Sing Praise to the Lord! Music in the Classical Christian Curriculum

Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. Psalm 149:3 NIV

This summer, I attended the Music Practicum at the Association of Classical Christian Schools (ACCS) Conference. The topic was “Rightly Ordering the Musical Affections of our Students and Community.” In classical education, students are taught to read, write and sing in the language of music. The first instrument a child learns to use is his/her God-given voice.

The Kodaly method teaches students music literacy through the use of a system for singing notes known as solfege (do, re, mi), sight singing and hand signs. Students become more independent singers and learn to sing in tune.

We participated in several singing exercises that we can use with our students and also learned to sight read a song in solfege. Once we learned it, we divided into two groups and sang a round. Next, we divided into three groups and sang a three-part canon performed as a circle song with each group moving their circle as they sang. This movement provided a visual presentation of the song.

In addition to the singing exercise, we watched a video of young children learning this method in Mr. Kodaly’s home country of Hungary. The presenter showed a video clip of his first grade class singing a call and response song in tune while using the hand signs. Children catch on to this quickly.

The second session focused on performing music of the masters. The church has the greatest storehouse of music known to man and we need to be singing it! Our children should be learning some of the great hymns such as “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Amazing Grace.” Not only do students learn the biblical meaning of the songs, they are also singing music of well-known composers. These songs can be sung in unison, chorally, and with instrument accompaniments. It was great to hear a room full of music teachers break into harmony and sing a hymn by memory.

Some ideas for using music throughout the school day included singing at opening, meal time, and a blessing at the end of the day. Students can also sing for memorization of Bible passages and listen to music of great composers while studying.

The third session emphasized social music making. Students should have opportunities to create music together. When students sing together, they learn to sing as a community, particularly if they are of different ages.

Combining voices and instruments and bringing in outside musicians to perform with students are often used for social music making, along with singing, playing and dancing outside of performances.

We discussed ideas to teach rhythm, circle songs, and folk songs. Children learn to respond to music through movement. They begin with action songs, move to free movement to music, and then to dances. After learning several social dances to teach our students, we danced for an hour! The instructor kept telling us we were smiling and having fun and that’s what our students should be doing when they are creating music together.

I am looking forward to using these methods and ideas with the students at Genesis Classical Academy now and in the years to come!

Annette Jenkins is the director of music at Genesis Classical Academy, as well as a church organist and member of a women’s vocal quartet. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College and has more than 25 years of teaching experience. Annette and her husband Greg farm near Winnebago, MN and together they are proud parents of college students Meredith and Christopher.