Music is a wonderfully underrated teaching tool. Think back to your childhood. Can you remember singing your ABCs? What about the catchy tunes from Schoolhouse Rock!, which covered history, math, science, and grammar? It’s not surprising that many educators use music to help their students learn and memorize curriculum.
Martin Luther was extremely familiar with the concept of music as a teaching tool. In fact, Luther wrote six catechism hymns, one for each of the Six Chief Parts of the Small Catechism. He knew that by putting the words of Christian doctrine next to a hymn tune, it would help the people to remember the words and their meaning more easily.
Why do we teach music?
Can you comprehend a world without literacy? Think for a moment about a world in which only a small percentage can read and a smaller percentage can read well. If we church musicians also consider music essential to life, should we not also consider music literacy, especially in the form of sightreading, an indispensable skill for any budding, and accomplished, musician?
With such a short amount of time for instruction, Sunday School teachers can find it difficult to fit music into class time. Especially challenging is having the music support and add value to the existing curriculum. Here are some ideas you can share with teachers at your church for smoothly incorporating music into Sunday School in a meaningful way.
We often use music as a tool to memorize things, whether they’re presidents, books of the Bible, states, parts of grammar, the Small Catechism, or any number of other items. The rhythm of songs and the catchiness of melodies make music a convenient vehicle to relay and hold onto facts, stories, lists, and so on. Music in this way serves a great purpose.
But have you ever stopped to wonder why we memorize things? Sure, instantly recalling a fact or name is good and useful and usually speeds up the work that needs to be done. But is there a greater purpose to memorization? Does music’s ability to make memorization quick and easy contain a higher good than simply recollection of fact?
As church musicians, we understand the necessity of training young people not only in music generally but in church music specifically. With all the talk of a lack of young church musicians, how do we begin to recruit the children in our own churches?
Have you ever wondered why it’s so easy to remember the lyrics to that one song you heard on the radio but it’s so hard to remember Luther’s explanation of the Fifth Commandment? That’s because when you put things to music, they’re much easier to memorize.