Music and singing are an integral part of all

Music and
singing are an integral part of all humans, from the first sound uttered by
babies to the music making of whole communities. Sadly, in western culture, it
has become the norm to see both singing and playing music as a performance, a
skill, with audiences and judgement that has developed a culture of “only sing
if you are deemed to be good at it”, whereas other cultures are drawn together
by music making and use singing to express feelings, tell stories and make
connections. Regardless of culture though, “humans are united through similar
neural responses to the playing, singing, and imagining of music” (Maldonado,
2012). Research shows that music has impact on various parts of the brain,
releases dopamine and supports learning and development and it is this that
shows the importance of including music and singing in the classroom. But how
can this impact specifically and what are the benefits?

School is
a big part of a child’s word and provides a community to which they need to
feel a sense of belonging. Music making in schools such as choirs, instrumental
groups and learning to play an instrument provides this feeling of inclusion
and connection. For children who may not excel academically, this may be their
place to shine and develop life long musical skills. Furthermore, playing or
singing as part of a group is good for developing self-confidence, team work
and co-operation, responsibility and social skills (Hallam, 2010)        

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In an
increasingly multicultural society, music presents no barriers, but instead,
offers enrichment and a medium through which children can develop some
understanding of different cultures through exposure to a broad range of
musical styles, songs from other countries and communities and learn to sing in
new languages. In the early years, the importance of hearing and singing
nursery rhymes is well documented, particularly in language development through
their rhythm and rhyme.

 

Through
developments in neuroscience, research shows links between music and improving
reading ability, particularly when pupils are given instrument instruction.
Furthermore, music helps to develop and retain vocabulary and so enhance
language development due increased auditory discrimination, supporting
phonological development. General music lessons in class also help those pupils
struggling with reading (Hallam, 2012).  Links between music and maths are also
emerging, examples of linking music and maths can be seen the use of times
tables songs to help learning.

Music
provides both physical and mental workouts, which in today’s culture of
sedentary lifestyles, is a benefit. Using dance with music develops gross motor
skills, co-ordination and balance and improves cardiovascular function. Singing
too supports increase respiratory function, increased oxygenation of the blood,
improves speech and posture.  Mental
health is improved through singing: research shows it reduces stress and
promotes a feeling of well -being, triggering the release of dopamines.

Music is
also very inclusive. Pupils may have specific needs, disabilities or
difficulties, however, music making can still be achieved with small
adaptations and access to a range of multimedia. Singing itself can be enjoyed
both from a taking part and listening perspective and it is important to ensure
children listen to live and recorded music as well as their own songs and music
making. Instruments can be made accessible through small adaptations and
electronic apps and programmes can open the world of music making for some
pupils who cannot use acoustic instruments.

Songs can
be highly emotive, expressive and cathartic. The can provide starting points
for PHSE lessons or provide opportunity for self-expression through music
creating and song writing. Songs, lyrics or music can provide musical starting
points for all curriculum subjects and there a many packages or individual
songs that support learning with factual lyrics.

 

The depth
and breadth to which music impacts, is summed up in this quote attributed to
Plato:

Music is
a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the
imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of
order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the
invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.