Music History & Facts

Interesting facts about music, music history, etc.

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By Robin Steinweg

How can a visit to a museum turn into a winning student-led group class?

My student, a high school senior, recently visited “the world’s only global music instrument museum,” located in Phoenix, Arizona. She took dozens of photos. Her enthusiasm bubbled over during her lesson.

I love to strike while the iron’s hot! So I asked Sarah if she’d share some of her photos (and excitement) with my other students at a group class.

The Musical Instrument Museum boasts over 6500 instruments on display, from some two hundred different countries or territories. I asked Sarah to choose fifteen or twenty photos, and spend 1-3 minutes telling us about each.

Though I’m sure it was difficult to narrow the field, Sarah chose fascinating subjects. She put them in order on her laptop, and while the rest of the group finished their snacks, Sarah captured their interest completely with her stories of instruments beautiful, rare, ancient, or bizarre.

One showed a metal piano which Steinway & Sons produced during WWII. They were called the “Victory Verticals” or G.I. Models, and some were parachute-dropped to troops fighting in Europe. They included tuning kits and instructions. When I asked my mostly young students why Steinway would do this, they seemed perplexed. One of them thought perhaps it was so they could hold funeral services. This ended up in a discussion about the impact music has on us. To impart courage, bring comfort, lift the spirits, entertain…

Some of the students there have great-grandfathers who served in the military during WWII–so this example touched them.

We ended the class in a state of musical entertainment: with each attendee taking a turn on my ukulele playing “The Hokey Pokey” (quite amusing).

I was so pleased with Sarah’s presentation. She fielded questions like a pro. I am continually impressed with music students’ creativity, maturity, and responsibility. All they need is opportunity.

I hope to find more ways to have a student-led group class!

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brain research on musicians

Who has not heard a teenager, a parent or adult beginner, or an administrator or politician wonder out loud what the point of learning music is, for those who are not planning on turning pro?

Apart from the obvious personal benefit from enjoyment, social connection, and artistic expression, there is scientific research about learning music that is well worth keeping in mind and passing along to others — especially as a music teacher.  I emailed my son a link to a great little animated video from TED-Ed-Lessons, which presents an excellent summary of how learning to play music helps develop higher brain function.  It was written by Anita Collins, who has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Music Education.  We’ll discuss this more, below.

But first, it’s worth noting that only in the last couple of months, MIT researchers have published findings that certain neurons in our brains are tuned in specifically to processing the sound of music, suggesting that music may have played an important role in the evolution of the human nervous system.  Taken together with the finding of musical instruments from as far back as 70,000 years ago, it’s clear that music is essential to human society.
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Created by Kent State University’s School of Music, this inforgraphic shows that music not only has educational merit, but that it can be used to close the educational gap among students and schools. As a private teacher, how much do you value the importance of music in schools? Or what is your reaction to the data in the below visual? Let us know in the comments.

Using Music to Close the Educational Gap
Kent State Online Master of Music in Music Education

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