerts. The technological tools that are available to modern church musicians are as diverse and exciting as the programs that were represented at the convention. The focus of the Experience Conference meetings was to encourage and educate church music directors and worship leaders. As I participated, I was reminded of the power that music has to influence our outlook on the world around us. The bottom line for most conference participants was finding ways to effectively and affectively present the “Good News” to their congregations.
Our goals as music educators in the secular world are very similar to the goals of the Experience Conference attendees. We want to harness the tremendous power that music offers to influence and encourage our students’ appreciation of the gift of life that we share together. Often in my public teaching career, I have witnessed the power of music instruction to encourage the cognitive focus of my students. For twenty-five years, I taught a university class for general classroom teachers that offered strategies for using music as a tool to help students focus attention on content in their curriculums. Music can be effectively used in the background as a device to influence emotional connection. (Think of the powerful effect music has on consumers when they are viewing a movie.) Choosing appropriate music to play in the background while reading a story to a class can have a similar effect on students. Common melodies can be attached to concepts to help students learn basic knowledge. (Attaching the melody of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to the letters of the alphabet is an example.) There are many melodies familiar to young students where conceptual text could be developed and attached. Another powerful way to use music in the classroom is to choose from the thousands of specifically composed songs that have been written to teach content. (Most child-focused programing is driven by music specifically composed to teach conceptually.) Finally, the world is full of music from multiple cultures that help introduce students to different backgrounds and thought processes. This type of music experience helps move music instruction across many curriculums
Most of us intuitively understand the motivation and encouragement music offers the consumer. As we analyze the power of music to influence our mood and decision-making, we come to understand that it is generated by the effective combination of both cognitive and affective processes of the intellect. When we make decisions, we are often influenced by affective factors in our thinking. We may cognitively know that a green pick-up truck that is base-priced at $1,000.00 below the price of a bright red sports model would serve our purposes well. However, when the affective emotion that some have for the color red combines with a superior sound system, buyers might be encouraged to spend more. There are thousands of examples of people making good and sometimes ill-advised decisions based on affective considerations.
As we teach our students, we have a responsibility to help them understand the impact the affective power of music can have on their decision-making process. As teachers, it is very important for us to use the affective power of music instruction to encourage the cognitive process of learning. It has been my observation over the years that teachers involved in general music programs are very aware of the potential influence their programs have on a wide spectrum of other educational programs. Often we are not well-versed in sharing our influence with our fellow staff members and administrators. The next time you teach a lesson that impacts students outside the world of music, be sure to share the intent and success of your work with your fellow colleagues. Music is an intrinsically worthwhile study, but we should be sure educators outside our discipline are aware of the partnership we share with the overall curriculum goals of our individual schools. Music education is of core importance to learning systems. Take the time to “toot your horn” in more than just the concert venue as the first term of teaching unfolds.
That's "Brad's Beat" for October, 2016. Don't hesitate to call on us at RBI for your classroom needs as you start this new teaching year. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!