The Importance of Music Education

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of holding a baby just 10 days old. It was mid afternoon, and I was guessing her poor mama hadn’t really slept since the birth. Elle and I took turns cuddling the baby, while my friend crept upstairs for a much needed nap. After a few minutes, the baby began fussing. I picked her up, walked around the room, sang our version of “Hush Little Baby.” Still gritchy. I switched to “All the Pretty Horsies” and did a gentle canter-y gait. More fussing. Then I started in on Ledbelly’s “Bring Me Little Water, Sylvie.” The baby pulled her head off my shoulder (strong baby!) and stared at me as if in disbelief. She stopped crying and listened as I sang. When her mother came downstairs fifteen minutes later, I told her what had happened.

“No wonder,” said her mother. “We played that song and sang that song many times while she was in the womb, and since birth.”

I’d certainly heard of this happening–baby recognizing pre-womb music post-womb–and in fact, we wrote about this phenomenon in our book <a href=”″>All Together Singing in the Kitchen: Creative Ways to Make and Listen to Music as a Family</a>. But I’d never witnessed it so directly. (Well, maybe I did. Maybe it happened with my own kids, but I was so sleep deprived then, I have no recollection.)

Today in Jay’s Suzuki class the teacher had the four-year-old pre-twinklers form a circle. She played “pass the Twinkle,” playing the first line of “Mississippi Stop Stop” to the child on her left, who in turn, wordlessly passed it on to the child on his left, and so on, around the circle. “Isn’t it amazing,” she said. “How you all knew what to do, and could do it without even saying any words. Music is a language we can all understand.”

Plans for SOS-SOA are looking up. Emails are circulating. I am making phone calls, juggling schedules, refining our focus. Meanwhile, doing a lot of thinking about the role of music in our children’s lives. Why fight to keep music in the schools?
-it’s a language we all share.
-it cuts through reason and goes right to the heart.
-when I look back on my own school memories, so many of them have to do with music class, performing, practicing an instrument. Maybe that’s just because I am a musician, but I can’t imagine growing up without all the music I had.
-it unites a group of disperate kids
-it’s the only academic discipline that is equally left-brained and right-brained

What about you? What do you remember about music education growing up?

For more about music education, visit the <a href=””>National Association for Music Education</a>.

About nields

musician, writer, mom
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4 Responses to The Importance of Music Education

  1. I am only now realizing how much time my brother, sister and I spent singing when I was young. Between overnight camp, church choir, and the songs my mother taught us (many from the 40s and 30s as well as some classic American children’s songs) it seems like we were always singing. And much of it was spontaneous. In the car driving somewhere, sitting at the lunch table at overnight camp, or trying to cheer up a crying child (my mother would sing “When you’re smiling” off key – it was impossible not to laugh). It may be because I no longer have young children, but it seems like children don’t sing nearly as much as we did when we were little.

  2. karmeleon says:

    I noticed it one day when our youngest (our 4th) baby was just 2 or 3 weeks old. Just out of the blue during his violin practice, the elder brother started playing this Potstock piece that he was practising when I was 6 to 8 months pregnant (he’d stopped working on that piece after that). The fussing baby, suddenly stopped and looked for the sound, focussing intently. It was so amazing! And more interestingly… after the elder brother left the house and the baby started fussing again, I played a CD of the same Potstock piece, but that did not catch his attention. I then remembered I had some audio recordings from back when elder brother had practised that piece so I played those — again, he stopped crying and listened!!! So amazing that he could recognise what he heard in-utero several months before!!!

  3. nields says:

    That IS amazing! I love that the baby focused on the performance (the elder brother’s playing) and not the piece itself (since he didn’t recognize the CD).

  4. karmeleon says:

    He can recognise the style of playing, eh? HAHA… I don’t think I ever played the CD while I was pregnant, actually!

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