The benefits of studying music are not all immediately obvious. Clearly, doing music in a group is fun and a social learning process. It is less visible how music improves functions of the brain and the whole development of children. But it does. Working with both
Music is first introduced in Kindergarten in a playful way, with daily and seasonal verses and songs the children are quick to learn. By Classes 1 and 2, the children are already trained to hit the right pitch, to get a feeling of high and low notes and to feel different rhythms. Using music as an opportunity for learning social behaviour, pupils learn how to sing, drum and blow simple pipes within the class as an ensemble. In order not to fix the child’s understanding too early on Western music (major/minor) we use some songs which do not emphasise our grown-up understanding of a central note to which everything relates. Some of the pentatonic songs fulfil these criteria.
All children learn the soprano recorder and have violin lessons in groups. Learning to read music provides one way of understanding music; another is composition. Already in Class 3 we read music and introduce basic composition (eg. improvising a melody on the recorder and fixing it on paper). We also start singing in more than one part and by Class 5 singing in more than two parts is standard.
In Class 5, at the end of the collective violin lesson, some of the pupils may stay with the violin, others choose something new. Everyone else is expected to learn a different individual instrument. Since our concept of education is child-centred we think that it is imperative to develop an understanding of the world as a whole system and learning an instrument encourages this.
In Classes 6, 7 and 8 we establish the class as an ensemble. In this way the pupils learn the very complex challenge of music and playing together in a group. The social aspect is very important. Since not everybody plays the same instrument it is necessary to rehearse with different subgroups of the class. This is a difficult exercise for everybody. It demands listening and accepting the successes and mistakes of others. It also demands courage to play in front of peers.
Music theory is emphasised. Composition and singing are increased. Instrumental players of a designated standard are part of the school orchestra. From Class 8 onwards the whole class is part of the school choir.
Students in the Upper School gain a historic understanding of music and a feeling for the different styles developed in different times. To develop the kind of joined-up thinking that questioning the world requires, Upper School students must locate the subject of music in relation to physics, history, philosophy and the personal questions of the individual. The process of individualisation is mirrored in advances in composition and solo performance. GCSE music may also be offered.