PUSD's music program resonates across multiple disciplines

Photo by Steven Law/Special to the Chronicle
Desert View Music Teacher Josh Brink and a student use a clapping exercise to demonstrate rhythm and pattern.

PAGE – Desert View music teacher Josh Brink stands at the front of the class with one of his students. The day’s lesson, or learning intention, is about rhythms and melodies.

By the end of the day, Brink wants his students to differentiate diverse rhythms and patterns, repeat them, alter them, and build on them. During the same lesson, the students also learned how to improvise melodies.

Brink is in his second year as a music teacher at Desert View Intermediate. Before that, he taught first grade for a year at Lake View, and before that, he spent seven years teaching elementary music in central Florida.

Brink begins classroom exercise by clapping a simple rhythm and has a student standing with him repeat it. Then the other students in the class repeat what they have seen and heard. As the lesson progresses, Brink claps rhythms and has his students repeat them, using their voices instead of their clapping hands.

To add variety to the day’s lesson, Brink also has his students create and repeat rhythms using sound shapes and glockenspiels.

This year, because many students are still attending remotely, Brink shifts his attention back and forth between his in-class students and his virtual students.

The class involves a lot of movements and actions. Brink maintains a balance of discipline and fun. Because of the activities, the participation, the music, the jubilant energy, and Brink’s jovial nature, music class is one of the periods that Desert View students look forward to attending the most.

Music – just like math, language, and science – is progressive and foundational. Music education across the United States is structured to develop specific skill sets that are age and grade-level appropriate. Music education at each grade level lays out a learning intention, an essential question, and a success criterion.

“Almost every lesson is the scaffolding for what the students will learn next,” Brink explained. “Today’s lesson is the foundation for something more complex that will follow next week, and that will be the foundation for something more complex they will learn the week after that.”

The lessons learned in music class are also foundational for numerous other school subjects and disciplines.

“When a student is learning music, they are learning about a great deal more than just music, said Nancy Guymon, who teaches music at Page High School and at Page Middle School. “Music rounds out a student’s education and connects a lot of other educational pieces. Music class addresses the whole student.”

Guymon is in her second year with the district. She’s been a music educator in Utah for more than 35 years before coming to Page.

At PUSD, music education begins in kindergarten and is mandatory through fifth grade.

After that, students can continue their music education as an elective. They can choose choir, band, or orchestra and each one has beginner and advanced classes. Some years the courses include an intermediate level.

According to a study published by the National Association for Music Education, studying music, especially when done with a group, has numerous benefits on a child’s education and educational experience.

Musical training has several direct benefits for a child’s education. Musical training:

  • Helps develop the language and reasoning centers of the brain
  • Improves memory and memorization
  • Increases coordination
  • Fine-tunes auditory skills
  • Improves pattern recognition
  • Improves creative thinking

 

In addition to the direct benefits, music in a child’s education teaches a student skills that will benefit them in society and adulthood musical training:

  • Teaches teamwork and group camaraderie
  • It gives them a sense of improvement
  • Emotional development
  • Build imagination and intellectual curiosity
  • Increased discipline
  • Performance pride
  • Responsible risk-taking
  • Higher self-confidence
  • A sense of belonging to a community

 

All the above are essential skills and characteristics for a young person to learn and develop. They are skills that will benefit them in a greater society as the child moves into adulthood and parental and professional roles.

One of the most significant benefits of musical education is teaching a student about steady, progressive learning. A program that began with learning simple rhythms and recognizing patterns progressed to learning to balance and blend sounds, then read notes, create harmonies, and learn to play an instrument and perform an ensemble in public and even composing one’s music.

Those are important things to point out to a student as they progress. It helps them understand that progression can be applied to all areas of their lives; it’s an ability to continue serving and benefitting them through their entire adult lives and career. Not only does music education resonates across multiple disciplines its reverberations may continue for a student’s whole life.

Music education checks a lot of boxes in a child’s overall educational experience. But Brink says music education is vital for its own sake.

“Humans enjoy performing and listening to music just for the fun of it,” he said. “Humans have been doing it forever. It’s part of what makes being a human so great.”

Guymon agrees with Brink that music makes the human experience richer and fuller.

“Music satisfies longing,” Guymon said. “It helps keep us grounded, it relaxes the mind and refreshes the soul. It’s a good reset button. And all of that has been more important than ever this year.”

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