I was recently asked how I plan to use music in my classroom and why. A little stunned, I realized I knew I wanted music in my classroom, but I hadn't thought about how and why, or planned exactly when I would use it. I just figured I would, sometime. I hadn't actually stopped to think about the importance music has played in my life. Or how now, I am in a place where I'll be providing an experience for someone else and music. I thought it was about time that I did.

My Elementary School Experiences
Once per week, during grades K-4, I went to music. My teacher’s name was Mr. Cianflony. I remember well walking through the long hallways down to the music room, and what it looked like. There was a chart on the wall that said do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti, do. We would practice singing and humming these as a class, standing on bleachers with Mr. Cianflony leading us. There was one piano and about 10 keyboards with headphones that we used. I remember learning to play xylophone and recorder, as well. Some of the songs that we learned that I still remember were Have You Seen the Ghost of John?, Fifty Nifty United States, and The Cat Came Back.

When 5th grade came, each student got to play an instrument. I remember wanting to play the drums, but in order to be allowed, students had to know how to play piano. As a disappointing second choice, I decided to play flute. My neighbor had a flute that she used during her high school band experience and agreed to let me use it for mine.

So, I played flute. We, each member in the band, had individual band lessons with Mrs. Gustafson once per week. I remember being nervous and excited as I learned to play songs that I already knew the rhythms to. Learning to read rhythms was another story, and one that made our 5th grade concert a bit of an ear sore. I commend my parents for sitting through those beginning stages of performance

My Music Experiences From High School to Present
I continued to play flute through middle school with different arrangements of people each year. One summer during those years, I took private lessons, which helped me move up to third chair. When I registered for my high school classes, band was one of the things I decided to take.
In ninth grade, my school had block scheduling. So each day I spent 90 minutes in band. It was a huge concert band that also served as a marching band and pep band during the football season led by Mrs. Junker. Together we learned how to march, play two sets of songs (one for concerts and one for sports events) and became more stylize. There were no more individual lessons, but instead, during practice each day, groups of players (eg. woodwinds, flutes, percussion, brass, etc.) would be called on to play their part together in front of the rest of the band if some fine tuning was needed. We were expected to take our music home, learn it, and know it well. This was much more of an individual pursuit than my elementary and middle school experiences. When my sophomore of high school came, I had to make a choice between taking chemistry, math, and biology or taking band. I decided against band.

My next experience with music was listening to my two younger brothers learn to play trumpet and my younger sister learn to play saxophone.
When I decided to go into education, I took Fundamentals of Music, where we learned some theory and how to play very basic keyboard.
When I met my partner, I was introduced to a world of music that I didn’t know existed.

What role does music play in my life at the present time?
Currently, I live with a musician and music collector. He plays guitar, writes music, and head up a local band. I usually spend one night a week at a band rehearsal listening to guitar, stand up base, viola, and drums. My brother, with whom I spend a great deal of time with, plays guitar and banjo. My father has played guitar my entire life. All together, my life is filled with music. There is never a moment of silence in my life unless it was meant to be there by a musician who planned it to be.
This experience is different than previous experience because, most recently, I am not asked to create music, but to listen, give feedback, critique, and provide suggestions about music that is being made. I am also introduced to new music each day whether it is a live performance, on CD, electronic, or on vinyl. I wouldn’t say that music plays any certain role in my life; I would say that music puts me in certain roles in my life.

Do I have a peak musical experience?
A peak music experience occurred when I met my partner. I had always been attracted to music, and previously, had pursued the interest through making music. I wasn’t happy with the music on the radio, the CDs that I had, or the music that other people played for me. When I met him, I was introduced to an amazing collection ranging from dust bowl ballads, to socially conscious hiphop, to contemporary jazz, to roots blues. It was a world I entered and still have not fully explored. My life was suddenly filled with all the things I had been craving, and it was all right there at my fingertips. Then I found out he played music, and now I have live, original music in my life nearly every day. I couldn’t ask for more, musically.

Do I consider myself: a skilled musician, an intermediate level musician, a novice musician, or a non-musician?
I consider myself an intermediate level musician. I know skilled musicians, and they are unbelievable. I can’t imagine even calling myself skilled when I listen to the sounds that some people can generate. On the other hand, I have played a fair amount of music on flute; a bit of guitar, trumpet, and sax; and some bass guitar. I can read music, feel music, critique music, and write music. I am somewhere in the middle.

Some Reflection
After thinking about my own music experience, I realize that I have been involved in music in some way, for my entire life, and that I do have the knowledge and resources to integrate music into my classroom. Most of all, thinking about my own music experience helped me remember when and how music has been a part of my life, as well as, how memorable those moments were. I feel more inspired to make music an integral part of my curriculum, knowing how powerful has and still is for me. It seems so normal, in my life, to be around music all the time that I didn’t think about what it would be like to be in a classroom without it.

Through exploring a music collection that spans a century, I have noticed that music is a reflection of the events of a time. It can present the emotions of social tragedies, tell the story of a social event, and motivate people for social action. For social studies and literature, music can be an authentic tie to the peoples’ experiences. I want my students to think back about their own music experiences, and remember my classroom as the one where we listened to the war songs of Nicaragua when we learned about the struggles there, and the social actions songs of the union member in the early 1900s and 1960s.

Music is also very mathematical. Math and music go hand in had. Fractions and time are the first things that come to mind when I think about how music can be used to teach math more effectively.

Relaxation and enjoyment, although not specifically outlined in curricula, are integral to a successful classroom. Music can do this for students and faculty, as well as create a focus. It can be used as a classroom management strategy. People can hear music, even when they cannot see a teacher, and it can draw students’ attention to something.

I feel comfortable and excited about having music be a part of my classroom. I know that an education is more complete when arts have been integrated across subject areas. Now I have a better focus about how, why, and how to plan music into the daily schedule.

on Jan 12, 2005
AWESOME idea! Go for it.
on Oct 21, 2005
Greeat idea, im an english teacher in Brasil and i commonly use music activities as part of my lessons to encourage my students to learn more english. I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun
on Oct 21, 2005
~~I feel comfortable and excited about having music be a part of my classroom. I know that an education is more complete when arts have been integrated across subject areas. Now I have a better focus about how, why, and how to plan music into the daily schedule.~~

Music does wonders when trying to teach a concept. Last year, I used a poem set to music to have my students learn the Rock Cycle, and it was a success. Your article has inspired me to look into more music-to-classroom ideas...thanks for sharing.