There’s a need for Music History in schools

Houston McLauryOpinion Columnist

There is never a moment that goes by where music is not in the lives of every person. With the invention of the mobile phone, a whole library of albums can be accessed with a simple touch of the finger. Cars have built-in radios, soundtracks can be found in nearly every tv show and movie, and even in grocery stores, they play songs. Music, whether one is proficient in it or not, is a part of daily life. And yet, there is very little stress for music education in public schools. By this, I don’t mean having to take either band or choir in high school, I mean the real history of music and the genres that defy popular culture today is rarely ever taught. I believe that teaching elementary-grade children music, its history, and the artists behind these songs, will not only lead to greater enjoyment of these songs but will also allow greater analysis of the past based on the songs that were popular at the time. Since music is truly the window to the soul, a universal language, analyzing it will allow for greater understanding.

The first thing that should be taught regarding music history should be the main genres that are available, and listing why these genres are ordered the way they are. This, to me, makes the best sense as it not only allows the students to understand why there are classifications between these genres but will also allow them to truly hone into a specific genre that they like. For example, a student may not know they love techno music until they are given examples of these types of songs, allowing them to explore their interest better and to express their innermost feelings all the more. Of course, since this is assuming that the students are young, the genres would have to be simple genres, but with this knowledge, the students would better understand the music they love and would have a way to truly express themselves. 

One of the harder parts of this history, the one that I stress about most, is where should one start? There are a few options available for exploring music history, either starting with classical music and its periods or starting at the true beginning of music rather than simply framing it from a western perspective only. However, for young students, I feel it would be best to explore American music and the history or evolution of these songs. This is mainly because of the level of education the target students are, being only in Elementary school would mean they need these topics explained to them in increments and alongside other material that is at that level of learning. 

The main reason I believe that the history of music is important for education is that it’s a window into the past. These songs were popular media, made by the people of the time to reflect their thoughts, feelings, and stances on issues or life during the time. This is an extension of the history courses that are taught, directly planting the students into the thoughts of the people during the time. This not only allows an appreciation of music to grow through seeing all the work and passion that people throughout the ages have put into music, but through this extension of history, it would also make these subjects stick better into students’ heads. Music history, its development, and the subjects covered represent the styles, attitudes, and feelings the people held during the time, and through this education, students will extend this to their knowledge of historical events. 

This extends to the student’s perception and analysis of modern-day music. Through the refinement and practice of analyzing pieces of music from the past, the students will be able to critically analyze the popular music of the day, seeing the themes within the songs and opening their minds to what these songs say about the current generation. Or, they will fall in love with songs from the past that speak to their current situation, that resonates and spurs their own imagination. But this deeper analysis will allow for greater critical thinking, and greater analysis, and will overall spur the intellectual growth and development of these students. 

Music is forever moving and forever changing, and the music these students listen to will reflect who they are as people, as well as what they value. Through the history of music, I know that students will develop a greater appreciation for music and a greater skill for analysis and critical thinking. Both of these skills are infinitely valuable to the modern-day person. The value of music is infinite, and through the history of music, students will gain skills that are invaluable to their greater development.