David Hurwitz <***@newsguy.com> wrote in message news:
Is classical music in the schools a good thing as part of general program of
education about our shared cultural heritage? Of course it is. Will it have any
positive commercial impact in terms of creating new audiences for concerts and
recordings? Not at all. Witness the people in this very group who will praise
their encounters with classical music in the schools to the skies, but who would
pawn their own mother's jewelry before paying full price for a CD. Leaving aside
the issue of the impact of mere "exposure" and the amount necessary to create an
"audience," the purpose of such education is not to create consumers. It's to
David makes a few good points. Let me add a few others as a father of
two, aged 6 & 10, who are currently enrolled in public school.
1. Yes, it is important for kids to have some type of music class in
school. Does that program need to concentrate on classical music to
teach the kids the basic language of music? No. They can learn all of
that singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat. The teacher simply needs to
explain it. I remember our high school music theory teacher who
explained what a musical sequence was using Michael Jackson singing
the Theme from Ben as an example of a piece built almost entirely on a
single musical sequence.
2. Young children love to sing. They are currently learning math and
their basic ABCs with the aid of music. Teachers already take
advantage of kids innate identification with music as a teaching tool.
Unfortunately, when it comes to music as a subject, many schools are
forced to make ridiculous compromises. For example: my kids' old
school in NJ featured only unison singing through at least grade 5.
Worse, the kids rarely sang with live instrumental accompaniment or a
capella. Rather, they sang along with a pre-recorded tape. If all the
kids stopped singing, the "music" continued anyway. Rhythms were slack
and intonation was catch-as-catch can. The music teacher often sat off
to the side running the tape player rather than conducting the kids.
Even when she got in front of them to lead them, their attention was
split between her and the tape. I spoke to her once about this. Her
explanation: she didn't like doing it, BUT the parents (read PTA,
teachers, etc) wanted to see RESULTS, and results meant dragging
little Johnny and Susie in front of the parents thrice a year for a
photo op. I swear, most parents seemed to get more excited when the
kids f*cked up because it was "cute" than they did over the "good"
part of the performance. And all this in a rather high-income area of
3. Classical music in the home. My two kids are exposed (subjected
to?) classical music in the home on a daily basis. They like Mozart
(Eine kleine) and Beethoven. They think Bruckner is too loud. They
find Bach annoying. French music, they love - maybe because (huge
generalization here) it isn't as loud or aggressive as the German
stuff. They cover their ears when they hear opera. On the other hand,
both can do a pretty good impression of an opera singer voice (though
it smacks of Adam Sandler's Opera Man).
They like all of the usual drivel played at 4th of July concerts -
because there are always fireworks at the end (which never seem to
draw the "too loud" complaint that does Bruckner). My son likes John
Williams' movie scores - all because of the Star Wars phenom. Certain
cartoon series like The Smurfs use nothing but classical music as
their background. I will point out to them that they're actually
listening to Mahler (yes, Mahler's music is used in The Smurfs) and
that gives them a perspective - for a minute at best. One can make a
few connections, so I do.
I don't know if it's the job of the schools to obsessively teach kids
about classical music. I think they need to teach them about MUSIC,
period. After all, the kids don't learn math with the express purpose
of becoming accountants. They do, however, get exposed to great works
of literature through their English classes. I'd suggest that the same
relationship should and could exist in their music classes with
exposure to classical music.
In the meantime, my kids are being exposed to classical music in the
home in much the same way that I was. If they ask a question, I'm
there to answer. If they ask that I turn down the volume, I do that,
While I know that our household is the exception to the rule in the
USA, I don't believe that I'm obsessing or being dogmatic in my
approach. At the end of the day, it's more of a matter of the kids
having SOME exposure as opposed to NO exposure to the classics. They
have plenty of time to form a real love for classical music in the
future. For now, it's best to present it as a slice of their daily
life, just like math, or English, or soccer practice, or video games,