Musikgarten has been designed with all these parental desires in mind, because Musikgarten is a partnership with parents. Today I want to build on last week's post and focus again on listening. Specifically the listening that matters most at school and in life: intentional, focused listening.
In a noisy, distracting world, the ability to listen is becoming more and more challenging. Filtering out peripheral noise to focus on important sounds is a skill that must be learned. Listening with focus is a voluntary function (we develop it through practice), so our Musikgarten classes incorporate this skill from the earliest ages. We start with familiar sounds (like a cat or a baby); this sets up a process for listening. I tell the children what they are about to hear, and ask them to be quiet while the sound plays. This establishes a "listening attitude". Then I ask them what they heard; their delighted responses often show so much surprise! We will often follow up with an opportunity to imitate the sound, adding more fun to the listening process.
You will also notice that, at least in the younger classes, I only give aural cues. This is because visual cues can be distracting (since the visual stimulus is stronger than the aural) as we mentioned in last week's post.
In later classes we widen the listening activities to include the sounds of individual musical instruments, followed by the sound of that instrument in a typical ensemble. In this way the ability to discern and focus listening grows naturally. We reinforce this by using different instruments in the classroom to replicate natural sounds such as wind, rain or thunder. We build ensembles and involve the children in distinguishing whether each sound is conducive to the effect we are seeking.
Throughout the whole curriculum, Musikgarten promotes aural development and practices active listening. This valuable skill is so often lacking today in a world where there is so much passive listening. By the time your child reaches our Piano classes, he or she will be able to audiate; that is to hear the sound and identify its musical symbol or notation, as well as to reproduce a sound indicated on a card without hearing it first. The intentional listening we have developed from the earliest classes is the foundation for this skill, which is of great value in the classroom (whatever the subject) as well as in future musical development.