Is there anything more fundamental than developing sensitivity to sound?

We all experience the world differently. From a very young age, I was surrounded by music, aware of its presence, interested in it, and developing a sensitivity to it. I believe this is why, growing up, my musical development was far ahead of my peers. I was constantly attuned to and critically engaging with the music all around me. You can teach someone trumpet technique, but if their critical engagement with music is confined to the music classroom, they will always be behind those for whom it is a lifestyle. Therefore, I value developing musical sensitivity more than musical technique.

People are surrounded by sound, though they may spend little time conscious of it. This lack of attention may be due to lack of interest which may be due to not finding much meaning in the sound. Therefore, music educators should strive to facilitate meaningful sonic experiences. We could show examples of common ways sound is used in film and video games. Show how the experiences change with different music or no sound at all. We could show examples of how sound is used in sports, reality tv, advertising, and by politicians and governments. We can make our students more aware of the sounds of their lived experiences, the designers, capital, and design processes that shape them, and the emotional and other effects that those people are trying to impose on us.

Students will have so many more experiences with sound outside the music classroom than within. Part of our job, therefore, is to prepare students to fully take advantage of these incredible everyday learning opportunities. All sounds come from somewhere, and the more you know about where it comes from, the better you can understand it. In your own life, strive to find more meaning in more sounds in more places, and reflect on how you can help your students have similar experiences. I believe that adults who say they don’t have a musical bone in their body are those who never developed awareness, interest, or sensitivity to the sounds of their everyday lives. What could their music teachers have done differently?

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