It sounds like music to our ears

Upper Elementary students rush upstairs every morning before classes begin and before long, children’s voices interrupt the silence of the morning signaling the start of a new day at Baldwin Elementary. Later in the day, rhythmic clapping and chanting, and the beat of drums echo throughout the hallway. Every 40 minutes, students file in and out of the classroom at the end of the hall. To some, music class is thought of as a “frill,” but upon close observation, music class is so much more.

Just as a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, music classes offer academics in disguise. Students may not recognize that many skills required for success in math and reading are purposefully taught within the context of the music program.

Music education helps children gain musical intelligence, vocabulary, an understanding of symbols and sequence and an increase in memory and auditory function. Counting the beats in a measure reinforces the mathematical concept of fractions, and it doesn’t take long for even the youngest students to realize that songs are stories and poetic language set to music.

Mrs. Sherlock, elementary music instructor, often includes literacy into her music classes and reinforces concepts being covered in the classroom. Every year, the third-grade Science unit on sound is enhanced by Mrs. Sherlock’s demonstration of how vibration produces sound waves. Her bookshelf is filled with books and poetry which correlate with science and social studies topics from each grade level curriculum.

This year, with a generous grant from the Gerber Foundation, she has implemented a drumming curriculum for the sixth-graders. This curriculum includes not only the historical traditions of African drumming, but also a heavy dose of teamwork, cooperation and respect.

In a recent study of the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education Program, elementary and high school students involved in an arts integrated curriculum performed better on math and reading tests than students in schools without these programs. The study of music, composers, and instruments from around the world help to broaden horizons and increase knowledge of diverse cultures.

The exposure to music programs also has been linked to an increased sense of self-esteem. The aesthetic value and the enjoyment of music in our lives are difficult to measure, but the pride on our students’ faces is certainly obvious as they enjoy the applause of the audience after a performance!

Baldwin students from kindergarten through 12th grade have the opportunity to participate in both vocal and instrumental music programs at a time when many schools cannot afford to offer these opportunities. We are aware of the enrichment that music education adds to the curriculum at Baldwin Schools, and are proud to be able to include this experience for our students.