One of the strongest correlations to inherent intellectual giftedness is an early aptitude for music. Along the same note (ha!), children who have been exposed to music from an early age frequently demonstrate an IQ boost that can last a lifetime (though the much-touted Mozart Effect has been long discredited). Medical schools, for instance, report that music majors are some of their most successful applicants.
And there is one more advantage to exposing your child to singing and instruments at an early age that has nothing to do with graduate degrees or even Kindergarten G&T programs. It’s fun for both parent and offspring!
Jordan Shapiro, former NYC public school teacher and current member of Astrograss, a bluegrass band for all ages that mixes down-home humor with progressive song-writing, talked to the NY Gifted Education Examiner about the benefits of music, and about Astrograss’ upcoming (possibly even secretly educational) Thanksgiving Family Hoedown on November 18, 2012!
NY Gifted Education Examiner: How was Astrograss for Kids inspired by your experiences in the Brooklyn Public Schools?
Jordan Shapiro: For three years, I worked as a substitute teacher at PS29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. I regularly brought in my guitar and would have sing-a-long time with classes, when appropriate. (Usually in the lower grades). I quickly saw how much the kids were connecting with the songs and my ‘performances.’ As much as it was a challenge to be a substitute teacher during most of the day, I looked forward to the 10-15 minutes that I could connect with the kids when I took out the guitar. That led me to start performing kids’ shows with Astrograss, the bluegrass band I had formed a couple years prior.
NYGEE: What do you think parents and kids can do to make children love music?
JS: Parents should play music of all kinds around the home on the stereo. They should take the whole family to concerts of all types. There should be instruments in the house. No pressure should be put on anyone for learning or practicing an instrument.
NYGEE: Why is musical education important to a child’s development?
JS: Music is a language and it’s important for children to be able to be fluent in as many languages as possible. Music is cross-cultural and helps bring people together.
NYGEE: Your songs touch upon a variety of somewhat academic topics. Are they secretly and subversively educational?
JS: We have some songs that are somewhat educational, like “Continental Geography” and “Honeybells” from the new CD. Or “Brooklyn Neighborhood Song” and “Who Says Pluto’s Not a Planet?” from the old CD. In those cases, we try to come up with a topic for a song that is a distinct idea that can be easily talked about, sung about and are a unique topic in themselves. We realize that it obviously can’t hurt to have some ‘facts’ or educational ideas in a song, but in the end, we just want to have fun and most of our songs are really more in the ‘fun’ department, rather than ‘educational.’ With the old-time Appalachian songs we play, they do have a bit of American history overtones since they are very old songs, evolved from people playing music in the 19th century. Sometimes we do talk briefly about our instruments and where they came from, and the style of music we play, which obviously does touch upon American history. This happens more in an educational/school setting rather than a concert performance.
NYGEE: What can families expect from your upcoming NYC concert?
JS: High energy bluegrass and old-time music performed by five experienced children’s music performers. For the Nov. 18 show in NYC, we’ll be having a “Thanksgiving” theme, so we’ll do a bunch of songs having to do with food, table manners, holidays, and animals.
NYGEEE: If a child shows an early talent for music, what steps should parents take to encourage, support, and nurture their gift?
JS: Make sure there is music being played in the house. On the stereo, computer, TV, whatever plays music. Or if the parents are musicians themselves, family sing-alongs. Urging/encouraging kids to sing is another great step. But also bringing kids to concerts of all kinds; classical, folk, pop, etc… And obviously letting kids play whatever instrument they want to play, whether it sounds good or not. Piano is always easiest on the ears and technically the easiest to play, so I recommend that one.
ASTROGRASS: A Thanksgiving Family Hoedown will play The Living Room on 154 Ludlow Street in NYC on Sunday, November 18 at 2:00 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information call: 212-533-7237 or visit http://livingroomny.com.
To hear Astrograss in action, go to: http://astrograssforkids.com
And to win a backpack full of free movies, not to mention candy and games, go to: http://quadrust.com/article/win-free-family-friendly-dvds-candy-and-more-from-camp-blockbuster