Have you ever been annoyed by someone talking loudly on their cell phone while you were in a store or some other public place? Or have you been in a concert or movie and the people around you were talking, moving around, going in and out? I have.
A Quiet Audience is so Refreshing
The first day of my spring break was very special. I attended a John Feierabend master class/ workshop (click here to read more about John Feierabend) and a concert by the Swingle Singers. That evening I was absolutely enjoying the performance when I noticed that the entire audience was quiet. No talking, no texting, no candy wrappers, no wiggling, no going in and out of the hall, nothing distracting me from enjoying the music. How refreshing! Then I noticed that the audience was older and perhaps the reason they were quiet is because that is how they were brought up as children and they have been attending programs and performances that require critical listening.
I have written in some of my other blog posts that I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio listening to an AM Radio Jazz Station called WNOP. 740AM. Click here to learn about WNOP. And I remember hearing the Swingle Singers on WNOP back then. The group and their performance was wonderful. The Swingle Singers are amazing to hear, yet fresh with new musical ideas.
More Common Core and Less Music is Not the Answer
I teach elementary school and have taught band in public schools. One of the problems facing education in America today is students are not critical thinkers and do not have problem solving abilities. Music education teaches students to listen critically, work cooperatively with others, and solve problems. Music education innately teaches these and many other basic foundational skills that are necessary for success in learning and in the work world. Not through cute songs about math or science concepts or performances with kids dressed up like bananas and dancing around. Rather just by learning about and singing and playing music with others. And you can’t do that and be noisy.
It’s important that we teach children to be still and listen. Listening, moving to and playing music together affects their ability to learn, solve problems, develop relationships, and be successful.
Maybe it’s television, or movies at home, maybe we are used to attending sporting events. At home or at a game, we can be noisy, get up, walk around and not be still. Even in school we are constantly ramping up the energy level to keep the student’s attention. And then we wonder why they have problems learning. Maybe we are approaching this issue the wrong way.
Music Education Improves Focus, Critical Thinking and Concert Etiquette
My band concert audiences were so noisy (because of the kids AND the parents) that we arranged 2 evenings for band concerts. One for the sixth grade band concert and another for the advanced bands. We had to teach the sixth grade band students, parents and families concert etiquette. The behavior expectations were taught in band class, written in the printed programs and announced at the performances. And when they came back as seventh and eighth grade parents they were quieter.
Listening to music or attending a performance requires concentration, focus and the ability and sensitivity to experience the emotions expressed in the performance.
In elementary music classes students learn to listen critically to music. . They learn to hear patterns in melody, rhythm or form, to feel the emotions expressed in music through dynamics, major and minor harmony, rhythms and other compositional techniques. This helps to prepare them for being a good audience member in the future at a worship service, movie, concert, workshop, college class or even a wedding. Even Harvard medical school requires med students to learn to play and perform on a music instrument because it improves their listening skills and thus their ability to diagnose a patient’s problem.
What Can You Do To Help Your Child Listen Better?
Take them to performing arts events such as concerts, musicals, theater, drama that are kid friendly. Talk with them about how to be a good audience member before you go. And be sure you don’t talk with other adults. Be a good example! After the performance talk with them about what went well and what needs to get better about their concert etiquette.
Here in Houston that are lots of opportunities for children to experience the performing arts. Some are free, others are not. The internet is you best way to search for performances. For instance, Miller Outdoor Theater has free kid friendly performances. The Houston Symphony does too. If your child can’t handle the whole performance, make an escape plan in advance. Quietly leave and try again another time. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle. It’s going to take some time and a few accidents.
The benefits are worth the efforts.