“He who sings scares away his woes.” — Cervantes
Many people are reluctant to sing out. As the school year closes, here are some thoughts about re-instilling the love of singing to all, including your choir!
The first public school music curriculum in the early 1800s was vocal instruction, and it was considered the foundation for musical instruction. (read more: A Concise History of American Music Education)
“Nothing is more basic or fundamental in the musical lives of children than developing the ability to use the instrument that each carries within his or her own body – the voice.” (VMEA Notes, Spring 2008, “Don’t Forget to Sing”) — Marilyn Meador, Professor of Music and Director of Music Education at Radford University
Often, the general music classroom is the only opportunity children have for developing singing skills.
Even in general music class, many children need help singing because they lack experience or confidence. As Meador notes, “Perhaps an adult silenced them… or older siblings or classmates laughed at their singing.”
MENC member Christine Nowmos weighed in on this topic in the MENC general music forum.
” ….singing is a learned skill that can be improved, not just something that only a few people are born being good at…. Many adults of my generation or older had negative experiences with music class as a child – music class was sitting at a desk singing from a book; some people have told me (from multiple school systems) that their music teacher told them not to sing or to mouth the words, can you believe that?!? So some people have had this attitude driven into their brains from the time they were children, and carried it to adulthood, that they aren’t good at music, only a few people are good at music, it’s not something I have to use in everyday life, and therefore it’s not important for everyone to learn (i.e., it’s expendable).”
MENC’s Get America Singing….Again! project addressed this issue.
“Today many of us are starting to worry whether people are singing anymore. We meet increasing numbers of adults who call themselves non singers, children who enter kindergarten without having experienced family singing, and teenagers who would rather slap on earphones than sing. What is at stake here is not just singing, but the very spirit of community in our towns, our cities, and our nation.”
The GASA campaign sought to establish a “common song repertoire that Americans, of all ages, can know and can sing”, and, to “promote community singing (encourage audience singing at concerts and recitals, open or closed public gatherings with a song, and encourage singing at clubs, private meetings, and in homes).”
GASA encouraged teachers and citizens to:
- Make your own plans to build up the common life of singing in your community.
- Plan to include some audience participation at a concert or other public event.
- Throw in a song or two at the beginning of a meeting to melt the ice and get communication going.
- Think how you can be a positive agent for change; see how singing can add so much to life together on this planet.”Community singing around a campfire got ragtag groups of settlers across the prairie, and singing has comforted those who remain behind, bereft, when lives are lost. Music releases emotion far more effectively than words. While it’s wonderful to listen to exquisite vocal harmonies, nothing is more satisfying than actually singing yourself. It’s what we were meant to do as human beings. And that’s what I tell my students– they are born singers. Nobody can tell you that you can’t sing”. – – MENC member Nancy Flanagan
- Pete Seeger, Honorary National Chair of the GASA Campaign, summed it up most colorfully: “If there’s a human race still here in the 22nd Century, I believe we’ll learn the fun of singing again. To take a lung full of air and push it out with some kind of song is an act of survival, whether you’re singing in a shower, a car, a bar, in a chorus, at a birthday party, at a church, or whatever. Try it – you’ll live longer.”
Below are resources to help you, your choir, and your colleagues and friends experience (and remember!) the JOY OF SINGING!
1. Get America Singing….Again! standards-based lessons.
2. The Power of Song documentary video about Pete Seeger’s influence on song in America.
4. The Joy of Singing standards-based lessons with video and mp3 files, courtesy of the Soldiers’ Chorus.
5. Rise Up Singing! from SING OUT, an organization promoting community singing.
— Sue Rarus, June 22, 2011, © National Association for Music Education