About the Book | Music Education
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About the Book

Music-making used to be an activity in and for itself, and friends and family sang, played instruments, and danced. With song leaders and dance masters, music-making was well integrated into people’s lives, a “glue” binding generations. Today’s children develop their music skills only if adults are intentional: relying on school music teachers, private lessons, and church choir directors. Offering children opportunities from a young age is key to fostering interest in music. Babies and young children love for mom or dad to sing to them. Teachers of young children find that singing their instructions makes classroom management easier.

Recorded music is a bane and a blessing, enabling us to hear music from everywhere, as well as the world’s music virtuosi. Children and adults compare their performance, to their own disadvantage. Along with TV, internet, and social media, recordings undergird what could be called the non-participatory age. Many expect to be entertained, rather than participate in an activity that, while requiring effort, will ultimately be more satisfying.

Just as children can maximize their abilities in math, science, sports, and language, they can develop musical ability. Much material available to parents is “prescriptive,” i.e., it identifies a problem and suggests an approach. Ms. Wilkie’s goal is to help parents understand the music-learning process, enabling them to make sound decisions about a child’s music education.

The author’s experiences from schools, churches, and private teaching will help you:

  • Know the value of performance, discipline, and practice.
  • Consider the right age for different music experiences.
  • Make the decision on which instrument and what quality.
  • Consider natural talent: does it matter?
  • See how teamwork is an integral part of music performance.
  • Create a home environment that fosters music-making.
  • Provide a framework for thinking about “religious” music.
  • Evaluate the use of technology in music-learning.
  • Understand why allowing children to choose “relevant” music limits them, and why it’s not hip to be “hip.”

What reviewers have said:

No one who has read her short manual Music from the Trenches will have any doubt concerning the life-long value of music and the necessity of keeping it alive and well both at home and in the school curriculum.

A number of Ms. Wilkie’s precepts are definitely counter-cultural: go very easy on music recorded by others and encourage the child to put down the headset and develop his or her own voice. Teach children to experience the joy of their own sound production, vocal or instrumental, and to appreciate it in a simple way, without judgment; make clear to children that “the mindful practice of a skill is the only way to develop and maintain it” by encouraging them to stick diligently to singing or to the practice of an instrument until they have mastered it without jumping off to something else or quitting altogether; select music that is not necessarily something children can “relate to” but offers quality that is often lacking in pop culture.

A very rich compendium of ideas on how to introduce and teach music, along with specific examples of songs that have withstood the test of time. It is practical, easy to follow and has much information on child guidance that is very useful to parents and educators not directly involved in music.

Wilkie makes the case that music is an essential part of every child’s education and presents a lot of practical advice to both teachers and parents. Her perspective is supported by rich anecdotes and well-reasoned argument.

The chapter on “Habits of A Music-Rich Society” was a highlight for me. The importance of MAKING music, as well as becoming an educated LISTENER are both emphasized.

The other highlight was “The Case for Quality” which I think is often put aside today in a quest to please kids who are saturated in pop culture. Resources and suggestions for teachers on how to engage kids with older traditions are provided. Her very important point that if we just present kids with what they are already interested in, we aren’t doing them a favor. The point of music education is to expose kids to new (which often means old!) music.

The author answers such questions as: What music do I select for children? What if my child wants to quit music lessons? What if I am not a good singer?

She writes, “There is an enormous difference between playing a sport and watching it. The same is true when playing an instrument or singing.” Let us show our children the joy that comes from making music!

In the tradition of our best essayists, Ms. Wilkie explores what it is to live a purpose-filled life. She is as passionate about music and teaching as John Muir was about Nature and the High Sierras. By putting forth the effort necessary to learn to sing or master a musical instrument, a child will grow in courage and character.