By Jane Heaton
Music is an integral part of the Montessori Primary because it is a form of communication used among people of all cultures. It is important that the children understand and appreciate music, as it is a special kind of language. This development is supported in the classroom everyday as the children sing, listen to music, and play the bells.
The singing voice is the child’s first musical instrument, one that is developed from listening to other people sing. Children hear the song, imitate it and eventually find their own voice through singing the song themselves. The singing voice uses different muscles than the speaking voice, so we practice singing everyday to develop and strengthen those muscles. Songs are thoughtfully chosen and introduced based upon the interests of the class, the season, or simply in the interest of beauty or fun!
Music appreciation is an intentional activity through which we cultivate the enjoyment of listening to music while sharing the history and culture of music. We attempt to connect the children to the music on a human level by providing information such as the name of the composer or musician. The children listen to a wide variety of musical styles, genres, composers, and instruments from a variety of cultures and time periods with the aim of connecting them with something that they enjoy.
New music is introduced to the entire class, along with some information about what they are hearing. Then the children listen, sitting still and just focusing on what they hear. After listening, the children love to share what instruments they heard, how the music made them feel, what they know about where the music is from, and sometimes their opinions about what they heard.
The children also listen to music individually throughout the school day. They learn how to operate a CD player and wear the headphones and then are free to listen to the selected music whenever it is available. When appropriate, pictures accompany the individual listening activity to enhance the experience.
To support the understanding and exploration of pitch and as an introduction to music literacy, the children learn to play the bells. The bells consist of one octave of the chromatic scale with which the children gain familiarity through pairing and grading games. Note names and their places on the scale are explored, along with reading the music and eventually writing music. As with music appreciation, we focus on the humanity of music and that the children are capable of composing their own musical works.
Each day, we strive to cultivate a rich musical environment for the children. Singing together allows the children to hear and share their unique voices, harnessing and learning from their most intuitive musical expressions. Actively listening to various composers and genres during music appreciation allows the children to explore a myriad of historical and cultural contexts. Moreover, the children gain a theoretical and compositional perspective of music by playing the bells. This dynamic integration of music in our classrooms bridges the young, creative, inquisitive minds with the vast and beautiful world of music.