Start the Music Strategies: Foreword

There has been a great deal in the news lately about research like this that shows connections between music education and learning – especially learning for young children. The research is still continuing, but we have enough evidence to know, as teachers and parents, that music helps.

And new events show that educators and decision-makers are moving to work on the real promise held out by this research for early childhood education. At a June 2000 Summit Meeting, "Start the Music," sponsored by MENC: The National Association for Music Education, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and the U.S. Department of Education, and supported by the Texaco Foundation, some two dozen music educators, childhood development specialists, academics, government officials, foundation executives, and policy- and decision-makers, as well as representatives from the private sector came together. They all agreed that unless the positive learning engendered by music in the earliest years is nurtured by those in the best position to provide it – that is, parents, music teachers, and professional caregivers – the educational power of music and its potential for sound development can be diminished and diluted. They agreed that research in developmental psychology and commonsense observation underscore both the importance and the wisdom of making music an integral and overt part of the earliest education of young children:

  • We know that music is among the first and most important modes of communication experienced by infants.
  • As young children grow and develop, music continues as a basic medium not only of communication, but of cultural expression and self-expression.
  • As preschool children not only listen to music, but also learn to make music by singing and playing instruments together (and responding to music in a variety of ways), they create important contexts for the early learning of vital life skills such as cooperation, collaboration, and group effort. Music in an educational setting also begins to teach young children to make judgments about what constitutes “good” music, helping them develop the rudiments of an aesthetic sense.
  • Music contributes strongly to "school readiness," a foundational education aim of the American people for all our children.
  • When children develop musical skill and knowledge, they are developing basic cognitive, social, and motor skills necessary for success throughout the educational process, and in life itself.
There are many things needed to meet the musical needs of children. Materials, training and professional development of teachers, and a culturally responsive pedagogy are essential. And all of us who help children grow and develop need an understanding of developmentally appropriate practices that can be treated as a basic and integral part of every child’s education. These lessons are meant to provide a start to that understanding with a few, easy-to-use strategies.

And just as music has to be understood as integral to learning, so must it be considered as integral to life, as an activity in which every child can participate fully. It is truly time to Start the Music.

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