I know a guy who plays guitar named Tommy. He asked me if I’d be interested in teaching music to kids. I said yes.
There’s a group of Christian home school moms who bring their kids to a nearby church every two weeks. The moms do a Bible study and talk about adult stuff, while the kids go to several classes: art, gym and music.
I had the pleasure of assisting Tommy with his class of older kids ages 10 and up, and then I was in charge of the class for kids between the ages of 7 and 9.
Here’s what I learned…
Kids at that young age love to move around. They can sit still for a couple minutes, but any chance you give them to walk, bounce, dance or run– they’ll gladly take it! So we played games like musical chairs. They loved musical chairs.
Next, I discovered that I wanted to teach them as if they were college students and yet they were little kids, so I had to adjust accordingly. What’s common knowledge for me is literally unknown to them, so we ended up concentrating on learning “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” and “F-A-C-E.” Thank God for flash cards my teacher friend lent me– the kids loved looking at the various notes and guessing which ones they were. They especially liked when I’d have three notes on the staff that formed a word like “BEE” or “DAD.”
I did not have the use of a computer, a screen or even a proper classroom setup with tables and chairs. Class was held in a noisy auditorium adjoining the gymnasium…an in-use gymnasium.
I had to make do with what I had. I went to the local library and got out picture books that showed the various instruments like drums and flutes and tubas. Like a teacher would show picture books to their class, I was in front of some two dozen little ones paging through the books and seeing how well they knew their instruments. Some of them recognized instruments because their family members played them. I was fascinated that this was all so new to most of them.
I tried to have each class meeting have an overall theme. So, the first class was about music in general. I asked each kid what they liked and got answers like “singing and dancing,” “the sound of the drums,” and, surprisingly, “Vivaldi!”
Since it was a Christian home schooling group, I talked about music in the Bible and the relationship between music and God. As a class, we came up with a list of places where music is used, from movies to speeches, parades to funerals, and then some. We talked about how different music evokes different emotions. It can be used to “scare people,” to “help them rest or sleep,” and, of course, “to dance.”
I enjoyed teaching music to kids.
We covered basic concepts like melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, the treble clef, and musical genres.
I would use my iPhone and some big speakers to play the kids different styles/genres of music. Seeing as this was a class of Christian home schooled kids, I wanted to make sure they knew more than just church songs and musicians. They needed to know who Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley were, as well as many other famous artists, if they were/are to interact with their “unsaved” peers and elders, right? Yes!
For musical genres, I picked a song that I thought best represented a particular genre, and then one by one each student would come up to the front of the class and say one or two words of what came to mind while hearing that genre. The answers I got were, as you’d imagine, both interesting and right on. For hip-hop, descriptive words included “shaking, dancing, leaping, African tribes, a car tipping over, and noise.” Rock music got “break the door down, shake your head, a beehive on your head, guitar slammin’, knock out, and plugging ears.” Classical music made the kids say, “haunted, in the dark, dramatic, wedding, nervous, God, and parade.” Folk elicited both “happy” and “sad,” as well as “rolling down hills, falling asleep, and on a farm.” I like that the kids said “dress up, boogie, old school, and jazzy” for jazz. Blues got them saying, “patterns, mole in mouth, jump in seat, rock-n-roll, and The Incredible Hulk.” Top 40 pop garnered responses like “dance, city, cymbals, love, disco, annoying, fun, and evil.” When I played a funk-dance tune, I got some fun responses like “brain explode, ants in pants, smash a box, peppy, pool party and hands in the air!”
I love listening to different genres of music, so I wanted to be sure to cover as broad a spectrum as possible. For some of these Christian home schooled kids, they never heard Latin, Reggae or Celtic music before… With Latin music, they said words like “happy, beach, Mexico, maracas, limbo, jump, tango, and shake.” Reggae got “dance-weird, catchy, alive, mad, cry, clap, bingo, and break the floor.” Celtic music made the kids think “jig, riding a horse, lullaby, ear worm, tapping feet, colors, and the apocalypse.”
My music class also did some singing. I wanted them to do a slow worship song, but after one attempt, I knew they needed something more upbeat and simpler with less words. Besides singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” I got them singing “This Little Light Of Mine” and “I’ve Got Peace Like A River,” both of which they ended up performing for their friends and family members during the end-of-the-year recital.
During the class, we also talked about fame and how it can be used for good or destroy a person. The kids tried their hand at songwriting, as well as getting up in front of each other to perform songs and dances. We covered love songs, patriotic songs, God songs, and more.
All in all, I was thankful to spend time with these young minds and introduce them to musical sounds, ideas and concepts. My hope is that they at least have an appreciation for music and all its diversity…and, at most, some of them make music their passionate hobby and/or full-time career in life. –Mark Weber