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links and resources

Read the unabridged STF PLUS version of this article. Includes many more resources.

The Benefits of Music Education, from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), 2012: https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/the-benefits-of-music-education

How Children Benefit from Music Education in Schools – NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation – Research based summary, 2014: https://www.nammfoundation.org/articles/2014-06-09/How-Children-Benefit-Music-Education-Schools

NAMM research categorized by age levels from toddlers through senior citizens (2019): https://www.nammfoundation.org/what-we-do/music-research.

See also Burkart's Shaping the Future articles: “The State of the Arts in Lutheran Schools,” Summer 2007 Volume 4, Issue 2, pp: 6-9; “Drama: A Life Changing Experience,” Winter 2009, Vol. 6, Issue 4, pp: 21-24; “Encouraging the Fine and Performing Arts in Lutheran Schools” at: http://stf.lea.org/winter2019/ETnet.html.

 

other STF links

New Hope for Lutheran Education (Feature)

Spiritual Growth for
Elementary School Children (ETnet)

Working through
Working-Memory Difficulties (LDnet)

Creating a Culture of Appreciation (LEADnet)

 

Let Music Take the First Chair in your Lutheran School

Music: A Gift of God

[Luther] believed in the power of music to express the gospel and encouraged the vigorous teaching of music in schools.To Martin Luther, music was a gift of God that worked hand in hand with theology. He believed in the power of music to express the gospel and encouraged the vigorous teaching of music in schools. Luther had much to say about music’s importance in the life of the church, its relationship to theology, and its support. The Luther quotes that follow are a small sampling of his love for music and its value:

Recent Research on Music Education

Luther would be gratified to know that research supports his beliefs regarding music as an art form and its ability to make people “fine and skillful” and “better suited for all things.”I’m sure that Luther would be gratified to know that research supports his beliefs regarding music as an art form and its ability to make people “fine and skillful” and “better suited for all things.” Numerous studies have shown that music education and appreciation, private music lessons (both vocal and instrumental), and participation in musical ensembles of all kinds, do the following:

Sax player from school performs as part of the Concordia Nebraske choir at the recent LEA convocation.The above summary demonstrates the importance of music education and its significant role in the social, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development of children. Studies also show that music has beneficial effects on the mental health of adults who suffer from illnesses related to aging. Moreover, music and music therapy have shown positive health benefits for children and adults with serious health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and pain. Is it any wonder that David (one of the earliest music therapists) was called to play the lyre for King Saul to calm him when “a harmful spirit” was upon him (1 Samuel 16:14-23)?

Music in Lutheran Schools

Luther championed singing of the Good News; that’s why the Lutheran Church is known as the “Singing Church.”Because of Luther’s emphasis on music as a gift of God, Lutheran congregations and schools have traditionally stressed the study of music in general, and the specific use of music to teach doctrine, the liturgy, psalms, and Bible stories through hymns and spiritual songs.2 In other words, Luther championed singing of the Good News; that’s why the Lutheran Church is known as the “Singing Church.”

Luther wrote many liturgical hymns such as:

These are catechetical hymns that serve both a spiritual and educational purpose. They teach biblical truths to both children and adults through poetry and music. This combination of music and text makes it easier to remember the theological meaning behind the biblical texts and to tell the story of salvation in ways that people of all ages can understand.3

Other important “teaching the scripture” hymns are:

In addition, Luther composed metrical paraphrases of the Psalms such as:

The above hymns are a few samples of what Luther composed to teach the Christian faith to the people of Germany in the 16th century. This Lutheran singing tradition continued through the subsequent centuries and is alive today as musicians and poets mingle melody and words to create new songs that articulate the Gospel in our age, to all ages.5

What Does This Mean?

I want to encourage every teacher to make intentional efforts to ensure that all students are exposed to our great Lutheran musical heritage through the singing of hymns and spiritual songs that teach the biblical truths that we hold dear.“What does this mean?” should be a Lutheran teacher’s most asked question. What, in this case, does music mean for those of us who teach in Lutheran schools? I think it means that we need to put music as a high priority in all our schools. This is not to say we should denigrate the other arts. Far from it!6 All the fine arts need emphasis in our schools. However, in this article I want to encourage every teacher to make intentional efforts to ensure that all students are exposed to our great Lutheran musical heritage through the singing of hymns and spiritual songs that teach the biblical truths that we hold dear. Moreover, we should make it possible for all our students to read notes, play musical instruments, sing music in parts, know and appreciate music from various cultures and eras, listen to music of the great masters, attend orchestral and choral concerts, and learn about music history and those who compose music both ancient and modern. That is a tall order!

violin lessonSome Lutheran schools have the capability to do some or all of these things and more; however, many of our schools do not have the resources necessary to provide such a robust music education experience. In spite of this, there are many ways teachers, even those with limited musical expertise, can address music in their classrooms.

Every Teacher is a Music Teacher in Lutheran Schools

Every time children sing a hymn, there is an opportunity to teach both music and poetry. Not only the “mechanics” of music –3/4 or 4/4 time, musical notation, sharps and flats, musical scales, etc., but also the way music supports and amplifies the meaning of the words. In addition to teaching children to sing, we can teach them the stories behind the hymns, how and why they were written, and by whom. The story behind a hymn’s composition is, more often than not, as significant as the hymn itself.

May your teaching be blessed as you help children to be “filled with the Spirit” through the gift of music in your Lutheran Schools.

Jeffrey E. Burkart, Ph.D. is Emeritus Professor of Education and Artist in Residence at Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn.

Editor’s notes:

ENDNOTES

1. Also see: The Benefits of Music Education, from the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), 2012: https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/the-benefits-of-music-education How Children Benefit from Music Education in Schools – NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation – Research based summary, 2014: https://www.nammfoundation.org/articles/2014-06-09/How-Children-Benefit-Music-Education-Schools; Also see NAMM research categorized by age levels from toddlers through senior citizens (2019): https://www.nammfoundation.org/what-we-do/music-research. For further reading on the benefits of music, see The National Association for Music Education’s (NAfME), Journal of Research in Music Education.

2. See Carl Schalk, Singing the Church’s Song: Essays and Occasional Writings on Church Music (2015). Lutheran University Press: Minneapolis, pp: 23-24. “One of the persistent models that has shaped the relationship between music and worship presents music as a Christian teacher or pedagogue. Closely tied to this paradigm is the didactic view that turns songs into weapons of argument. Virtually from the beginning, Christians have recognized that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs can be enlisted in the battle to refute heresies. The early Church faced a largely hostile, pagan culture that threatened it from within. Education, indoctrination, and teaching became the crucial means for carrying on the Church’s mission. The song of the Church was an important tool in that task…. Christians readily perceived that truth more easily impresses itself upon the hearts of the faithful when it is sung. (pp: 23 & 24).” Emphasis mine. The times we live in are often hostile to the Church, are they not? There still seems to be “nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9.

3. It is interesting to note that the words in the hymnal are all syllabicated. This helps young readers to sound out words and to understand the text better. Consider providing a hymnal to every student in your school. It is a treasury of biblical proportions.

4. The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH) contains hymns that are not in later hymnals such as Lutheran Worship (LW) and the Lutheran Service Book (LSB). There are probably copies of TLH somewhere in your church or school. Copy public domain hymns such as “To Shepherds as They watched by Night” and teach them to your students. To them they will be brand new.

5. See Robin Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), p. 144. Luther, writing in the fall of 1523 to his friend, Georg Spalatin, says: “Following this example of the prophets and fathers of the church, I intend to make vernacular psalms for the people, that is, spiritual songs so that the word of God even by means of song may live among the people.” Luther goes on to say that he is looking for poets who can write hymns (in German) that avoid the use of “new-fangled” words for congregational singing that are “simple and common enough for the people to understand yet pure and fitting.”

6. See my Shaping the Future articles: “The State of the Arts in Lutheran Schools,” Summer 2007 Volume 4, Issue 2, pp: 6-9; “Drama: A Life Changing Experience,” Winter 2009, Vol. 6, Issue 4, pp: 21-24; “Encouraging the Fine and Performing Arts in Lutheran Schools” at: http://stf.lea.org/winter2019/ETnet.html.

Photos: Top two: LEA Convocation/Kathryn Brewer; bottom photo: Kathryn Brewer.