Scientists map out a Skill Sequence Triangle and this is based on the work of Edwin Gordon at the Gordon Institute for Music Learning.
Following Gordon's stages of musical development, Musikgarten builds from birth to 9 years, leading each child into musical competence without pressure. In this journey we make much use of Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (click the link to read the post about this from the beginning of this semester).
Gordon defined eight stages (called Gordon Terms) from earliest stages to musical competence. The first five cover PERCEPTION (they are sensory), and the last three are conceptual, they define COGNITION.
Let's start at the beginning:
From birth (Step 1) a child can hear and absorb sounds and song of the environment, but with limited vocal response. This is the Aural/Oral stage and it involves rote imitation of tonal and rhythm patterns. This is the heart of our Babies and Toddlers curriculum. Children hear and absorb. If music is all about apples, this is applesauce: it's enjoyable and it slips down without effort!
Step 2 is Verbal Association: this is Labeling the sounds and giving them identification. In Seasons we start to accentuate du, du-de and then sol-mi-do. This is the equivalent of holding an apple alongside seeing a picture of an apple and a card with the word Apple.
Gordon labelled Step 3 as Partial Synthesis. This is the ability to recognize familiar content aurally and to distinguish it from other material. We make big strides in this area during our Home Environments classes. To continue our apple analogy, this is the ability to distinguish between an apple and a banana!
Step 4 is called Symbolic Association. Now a child can write and read symbols in isolation from the sounds. This continues in Home Environments with our notation cards: the musical equivalent of seeing a card with the word APPLE and knowing the fruit from the word.
The final sensory stage (step 5) is called Composite Synthesis. This involves recognizing visually familiar content without hearing it. This skill is called audiation: mentally hearing and understanding music when the sound is not present. It is a another big step forward in musical fluency and is seen best between 5 and 7 years, during our World Travelers classes. Incidentally, this is why we encourage you to continue with Musikgarten even when other activities compete for your child's time; the gains from these years are just as significant (although less visible) as those in the early years.
Now we move to the Cognition stages, where musical competency becomes conceptual.
Step 6 is Generalization, or the ability to recognize unfamiliar content aurally or visually. Using our apple analogy, this is the concept of knowing an orange as well as an apple!
Step 7 is Creativity - Improvisation and composition. This is the skill of starting with a fruit bowl and making a pie! These skills are developed in our piano keyboard classes.
Step 8, the final step, is Theoretical Understanding, where the musician understands music theory and the process of learning audiation is complete.
Imagining this as ascending a pyramid, from birth to competence, gives you the Skill Sequence Triangle - the pathway to musical literacy.
Next week we will wrap up the semester by looking forward to the lasting impact of Musikgarten.