Rock on!

This article in the New York Times (“Beyond Baby Mozart, Students Who Rock”) describes a program in which children learn to play music in a way that will have the elitists spitting out their hemi-demi-semi-quavers with their tea and crumpets. They will surely put a fermata on this idea and claim that what these children are learning is distinctly not music or musical skills.

And here’s why. It’s not classical music (or even good sturdy Sousa marches). It’s not written notation. It’s not rigid conformity to said written notation. Instead it’s popular music, songs chosen by the kids themselves. It’s learning by ear. It’s composition and song writing with a big dose of improvisation. And for many kids, that means it will not be torture.

This innovative program, Little Kids Rock, is intriguing to me. I believe that any educational approach that invites children into the world of music–any kind of music–and sustains their interest is worthy of our consideration and support. I don’t care if it’s Bach or the Back Street Boys or Boyz II Men. Get them interested, honor their choices and tastes, and allow their musicianship to grow from that.

I would be curious to know, though, if at some point in the program, Little Kids Rock begins to offer what we usually think of as the fundamentals, such as reading notation and understanding rhythm, meter, and harmony. Otherwise, the program could become a stunt, a cool trick to get 25 kids in a room to play a song together but not necessarily enough to create a lasting effect.

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