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No Background Music in the Classroom, be the “Quiet Car”

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Photo 1I take the “Quiet Car” to work. It is the second car on either end the METRA train. I got to thinking about the push to have music play in the background of classrooms today. This was my constant battle with elementary teachers. They were not musicians and wanted to have more music in their classrooms, so the playing of music was their solution. I don’t think the untrained ear understands how stimulated a trained ear can be with music. I was taught at a young age to listen, listen, listen. Part of my listening was to understand what I did wrong, so when I practiced I could correct myself. This is the key to all musicians. I spent hours in the music library in college listening to the same music by different performers, so I could have the ability to listen for mistakes and/or how the music is interpreted. Then I would replicate it myself and learn from it. This active listening is still occurring with me. There are even times I can see the notes on the staff when music is being played or performed. All of this demands my complete attention. I do not passively listen, I listen for purpose, much like someone who reads or watches videos.

For that matter, sound itself is music. As I walked from the train to work today, I love listening to the different clatter of shoes and sounds of the city. They are dynamic and rhythmic.

There are those with perfect pitch and if the music is out of tune, they wince and squeal. Outside sounds all have a pitch and they can tell you the pitch and whether it is in tune.

I can easily listen to any music and create a story, or a recurring sound like a faucet or squeak, makes me climb the walks. When I focus only on the repetitive sounds, It makes me less productive because I am focused on the sound.

So, the teacher playing music will be creating more distractions with these musical students. You might have a Carol Broos in your classroom and playing music could dramatically change how they work and listen in the classroom. Sometimes the music is so powerful, I cannot listen to others talk, the music takes over my listening.

Students asked if they could listen to music while they work in my classroom. I’d  respond “This is a music class, of course!” I was highly supportive of this. However, it was all about productivity. They all were on headsets. If they were working, great. Since, they picked the music and had control of the volume.

Just listening to music is not bringing music into your class. Allow your students to create music and use music in their projects. Make music part of the show, not background sounds that might distract students.

Here are some pointers:

  • Learn how to compose and create music
  • Allow headsets
  • Discover new genres and use music for a time to relax and daydream
  • Silence is more important than sound

Yes, music is powerful and should be in our classrooms, but for a purpose. Not background music or secondary sound. Restaurants understand this, they use music to muffle the chatter.

So, if you are considering placing music in your classroom, remember those musicians in your class. Allow for differences and create an environment of silence and choice.

BTW – the “Quiet Car,” was standing room only today.

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