Music Appreciation for Elementary Grades

Posted by Administrator on 1/22/2014 to Homeschooling

One of my fondest childhood memories is of music class in my small, private school. On some days, we entered a dimly lit room, piled with pillows on the floor, where we reclined and listened to great works of classical music. Encouraged to imagine a scene that corresponded with the dramatic, or soothing, or rollicking music, we all relaxed and enjoyed one of God’s greatest creations. At other times we experienced instrument show-and-tell or sang silly folks songs about cats on red roofs (that I can still sing to this day!). And one year at the school fair, we reenacted a scene from the opera “Amahl and the Night Visitor,” to the delight of our parents. I have always loved music, and I believe that love can be attributed to the wide variety of music to which I was exposed during my youth, the fact that my family was musical and sang together in the car and at church, and years of music lessons which I truly loved–unlike so many children. Those three elements, along with some intentional teaching about composers and styles, are key to helping our children appreciate good music as they grow.

No matter what website I perused under the headings of “music for kids” or “teaching music appreciation for elementary grades,” I repeatedly came across the admonition to expose kids to the classics throughout the day. Christine Alcott recommends that we “Listen in the car, while the kids draw and color, at dinner, for fun. Listen and talk about the music. Ask questions – Do you like this song? Why/Why not? How does it make you feel?” [1] Another author encourages parents to “Simply have music playing in the house when the child is present. Play it in the background during meals, during playtimes, or even when the child is doing small chores. There is no age limit to begin. Some say that music even has a positive effect on a baby in the womb.” [2] Our children will not like everything they hear, just as we have our own unique tastes, but they should at least be aware of different styles of music, so that they can appreciate the musical diversity of God’s world and the creative genius that He gave to so many composers. Recently, my son checked out different music CDs from the library, ranging from the music of India, to national anthems from around the world, to the music of the Caribbean. Frankly, some of them aren’t my favorites, but I’m thrilled that he is interested in learning about them all. I wonder if playing Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite” during his delivery had any impact on his curiosity. Another wonderful memory I have was going to hear the Cleveland Orchestra as an elementary student. We went a few times and ate dinner at a “fancy” restaurant (not McDonald’s) before arriving. It was a magical evening, and, though our visits are less frequent today due to budget constraints, I still get excited when I take my kids to hear the concert series for students at Severance Hall. Play good music–lots of it– around the house. Frequent trips to the library for classical CDs will make that financially feasible. Go to hear local marching bands, civic orchestras, or professional performers when at all possible, exposing your offspring to the amazing, musical variety that exists.

Music lessons will increase your child’s knowledge of music and lead to a lifetime of involvement in their church or community. Even if they lose interest in an instrument after a few years, they will still retain bits of music theory that they can refer back to later in life. Or they may desire to learn a minimal amount about a variety of instruments, giving them a broad awareness of the string, woodwind, brass, and percussion families. And don’t forget to encourage them to sing in the children’s/adult choir at church, to play their instruments for an offertory, and participate in a community musical group. Performance is a teaching tool that will give them confidence as they rely on the God who gave them their ability and will help them learn to serve and bless others with their gift.

Finally, present a positive outlook on music as you express yourself musically and teach music history or theory. Point out a beautiful song or the way the music creates a mood, and sing or play music with them. When they see that we love and appreciate music, they will develop an interest as well. Of course, those frequent visits to musical events will already show them how you feel, but intentional comments about composers and musical styles will only further their admiration. The Great Composer Series, along with the study guides and companion CDs, is an approachable and interesting introduction to the lives of talented, musical geniuses. [3] Not only will our kids be able to learn by listening, as we read the text and play the music, but they will also enjoy coloring corresponding pages and studying the history of the day. Older students can learn about the character qualities that made great composers worthy of admiration, in addition to their musical abilities, by reading Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers [4]. Another informative book on the composers is The Gift of Music, which shares biographical information and further reading and listening recommendations. [5] One music aficionado states, “Introducing your children to classical music at a very early age will also give them an invaluable gift. These days children are assaulted on all sides by contemporary sounds. Commercials on television, film music, music videos, the music they learn in school, (sic) are all products of a society that tends to look down on the classics as hopelessly old fashioned and ‘un-kewl.’ New is in and old is out. . .Although the child may appear to reject classical music when a teenager, the exposure that a parent provides early on will remain with him for the rest of his life. As he grows older and matures, the appreciation will return. The child, now an adult, will remember his early musical experiences with pleasure and will begin listening again.” [6] As I will always cherish learning to harmonize while singing hymns with my family in the car, you can create positive memories when you “Make music as a family. Maybe you’re an accomplished musician with a gift to pass on to your kids; or maybe you can pass a rainy day making your own instruments out of coffee cans, broomsticks or water glasses. It’s fun either way.” [7]

[1] – 31k -


[3] Great Composers Series, see below.

[4] Kavanaugh, Patrick. Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1996.

[5] Carlson, Betty, and Jane Stuart Smith. The Gift of Music. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995.


[7] Aaron Green on

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