History of American Music Education – A Guest Post by Campbellsville University

In most public schools across the country, music education is an important part of the educational experience. The history of music education in the United States began before the American Revolution and progressed to the prevalence of music education today.

Music Education in the Colonies

When the Pilgrims and Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, they brought a tradition of singing psalms. According to A Concise History of American Music Education by Michael Mark, the first book printed in America that contained music was a 1698 psalm book.

Meanwhile, secular music was allowed and celebrated in the South. Experienced musicians traveled across plantations to teach children and perform for private audiences and churches. Music education was limited to the wealthy.

As the northern colonies grew, so did the importance of music literacy in the church. The Rev. John Tufts founded the first American “singing school” and published An Introduction to The Singing of Psalm-Tunes in 1721 to cure the ills of music illiteracy. Singing masters taught people in the community to sing by note as part of the singing school movement.

>>Read more about the History of Music Education>>


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Free Image Files to Make Your Own Composer Trading Game

One of our favorite loud and lively games we’ve played in the studio is Composer Trading. It was one of the highlights at our September Surprise! piano lesson kickoff for the year!

If you download the free image files from the Music Matters Blog store, you can upload them to MOO.com, and from now until September 28 you can get 25% off of your entire order! I wish I had had this coupon a few weeks ago when I made and ordered the Composer Trading cards, but maybe I’ll just have to order something else to make up for it. 🙂


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These are a few of my favorite [teaching] things…

We are officially two weeks into piano lessons for this fall, and everyone is off to a great start with our Vanishing Voices practice incentive theme! It’s fun to watch the students study the gallery of composers on the studio wall and learn how to pronounce their names.

I attended a training seminar this weekend for homeschool parents and especially appreciated a quote by Andrew Pudewa, a Suzuki violin teacher-turned Language Arts educator. He said, “Saturate the environment with what you want the student to learn and remember.” I can certainly see the value of this advice, as students absorb so much just by seeing the same posters. We’ve already had some great conversations about various parts of the world and how they relate to the composers we’re collecting.

Now, on to the real topic of this post! I thought I would share some of my indispensable teaching tools – things I turn to over and over again to help students understand and retain various musical concepts. After working through primarily Major scales last year, I decided to launch this year with a focus on minor scales. At her lesson, Stephanie and I discussed what makes a Major scale Major and what makes a minor scale minor. Then we learned the pattern for natural minor scales, which she wrote out in her Mini Music Manual for future reference. Then we used some little place markers to construct the scale on the keyboard. And finally, she arranged a set of scale blocks to depict the correct name of each key. (Side Note: You may notice on the fallboard a set of Level 3 Sight Reading Cards from Piano Safari. These are a must-have even if you don’t use the full method because they are such a systematic and effective way of helping students build sight reading and rhythm skills!)

In addition to the scale blocks, Daniel uses a magnetic dry erase board to jot down and compare the Major and minor scale patterns. I use these handy boards all the time for quick teaching illustrations and examples.

Finally, I can’t imagine how I ever taught without a video recording device (a.k.a. smart phone) at my fingertips! It’s only her second piano lesson, but Alyssa is already learning to express creativity through composition, and enjoying the opportunity to share it with others. Thanks to inspiration from this Piano Safari video (below), Alyssa and I played the Animal Improvisation game at her first lesson and then I assigned her to make up her very own animal piece during the week. She went from reluctantly playing a single note representing an animal to creating this entire composition, which she informed me was not just about one, but two animals: a dolphin being attacked by a shark!

What fun to watch students acquire deeper musical understanding, explore creative possibilities, and develop excellent skills through their study of piano. I am reminded anew of what an awesome privilege we piano teachers have to be a part of this learning and growing process!

September Surprise Group Piano Class – by Candlelight!

The September Surprise! has become a much-anticipated tradition in our studio, but I think I can safely say that this year’s will go down in history as one of the most memorable. The students and their families arrived in the midst of an intense thunderstorm, and near the end of one of the performances a transformer blew and we concluded the evening by candlelight!

My objectives for the evening were: have fun, get to know one another better, play music for each other, and introduce this year’s practice incentive theme.

The evening began with a simple ice-breaker game. I gave each person a slip of paper and had them write one interesting (and not obvious!) thing about themselves. Then I collected all the slips and re-distributed them, and everyone was tasked with finding the person who belonged to the slip of paper they had received. Once everyone found their person, we went around the room and each person introduced the one who went with their paper and then shared the interesting thing about them.


With everyone feeling significantly more relaxed, it was time to start the surprise performances! I put each student who indicated that they had something prepared back into a basket and then let my new beginning student draw the names out to determine the order of performances. I was thoroughly impressed with the music the students prepared and played! Instead of preparing an advanced piece to play for them, I opted to play a fun assortment of Wendy’s compositions that incorporate elements of audience participation. They were quite the hit, and my boys loved accompanying me on the cajon and leading the rest of the audience in the rhythm patterns! (Btw, I’m not exaggerating when I say that they are fighting over who gets to learn Drastic Measures first. :-))


We took a short intermission to play Composer Trading – a card game I patterned after the boisterous crowd-pleasing game of Pit. The students loved it, and were begging to play another round, so I’m sure we’ll be pulling this out a lot during the year! (I had fun designing some composer MiniCards from Moo.com to correlate with the theme!)


After all the performances, it was time for the big reveal! Vanishing Voices: a musical race against time, this year’s practice incentive theme, will have students collecting miles and flying around the world as we traverse history learning about composers from every era. They are already beginning to strategize to make sure that they can collect enough composers to be part of our big end-of-the-year excursion, and I’m excited to watch them progress as musicians throughout the course of this experience.


Right in the middle of our performance of Mob Bop, the house was suddenly engulfed in darkness! Thankfully, everyone kept right on tapping and clapping their part and I improv-ed on the theme until someone grabbed their phone and provided enough light for me to finish the piece as written. While I explained the theme, my husband quickly set to work collecting oil lamps and all the candles in the house to prepare for the reception of goodies upstairs. The ambience was perfect for a time of mingling and made for a fun evening that we won’t soon forget!

Review and Giveaway of Informusic App

The timing could not be more perfect for the launch of the fabulous new Informusic app! It’s everything I would have come up with myself to provide a handy and useful reference tool for my students as we spend the year learning about composers and music history with our Vanishing Voices practice incentive theme.

You can easily scroll through a list of composers and select the one you’re interested in researching. The click will take you to a biographical sketch with links to a couple of his most notable compositions that you can either view in score format or listen to as professionally recorded audio files. While enjoying the virtual concert, read more about the work – when it was composed, what inspired it, and what musical elements are included.

A quick slide of the finger at the top of the screen will transport you to an extensive timeline of the composer’s life with clickable icons associated with each year that will reveal yet another timeline that places the event in context with other happenings in the world. You can even manually select which kinds of events to include in the timeline from a dropdown list, including: Architecture, Art, Literature, Medicine, Music, Politics, Science, Technology, and War.

This is a fabulous reference guide that every teacher and student can and should have at their fingertips! I am excited to make this available to my students on the studio iPad this year so that they can research various composers and listen to their compositions without having full access to the internet.

Even though the Informusic app is well worth the introductory rate of $.99, the app developers have graciously agreed to offer 3 free copies to 3 Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. The winners will be drawn using a random number generator on Friday, September 9, at noon (CST).

Giveaway of Jungle Expedition Studio Decor!

Fall is in the air, and with it the beginning of a new year of piano lessons, and (most importantly!) a new studio practice incentive theme! With that in mind, I’ve cleared off my studio wall in preparation for all new colorful decor. Now you have a chance to win a complete set of studio decor materials for Jungle Expedition: where mighty musicians survive!

Jungle Expedition!

Everything that you need along with the student assignment books is packaged up and ready to send to one special winner. The studio decor package includes the wall poster, the theme title and tagline, the theme verse, a set of student markers to place on the poster, and a set of laminated tickets that the students will be collecting throughout the year.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below. The winner will be drawn using a random number generator next Friday, August 26, at noon (CST) and the package will be in the mail the next day!

 

Coming This Fall…


Vanishing Voices: a musical race against time!

The practice incentive theme for this next year is in development and I’m so excited about how we’re planning to integrate music history with world geography and a dose of strategy as the students work diligently to reach new goals and practice consistently throughout the year! It’s always fun to start a new year with th excitement and adventure of a new theme. I would love to hear what other teachers are up to this fall. Are you thing anything new in your studios?