March marks the 30th anniversary of national Music In Our Schools Month! This is a great time to celebrate the wonderful ways that music enhances learning.
Several years ago, we made the commitment to boost the music program in our school. We began by introducing monthly visits from the Erie Chamber Orchestra, led by GM Steve Weiser. Called “petting zoo day,” students have the opportunity to learn about an individual instrument first-hand, holding it, hearing its unique sound, and perhaps even trying to play it. This day is concluded by a mini concert, often played by Steve and another member of the orchestra.
Soon after, we began holding weekly visits from the Young People’s Chorus. Every Friday, students meet in the forum to participate in several sing-alongs, some that include hand/body movements along with them. The children sing a great blend of familiar and new songs, allowing them to feel excitement at the familiarity of a song they know, as well as enjoy hearing new songs each week.
Since then, we have seen first-hand the positive impact that music therapy has in our classrooms. Students request to listen to the music the musicians bring to the school each week, and often times want to listen to them repeatedly. As a result of attending these music sessions, students have improved their listening skills and their ability to remain on task for longer periods of time.
This April, thanks to the Erie Chamber Orchestra, we will have another wonderful opportunity. Renowned concert pianist, Martha Summa-Chadwick, will be coaching some of our therapists and teachers in one of her most advocated musical therapy concepts, known as biomedical music techniques.
Unlike standard music therapy based on social sciences, biomedical music techniques result from evidence-based research (developed at Colorado State University) that shows how music and rhythm can actually help redirect neural networks. Clients are actively engaged in goal-oriented sessions where the rhythmic drive of music is added to nonmusical therapeutic tasks, such as walking with a normal gait or maintaining the ability to focus attention. When music is introduced to such tasks in a population that is already “in tune” with music, the results can be remarkable.
Below is the link to a YouTube video of some of our children performing the classic, “Here Comes the Sun.” I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed filming it!