A Foundational Love of Music Starts with Elementary Music Educators

October 24, 2022
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Written by Jewel Casselman, Elementary Music Educator at Lakewood School in Winnipeg, MB and 2022 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year finalist nominee

Elementary music educators are a vital part of the experience that children have throughout their schooling. The music program is the heartbeat of elementary schools, and a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment where all students are welcomed. The elementary music educator lays the groundwork for the student’s musical growth not only in elementary school, but also in middle school, high school, and continuing throughout their lives.

When children enter school in kindergarten, their interaction with the music educator is often their first experience with an organized music program. These teachers introduce a new world of wonder and exploration through play. They teach them about sounds, rhythms, beats, and how to incorporate these skills into singing, playing musical instruments, and creating their own music. Music educators introduce students to a vast range of musical styles throughout their elementary school years, expanding their appreciation and knowledge of the world of music.

The experiences with music that students encounter go well beyond the walls of the music room. The music teacher is continually working on literacy connections through reading, writing, language, and listening. The skills the students develop in music crossover into other areas of study such as language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and visual arts. In the music room, the teacher is guiding them to be independent thinkers and teaching them to look with a critical eye at the world around them. They are making connections between themselves and their own cultural music, their families, the community, and the world.

The elementary music educator gives students the opportunity to express themselves through improvisation, singing, playing, moving, and creating. They learn to work independently and in a group setting. The students are also learning strategies such as communication, collaboration, and critical thinking that will help them throughout their lives to be good citizens of the world.

The students are given the opportunity to use their bodies to help them move to the music, creatively express the mood and sounds, and for some students helps them to self-regulate their behaviour. For many students, music becomes a way to soothe themselves when they are stressed, angry, or aggravated. Through singing, playing, and moving, many children on the Autism spectrum have the chance to express their feelings and emotions, and can communicate in a way that they have not done before.

Elementary music educators challenge students to take risks in the classroom. The students are given the chance to play on their own, in a small ensemble, write music, and create movement. Providing opportunities to students in the elementary school to take part in extracurricular activities such as choir, Orff clubs, recorder clubs, small ensembles, and musical theatre gives these students a sense of belonging and pride in their accomplishments. These opportunities help to build the student’s character and self-confidence and encourage them to take on further challenges in the future. These experiences introduce the students to the risks associated with doing something out of their comfort zone, such as auditioning for a solo or an ensemble and prepares them for the future when applying for university or college, job applications, and many more challenges to come.

While elementary music rooms may seem loud and noisy to a passerby, the learning happening within cannot be ignored. What you are hearing is the rapidly growing creativeness of all students and wonderful memories being made, thanks to the incredible hard work of the elementary music educator.