I was chatting with a mother of a BMF piano student last night and she first and foremost wanted me to know, “My daughter has so much fun in her lessons!”
Many parents believe that music classes don’t work if they are fun, because that’s what they grew up with. But we have seen the amazing results of joy a motivation in music classes, which is why we continue to approach music lessons in a completely different way at our school in Brooklyn.
The mother of the piano student may have not realized this, but there is really no higher compliment for our curriculum and teachers. So I let her know how pleased I was to hear her say that. I then went on to ask if there was one word that came to mind when thinking of the BMF approach to learning. Her reply? “I can think of two… ‘meaningful’ and ‘fun’.”
But it isn’t enough to simply have fun…
Here is the challenge we face today as educators. Every parent wants to be able to measure their child’s progress by some recognizable yardstick. We want to see a grade improve from B+ to A-, we want our child to get asked to join the next level of some select group, or we want our child (and here is a sticky one!) to do well on those standardized tests…that we also despise. It simply isn’t enough to watch our child enjoy themselves in a learning environment. It is not enough for them to just have fun.
At BMF we believe that somewhere along the way music education got derailed. It turned into a graded, measured, leveled extension of academic life and, as a result, lost its essence, which is fun.
In fact, I am going to be bold and say that more than just music education got derailed. Quite possibly, all the arts education at the elementary and middle school levels (at least in the public system) lost its direction, its sense of purpose.
The arts help us see the world differently
The arts are meant to be social, fun and, ultimately, a creative experience that inspires in us a deep need to unlock mysteries. Music education, when done right, cultivates self-motivated learners. It creates people that see the world as the wondrous place it is. And it inspires joy.
Sure, we are proud when we get good grades, but that feeling only lasts for a short while. The satisfaction wears off pretty quickly, and what happens when you get a perfect 100? Where do you go from there?
So what’s next?
It feels good to get asked to be in the ‘intermediate’ level band but, once you arrive, you are still you. And while everyone likes to graduate from one piano book to the next, eventually, the music is all roughly the same level and you start to see that graded piano books are kind of a scam. The point being, we are motivated in the end by a deep desire to unlock the mysteries of the musical unknown. We are motivated by wanting to do the same thing that someone we admire is doing or showing us something really cool. In music, that “someone” is often our teacher at the start–and eventually (hopefully!) is our bandmate sometime down the road.
What motivates kids ages 4-9?
Why do we focus so much on ‘meaningful fun’ at Brooklyn Music Factory? Because, at the end of the day, that (and only that) is what gets any of us to want to get up and do it again the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.
Fun in music classes is possible
Having fun in the classroom works. Joy is the number one motivator for kids ages 4-9. Kids do not respond to getting better on their instrument technically at this age. Instead, kids care about having fun. They show up to soccer because it’s fun. They show up to their after-school extra-curricular activity because it’s fun.
Why else? Because it works! We’ve played hundreds of games with thousands of kids for over a decade at Brooklyn Music Factory and we have seen these games work time and time again to build musical fluency and to get kids excited to play music. Game based learning, or deceptive learning, is amazing in this way, and… did we mention that it’s ridiculously fun? When a child is throwing a koosh ball to show that a chord they heard is major or minor, or running from poly spot to poly spot to connect a melody their music teacher is playing, they are learning and experiencing joy in the process. Sounds pretty different from your childhood piano lessons, doesn’t it??Play Big Music Games today!