Music and Education

I just returned from watching an amazing concert performed by our lower school boys. Knowing that this was the week of our rehearsals and student performances, I was inspired to make music the topic of my weekly blog. Is there anything more angelic than hearing children’s voices in song? From the marching toy soldiers which led off the concert today, to the holiday song medley by our fifth grade chorus, the music delighted and entertained.


Music in education has been long studied and analyzed for its benefits with learning. The memorizing of repetitive patterns, which occur in music both instrumental and choral, strengthens the brain. We are so lucky to be able to provide our boys with music at every grade level. They attend music class each week, and our fifth grade boys receive a weekly band lesson with an instrument of their choosing as well. Knowing that many schools have felt the need to cut back on arts education reminds us not to take our wonderful music, art, and design and woodworking classes for granted. According to the Music and Student Development article linked below, “…educators will tell you that musical involvement improves a student’s self-discipline, dexterity, coordination, self-esteem, thinking skills, creative abilities and personal expression.” It is hard to argue with this statement when you look at current research out of such esteemed institutions as Stanford University, the University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, UCLA and others that cite evidence that music benefits the brain. I have had the privilege of attending several Learning and the Brain Conferences through Gilman’s generosity. Many sessions spoke of the benefits of a music experience. I remember one lecture that demonstrated the benefits of playing an instrument and building attention span. According to the research, being able to attend to many different instruments at a time, while focusing on your own specific sound, led to better attention in all disciplines. Music and the brain has also been the subject of several TED talks. There are the stories of communities being turned around by youth orchestras that occasionally become national news. I even rewrote a beloved musical into a lower school play, The Music Man, a few years ago. This classic movie/play told of a music con-man who convinces a town that a boys’ band will save the young men from a life of corruption. Music (and true love) save the town as well as the boys! At Gilman School, our boys may not need saving, but clearly they need the resources music can offer to broaden their learning experience.


I traveled south over Thanksgiving break to be with my father on his 80th birthday. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and more specifically from Lewey Body Disease, which causes dementia. The late Oliver Sachs, a brilliant doctor, author, and creator of the movie Awakenings, wrote about the power of music with brain-challenged patients. I recently read his book, Musicophelia, suggested by blogger Marti Weston (who spoke at Gilman lower school about technology in October). Sachs writes of the power of tunes to stimulate brain recognition and promote speech. My siblings and I created a playlist of songs that encourage memories of his youth and college days. It is both soothing and energizing. The power of music transforms experience at all stages of life.


In conclusion, this week and next the halls of Gilman will resound with delightful music. Our concert songs will continue to echo while we anticipate the visit next Friday from our own Traveling Men (most of which are former lower school boys!). This a cappella group will sing holiday songs as we gather in the front foyer. Along with this performance will be a musical piece by Tammy Testerman, along with Shaun McMullen (our after school guitar teacher and accompanist to Tammy once a month at Liberatore’s Restaurant). Entertainment-definitely, but these many musical experiences may also provide inspiration to our budding musical student performers. We expect to see many of them continuing to perform as they journey through the middle and upper schools.


I hope you enjoy the video clips of our concert below.




I hope that my communication with you each week encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your son or sons. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.



  • If you are in Kindergarten- What were you creating with cotton balls and pictures of garden vegetables this week? Did you enjoy learning how to create the Eiffel Tower with glitter, glue, and chalk this week? How did you use the materials?
  • If you are in Pre-First- Tell me about the luncheon with the seniors? Did they share stories of their time in Pre-first so many years ago?
  • If you are in First Grade- How many sandwiches did you make this week for the homeless lunches? Did you bag any other special treats to eat? What do we mean by a fact family and related math facts?
  • If you are in Second Grade- How is your poetry unit coming? Is the visiting poet providing you with inspiration? Do you have a favorite poem?
  • If you are in Third Grade- What does “Booties for Cuties” mean? Tell me about the totem poles you are creating. Are you each making your own or are you working with a group? What Native American tribe created totem poles? Do they still create them today?
  • If you are in Fourth Grade- What are you learning about the map of Maryland? Why do some call Maryland “America in Miniature”?
  • If you are in Fifth Grade- What special thing are you doing with Little Buddies next week? What did you create on your iPad to share with them?


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