Several top international schools share with us why music education is so important in school.
As parents, we recognise the importance of having a holistic, well-rounded education for our children. This includes selecting the best academic pathway and exploring a school’s wide range of extracurricular activities. And, for some parents, part of their criteria involves scrutinising an international school’s music program to help them make a decision. After all, not only can music provide a source of comfort, refuge and joy, but music education is also key in helping your child develop and build their motor, language, reasoning skills and more. Well, we spoke to several international schools to find out more about their music education programs and why they’re so important. Read on below…
Canadian International School
If you’re looking for a school that emphasises the importance of music education, Canadian International School (CIS) might be the right choice for you. “CIS offers a unique combination of rigorous academic instruction, performance opportunity and one-on-one personal support,” shares Middle Years Programme (MYP) music teacher, Tom Anderson. “All students in primary school through to grade eight enjoy compulsory music classes, and learn a variety of concepts, music fundamentals and language fluency,” he adds. “And, after school, students can also participate in a range of choral and instrumental programmes. These include concert band, symphonic band, junior and senior choirs, intermediate and advanced strings, a jazz band and 10 rock bands.” Cool!
Besides having an extensive range of music ensembles for students to join, CIS also actively encourages and inspires their students to get involved. How? “The school focuses on providing a programme that consistently demonstrates excellence, models compassion, features professional guidance and is tailored around students’ interests,” says Tom. “The arts are core to our being human. As Aristotle said, ‘Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.’”
Tanglin Trust School
“Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Anderson
Tanglin Trust School sees music as a crucial part of a well-rounded education and it’s part of every child’s school week until the beginning of their GCSE years. The school views music as both a theoretical and analytical subject, as well as a practical and expressive one – which makes it such an important component to ensuring students receive a holistic education. “Music gives benefits in not only its own terms but also in the positive, mental health aspects it brings. It also improves cognitive function – which is well documented by research. Music also provides space for soft skills to develop and flourish,” says Michael Holiday, Tanglin’s Director of Co-Curriculum. Tanglin has a wide range of musical opportunities for students to participate in, from choirs, chamber groups, theory groups, and even rock bands! Michael adds, “Whatever their particular passion or interest, we aim to both engage our children where they are and help them to develop into more rounded and expressive musicians and people.”
GESS – International School
At GESS, every child from 2 years to 18 years gets the freedom to grow through the school’s many offerings. This includes a well-rounded music program that focuses on giving all students exposure to music and the opportunity to develop their skills further. In Grade 3, all students participate in an eight week-long string program which introduces them to violin, viola and cellos in ensemble classes. It culminates in an orchestral performance that allows students to enjoy both the learning and performance element of music making.
The school also has a unique Vocal and Instrumental Program (VIP) where students learn a variety of musical instruments in-depth. The trainers for this program are some of Singapore’s finest professional musicians who provide weekly one-to-one tuition in either 30 or 45-minutes slots. Each student will follow an individual lesson plan that changes according to the student’s progress. Eventually, the students will perform at the annual recital and the VIP gold concert to showcase their skills. Additionally, Co-Curricular Activities at GESS comprise of a wide selection of music offerings – brass sections, orchestra, choir, jazz band, rock and pop band and more. These after-school activities provide an additional avenue for students to learn how to make music in a ensemble and orchestral setting
International Community School (ICS) Singapore
At International Community School (ICS) Singapore, music is more than just a program. It not only exposes students to various genres of music, but it also offers students opportunities to discover a musical means through which they can communicate. “Along with the advantages and benefits of music education that we are familiar with, music has a tremendous power to train young people how to contribute, create and collaborate as a group,” shares elementary school music teacher Christine Park. “It challenges students to diligently and strategically engage themselves in musical activities so that their individual talent and effort would serve as a critical element of grander performance and achievement.”
So how do you get your child interested in music? Christine has some tips. “Have music as part of your home life,” she says. “As long as it is age-appropriate, have your child listen and sing to a variety of musical genres. Once you see a seed of interest in musical activities, introduce them to a friendly, non-threatening means of musical training to get them started. What you should avoid is to force your child into learning a challenging and strenuous musical training that might plant a negative impression of music in your child.”
Stamford American International School
If you’re looking for comprehensive music education for your child, you might be surprised to know that Stamford American International School has been developing a world-class string program for its Early Years students based on the guidelines from the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Head of Music, Becky Jones, explains: “The Suzuki program features full class instruction on the violin or cello for every Pre-K and Kindergarten student, followed by an additional program for those who choose to take their learning one step further. These students take part every week in one individual lesson and one group lesson with a certified Suzuki teacher. These are packed with fun activities, musical games and specific training in instrumental skills.” Apart from the Suzuki program, there are also general music classes for all ages within the school curriculum, from Pre-Nursery to High School Senior, taught by a dedicated team of music specialists.
With a budding world-class string program and already-established general music and instrumental music program, Stamford teachers are supported through a variety of ways to enrich student learning with pedagogy that is successful, engaging and current. “Teachers at Stamford are supported with a plethora of physical and digital resources, including subscriptions to online learning resources for classroom music education, beautifully designed classrooms, practice rooms, and performance spaces,” shares Becky. “Stamford also encourages its music teachers to attend professional development in a variety of specialised areas and provides support for musical events, allowing teachers to further develop their musical skills and expertise.”
UWC South East Asia
Being a part of an international school means your child is constantly learning about new cultures and traditions. One way UWC South East Asia (UWCSEA) teaches its students about diversity is through its curricular music program. “Music brings us closer to one another through greater understanding of how people express who they are, where they come from and what they value,” says head of primary school music at UWCSEA East, Janine Larsen. “At UWCSEA, our aim is for our students to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for common aspects of humanity through varied cultural contexts. They begin to see that music is a universal action, and that the rich diversity in musical sounds, techniques and styles encourages us to value the many different perspectives of the world’s people.”
That’s not all. UWCSEA’s academic music program also offers students numerous opportunities to pursue music and musicianship through an extensive instrumental teaching program, which engages expert technical instruction from external musicians in Singapore. And, head of high school music at UWCSEA East, Eivind Lodemel adds, “Students are also encouraged to use their specific interests in service of others via a number of specialist programs offered in collaboration with some of our service partner organisations. One example is the Music with Reminiscence program, which our students help to facilitate at Apex Harmony Lodge under the guidance of a music therapist, and which aims to use music to enhance the lives of patients with dementia.”