Music Instruction in School, at Home and Online

Music instruction refers to any lesson involving music and instruments to create music. It can be part of a school’s curriculum or as a special class for students who are musically inclined. Examples include music instruction on voice, piano, guitar, drums, and flute, among many others. Music teachers have the responsibility to teach students with the basic elements of music, playing instruments, and forming groups such as choirs or bands in a school. However, music teachers may also provide private lessons at the student’s home or in their music studios. There are also music instructions available online which provide step-by-step procedures in written, audio or video formats.

Music instruction usually starts in elementary schools where children are taught how to play instruments such as the keyboard, sing in choirs or school plays, and learn about the elements and history of music. In high school, music instruction may continue as part of the curriculum but can also be offered as an elective for those who are talented in singing and playing musical instruments. Academic credits are also provided in the tertiary level for arts and humanities programs. This often includes the history of music, music appreciation and different musical styles. However, a student can also choose to major in music.

Music instruction in the United States can be traced back to the 17th century when music played an important part in traditions and religion. The first singing school was established in 1717 in Boston, Massachusetts which provided lessons on improving singing and music reading in the church. Subsequently the Boston Academy of Music was formed for teaching singing and theory and the methods of teaching music. In early 20th century, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio was the first to offer the Bachelor of Music Education degree. Nowadays, schools have a wide variety of options available for students on music course offerings and even entire degree programs especially for online music education.

Music teachers nowadays, are those who are graduates of music education and are hired in educational institutions or musicians who share their talents by providing private lessons or similar to apprenticeship. They are also available online where they often publish step-by-step procedures in how to play instruments and other how-to’s, tips, and lessons on the history of music and other details in music appreciation. Music teachers and the schools where they teach at can adopt their own standards for teaching music. However, the National Association for Music Education has created “The National Standards for Music Education” which include:

Singing – involves singing alone and with others
Performing – using instruments, alone or with others
Improvising – melodies, variations and accompaniments
Composing and arranging music with specific guidelines
Reading and notating music
Listening to, analyzing and describing music
Evaluating music and music performances
Understanding the relationships between music and other arts
Understanding music in relation to history and culture

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Homeschooled Students Do NOT Require Music Instruction

Do I have your attention? Did I shock you? Good, that was my plan…now that I have your attention I can say that obviously, the title to this article couldn’t be more false…

Homeschooled students deserve the same access to opportunities that are afforded their public and private school counterparts. That includes access to quality instrumental music instruction, especially for those students who show an early aptitude for music and/or a keen interest. All students at a minimum should be exposed to the recorder starting in the 3rd grade as well as the piano. Starting in the 4th grade those students that are especially motivated and/or show an aptitude can begin to play the violin, guitar, flute, clarinet, trumpet, or saxophone in addition to the piano. Of course, the physical attributes of your student(s) such as overall size, hand size, coordination, health concerns, etc. will help you determine if a 4th grade student can physically handle the challenges associated with playing a “hand held” musical instrument. Piano/keyboard instruction is crucial and should be mandated from the 3rd or 4th grade through the 8th grade.

Music instruction, especially of instrumental music, can be an important component of a well-rounded homeschool curriculum. Are you, as the teacher/parent musically inclined? Are you at least somewhat proficient on a musical instrument? If so, you are probably OK with putting together a homeschool music curriculum that will be more than adequate for your students. However, what if math or science is your strong suit? Perhaps you have some students that would like to play a musical instrument but you’re unsure of how to get them started? Musical instruments are expensive, even if they are listed as “student models”. Private lessons can be expensive as well, method books can be confusing, do you rent an instrument or purchase?

One idea is to partner with other homeschools or homeschool organizations in your area. Seek out someone to serve as your “musical director”. Two or three times a week all music students can meet in a centralized appropriate location for band, orchestra, or choral practices. Individual practice of an instrument is important, but there is nothing like playing with others for motivation and keeping interest levels strong!

Pam and I are homeschool veterans ourselves. We homeschooled our two boys for seven years, including one child disabled with cerebral palsy. Since we had our degrees in music education, we didn’t need help with the music end of things, but we certainly did for nearly everything else! So I can empathize with your situation!

What are the benefits to students in listening to and playing quality music? Maybe you have heard of the “Mozart Effect”, based on a 1997 book by Don Campbell and founded on the 1991 research of French researcher Dr. Alfred Tomatis. The author claims, and now there is a great deal of supporting scientific research, that listening to classical music, especially Mozart, can further develop the spatial-temporal functioning of the brain. This has now been inked to improved math and science learning, and generally making our children smarter. Learning about music or how to play a musical instrument is always beneficial. Music involves both left and right-brain functioning. Music inspires creativity and passion. Learning to play a musical instrument or sing is a skill that; once developed, can be enjoyed throughout an entire lifetime!