Bright, young students with a passion for making music
The benefits of early music education
Hardly a week goes by without a newspaper article or a newly published study reporting on the benefits of music on children’s cognitive development and social skills. Structural brain changes have been measured particularly in children who regularly play an instrument. In a study published online as recently as last summer in Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers documented marked cognitive improvements in children who took part in a primary school string class compared to a control group. Areas of gain included memory, attention span, processing speed, cognitive flexibility and other executive functions – the list goes on and on.
Of course, we musicians don’t really need science to tell us how beneficial making music is! And neither do the children at our bilingual primary school: during Corona lockdown, with remote learning and online lessons in full swing, even when the instrumental classes were optional, even when they were online, the children eagerly took part, with a passion for learning and commitment that was truly impressive.
A rich music education in our bilingual primary school
Our primary school students enjoy an unusually rich musical education. In addition to their regular weekly music class, all first and second graders sing and sign solfege syllables (do, re, mi…), clap and tap rhythms, improvise songs and play the musical games of the Ward singing method three times a week. This remarkable training is not only fun and challenging for the kids, but leaves them with the ability to sing in tune with a lovely light, clear sound, plus with a solid grounding in rhythmic and tonal language. They’re optimally prepared for their next musical adventure: learning an instrument!
Instrumental lessons in grades 3-4
By the end of the second year, the children have been introduced to most of the instruments of the string and wind families, have identified their favorites and decided which instrument they want to learn to play during the next two years of primary school. Starting in the third grade they separate into bands of wind and strings players for group lessons, three times a week. I am continually amazed at the eagerness for mastery these instruments inspire in our kids, and am frankly astonished at the progress they make and the results they achieve—they are highly attentive, learning both from us and from each other.
Excited to perform
Extra inspiration and motivation comes from regular opportunities to perform and share what they’ve learned: every November, our students perform St. Martin songs for children from neighboring kindergartens or play in the traditional lantern procession; our instrumentalists accompany the all-primary-school holiday singing each week during December; and in the spring all of the groups get a chance to perform the repertoire they’ve worked on during the year at an evening concert for their families and friends.
Online music lessons during the lockdown
Of course, recently things have been a little different…and online teaching presents challenges for everyone. But also certain opportunities: we Ward singing teachers have been able to actually sing with our students for the first time this school year! Frustrated wind players, forbidden to play near others, have finally been able to have some virtual lessons on their chosen instruments, in the safety of their homes. And entirely online, our team leader Sebastian Oetker organized and produced a fabulous video of the Carnival song „Nie mehr fastelovend“, sung and played by our wonderful, enthusiastic, costumed primary schoolers. Highly recommended!
Looking forward to post-Corona, in-person music making
We are all very much looking forward to making live music together again. And that also goes for our secondary school ensembles, fed each year by a fresh crop of fifth graders at our bilingual Gymnasium and our International Secondary School. Primary students who want to continue making music take part in our international school’s diverse musical life by joining the fifth grade band class, the string ensemble club, jazz band or big band.
Christine Moran, Bilingual Primary School