TEDxSydney – Richard Gill – The Value of Music Education

TEDxSydney – Richard Gill – The Value of Music Education


Translator: Jerson Partible
Reviewer: Denise RQ Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve asked if the lights
could be lifted for this session, and David Glover agreed. And the reason, thank you very much,
is I like to see the whites of your eyes. (Laughter) And I like to see you as my class. I hope you’ve all made the connection that music is an incredibly important part
of what has been happening today. We started with a didjeribone, an improvisation
on this extraordinary instrument. We then saw a film
that had been put together showing how TEDx was setup,
and music, actually, made that film work. Without music, that film
would have been a very different film. We then saw the rabbit, that had music; – a tragic end for the rabbit,
but nonetheless, music – (Laughter) and then we have had “Synergy”, whose piece, their percussion piece,
was an improvised piece. I spoke to Bree afterwards and I said,
“That’s clearly improvised,” and she said, “Yes, we work
on a particular pattern. We take that pattern, and every time we perform
that piece, we do it differently.” Then, we had a string quartet, which included amplified sounds
with improvisation. Structures upon which other structures
had been imposed. This is the creative process. This is the process
which starts with an idea which comes from the imagination,
the musical imagination. And when the musical imagination
is ignited in a group circumstance, we have the most extraordinary power
to change lives with music, and to involve people in music. And it should start
with very, very, very young children not teenagers. Not that — you can’t start– I’ve taught teenagers who had their first experience
with music as teenagers. But my view is
that all of that improvisation, all of that creativity you saw
on the stage today, is the right of every child, no matter where and no matter
what the circumstance. Every child, I believe, should have access
to properly taught music in the hands
of a properly taught teacher. (Applause) And it can start in the simplest way. Music is an oral art. And when I talk about music, I define it as “sound, organized in some way, passing through time.” With children, we begin with imitation, the most powerful way of teaching. And if you don’t mind
becoming three-year-olds just for a minute
– I promise you, a minute – I will make my point. I’m going to clap a pattern,
I want you to clap it back. (clapping) (Audience clapping) You’re clearly not three. (Laughter) Here’s another one. (Clapping sequence) (Audience claps sequence) What you notice is you accelerate,
you get louder, and you don’t actually do
the pattern properly (Laughter) which means you are educable,
you can be taught. (Laughter) When you do that with children, what you’re doing is you’re engaging them in their first oral experience. They need to listen. And as a result of the listening,
they repeat, and it requires focus. When this happens, and we take
a very simple nursery rhyme, and we say, with children, we go, (singing) “Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.” We do this little pattern, I frequently say to the little children,
very young children, “Who can do a different pattern?” Child one puts a hand up and goes (singing same pattern)
“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall …” I said, “Thank you very much.”
Who can do a different pattern?” (singing same pattern)
“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall …” (Laughter) And then, the next child will say,
“When will this be over?” (Laughter) All teaching is an act of faith. And with children,
the idea that repetition and putting it in the circumstance
of offering ideas is vital. Music is important
for the following reasons: it is abstract, it doesn’t mean
anything outside itself. When we play a sound,
you can interpret that sound as you wish. I’m going to go to the TEDx Steinway. (Laughter) And it is a Steinway.
I’ve sampled [David’s] Steinway. I’m going to play some sounds.
(playing piano) Those sounds are abstract.
They mean nothing other than themselves. If I then say, “I’m going to play
a composition, and it’s called something. I want you to imagine
what this composition might be called.” (Playing a short tune) Does anyone have an idea
what that composition might be called? Probably “Highly forgettable”. (Laughter) But, in each person, that sort of music, any music,
will evoke a different response. Music does not describe.
Music does not narrate. Music does not tell stories. Music evokes. Music suggests, music implies, and music opens up the mind
of a child in an extraordinary way. And I want to give you some ideas
on that – back to the Steinway. These three pieces deal with night. (playing “Claire de Lune” by Debussy) “Claire de Lune” of Debussy. (playing “A Little Night Music” by Mozart) “A Little Night Music” of Mozart. (playing “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven) “Moonlight Sonata” of Beethoven. They have nothing to do
with night whatsoever. (Laughter) The title is simply a way in. But this abstraction about music
is what offers a child the chance to move into
a really special world of thinking. And we get children, therefore,
to try to understand that the most important thing about music is to make your own music. Children must make their own music. It is not they shouldn’t reproduce music, but they must make their own, and they make it best through singing. That every child,
given normal circumstances, has the capacity to sing;
you, all, have the capacity to sing. Shall we test that? (Laughter) Yes, we shall. (Laughter) I will give you a little phrase
and I’d like you to sing it back. La-la-la-la-la, la-la, la, la. (Audience) La-la-la-la-la, la-la, la, la. Richard Gill: La, la-la, la-la, la-la. (Audience) La, la-la, la-la, la-la. RG: Pitch better than rhythm for you lot. (Laughter) Very good. Now what about if I give you
a little pattern here, like, foot, hand, foot, hand. Just try that, foot, hand,
and then, sing this back, la-la, la-la, la, la, la. (Audience) La-la, la-la, la, la, la. RG: La, la-la, la-la, la-la. (Audience) La, la-la, la-la, la-la. RG: Now sing the whole thing
from the beginning. Go. (Audience) La-la, la-la, la, la, la.
La, la-la, la-la, la-la. RG: Exactly.
When in doubt – improvise, right? (Laughter) (Applause) Through singing
is how we engage every child. Through singing is how we teach children to be literate, to read and write. Through singing is how we teach
children to analyze. I was working with a group
of first grade girls, and we were doing a song
about “Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake”. And I had the pitch on the board. Not that they could read the pitch, but I believe
they should confront the example. And throughout the lesson,
we did a number of activities. And at one stage, I said to them, “Let’s look at the song on the board.
What do you notice?” And one of them said,
“It goes up, and it goes down.” This little bright one
by the theater divide said, “Well, there are crotchets
and minims in that song.” (Laughter) And everyone else in the class
went, “Oh, boy.” (Laughter) So at the end of the lesson, I like to make a summary,
“What have we done?” It’s very important for me
to find out what we have done. So all of them are sitting
on the floor, and I said to them, “What did we do today?” “Nothing.” (Laughter) That’s a very common response, “Nothing.” (Laughter) We just jumped,
and we clapped, and we sang. And they went–
and I finally got out what they did. This one put her hand up and said, “Well, we learned about crotchets
and minims, but I had to teach us.” (Laughter) (Applause) Most interesting was watching
the other kids go, “Yeah, that’s true.” (Laughter) So the next day, another song
is on the board, and all these lessons are being videoed,
they’re being taped. Another song on the board,
we’re observing the notation. And at the end of the lesson,
I bring them all together, and I said, “What do you notice
about the notation today? The pattern. It goes up,
it goes down, it does this?” And she was sitting right there,
and she looked up at me, and she said, “I haven’t got a clue.” (Laughter) Which was tolerated
by the rest of the class. (Laughter) That concept. They probably agreed. With music, you open up the mind of a child
in a very special way, different from drama,
different from dance, and different from visual arts. There was a movement which said
all the arts work the same way, when we went through the touchy-feely 60s. That is simply not true.
The arts function in different ways. And music, in my view,
is at the top of the food chain. (Laughter) The drama people tend
not to agree with me on that. (Laughter) But I also put dance in there. But what I want to say is
that the power of the creative thought transferred from music
to all other areas of learning is hugely potent. The neurological evidence for music is in in a spectacular way. That’s a bonus. Music is worth teaching for its own sake. It is worth teaching because it is good, it is worth teaching because it is unique, and it is worth teaching because it empowers
children spectacularly. And when you get a fifth grade boy
who comes up with a piece of music and says, “Look, I made this myself,” with that sort of threat (Laughter) you know it’s working, thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

43 thoughts on “TEDxSydney – Richard Gill – The Value of Music Education

  1. I could not agree more. Unfortunately I have to ask how many people in that audience would pay for lessons for their children and what luxuries would they forego to pay for them. Music teachers cannot live on thin air. Decades ago instrumental teachers and real musicians who were proficient enough to  play live, were able to make a living. In recent decades there has been a  serious decline in demand for one reason or another in the UK. In my experience after a long career with accompanying financially meagre rewards as  a professional musician and instrumental teacher, at present very few adults or children want to learn properly. We are now at the point of losing a great tradition of western music due to the lack of employment of those who are really able to transmit music in its myriad forms. Music has not been taught well for about 3 decades now.
     Singing is good, however the use of digital sound as used commonly at present in some music education in schools does not have the same sort of sound wavelength as that produced by live acoustic instruments, therefore the resulting affect of the neural pathways in the brain of a young person  is fundamentally different and  in my opinion, inferior. Too many people have an airy fairy idea of what music is based on their immediate, emotional and easy responses to what they have heard on modern media and this is unfortunately
    projected on to their children. Music is a serious and disciplined subject and does indeed expand the mind, the body, the imagination and the emotions in an integrated way. It used to be part of classical education. Sadly, the discipline has been coarsened in latter years. There can be little creativity without the tools to craft the abstract design of music.

  2. We are entering a new era in music education and it is leaders like Richard Gill and Ken Robinson who are the pioneers who stand up and make a difference. We as teachers and leaders in our communities around the country have the power to act and bring out the creative nature in people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. 

  3. Music education can begin in the womb while language education is getting its start.  If only I had known this years ago when I was pregnant, I would have programmed my unborn with the best of Baroque!  and the Bible!! Too soon olde and too late shmart.

  4. His comments about music meaning nothing but its self is straight from Bernstein's book and young peoples concerts from the NY Philharmonic! Love it. 

  5. Fabulous. It would be great to use examples of Australian musical phrases with kids who recognize them by classroom exposure.

  6. If our current music education system is so wonderful, why has instrumental music completely disappeared from our culture? Instrumental music in the United States really doesn't exist outside of government funded institutions, even though there are thousands and thousands of adults in this country who participated in instrumental music ensembles in school. Those adults have no respect or appreciation for instrumental music or the people who have dedicated their lives to composing it, performing it, and teaching it. Those adults think instrumental music is stupid and boring, just like adults who did not participate in instrumental music ensembles in school. Adults who think instrumental music is stupid and boring do not support music education. Music education is dying because even people who participated in music education do not care if it lives or dies.

  7. I have been a professional musician for over 30 years. I have performed music in public, in the real world, outside of the artificial, pretend, make-believe, government-funded fantasy world of music education, thousands of times. It has been a miserable experience watching instrumental music disappear from our country over the last 30 years. It is fascinating how music educators continue along in blissful ignorance while there is a musical holocaust taking place in the real world, outside of their government-funded fantasy world. Music educators are uninterested in and/or unaware of the fact that their former students are contributing to this musical holocaust as much as any group of people. Music educators don't care that their former students are just as likely as anyone to think that instrumental music is stupid and boring and that the people who have dedicated their lives to composing, performing, and teaching instrumental music are a bunch of idiots. Music educators apparently think that music education will exist indefinitely in a country that thinks instrumental music is stupid and boring and a waste of time, money, and resources. Instrumental music is dead in this country, instrumental music education is dying, and music educators are doing nothing to stop it.

  8. Thank you for your so lively way of teaching, I have been teaching too serious this far. I hope the American could grab those British musical terms I used to be educated that way in UK. (",)

  9. I personally own the complete collection of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts on DVD. These DVDs are filled with enormous amounts of information designed to teach children to understand and appreciate instrumental music. I have offered to loan these DVDs to several music educators and have suggested that they be shown to their students. The angry responses I get are, " How will that help my students perform better?" or "How will that help my students get better scores at music festivals?" Music education is suffering because there are very, very few adults who support and care about music education, even though there are thousands and thousands of adults in this country who participated in music education. Music educators are not even trying to teach their students to appreciate legitimate music and when those students become adults, they do not support music education in any way.

  10. At my school a bond is being voted on to improve our campus and curriculum by our community and I've been skimming through the plans and such. I was curious as to the improvements being made to the music department and actually discovered that they would be completely wiping out the entire thing in five years. IN FIVE YEARS TIME THERE WILL BE NO MUSIC EDUCATION AT MY SCHOOL WHAT HAS COME OF MY TOWN? I will be attending a board meeting and fighting this.

  11. Wonderfully inspirational. Thanks. It would be helpful to correct the subtitles for the hearing impaired though. "Oral" has been substituted for "aural" throughout.

  12. I have seen a couple TV commercials from NAMM encouraging people to play
    musical instruments. I'm happy to know that I am not the only person in
    the world who has noticed that musical instruments and instrumental
    music are dying a miserable death. The sad fact is that these
    commercials will not make any difference. Music educators are the only
    people in a position to make a difference and prevent the extinction of
    musical instruments. Unfortunately music educators do not care if
    instrumental music dies 10 or 20 or 50 years from now. All they care
    about is what score their ensemble gets at the next festival.

  13. I was not brought up in a music family. Although many of my relatives
    have taken lessons, they are not professional musicians. I play with a
    music group in church so playing music is a weekly affair. Even when I
    am not practicing with the group during the summer break, I would play music on a keyboard / piano.
    There are people in the group who also sing in a choir. Once at a
    Christmas gathering I started playing "O Holy Night" on a keyboard and
    several people started singing the song in the background.

  14. You're my new hero Richard! I'm a music educator and faced with all the usual attitude towards music education; dismissed as a privilege for the financially endowed and regarded as lower subject with no utility value. This is a refreshing message that I wish I had seen sooner!

  15. I am researching this subject. I am trying to figure out how I can get this into my school district. I live in rural wisconsin USA. I also have a website that I want to help promote music education. Any suggestions on this I would love to receive.

  16. I disagree with the comment saying you can't appreciate Mozart while still struggling with the notes. To me, struggling brings me closer to Mozart's genius. All in all, I believe music is so wonderful that it will not die, even within an unsympathetic culture.

  17. my daughters PUBLIC school in Sydney NSW requires $780 upfront per year for children to attend band. As a sole parent, this ended up too cost prohibitive- they would not allow me to pay this off throughout the year. As a consequence, she had no choice but to drop out. I did have a private tutor for a while, who cost the same but over the course of a year, but her interest waned because she was no longer entitled to participate in the wider group, (her social standing reinforced within earshot during lunchbreak rehearsals-heartbreaking.) Midnight oil frontman Peter Garret joined politics and one of the first things he did was defund the scholarship programmes for disadvantaged children like my child, to attend the Australian National Youth Orchestra- I could'nt believe it. Someone whose life had been invested in music and who gained financially exponentially from it… This story kind of ends happy- my daughter auditioned for singing at the Newtown School of Performing Arts and has been shortlisted. Writing to the principle, I said, 'she should be commended for being shortlisted, but imagine the possibilities had this school enabled her to continue the band' Crickets. As an early childhood educator, I make music as acessable as possible for the children in my care, not some elitist pastime. Having completed the arts component of my bachelors degree (a few sessions only) I'm dissapointed in how little value is given to everything Richard Gill says here. It should be a subject in itself.

  18. Begs the question: if music education is so important, why is it I'm not finding any courses on YouTube?
    In the seven years since this was presented as something "important," there's nothing from any universities or other schools saying, "This is a $50* music keyboard. Here's what we can teach you to give you a comprehensive knowledge of this 'important' subject." *Meaning if you have fifty dollars, you can learn, regardless of your circumstances or where you live.

  19. Next year I am planning to write my dissertation about importance of music in our society and the benefits of musical education. Also about brain plasticity and how this is working in general when connected to music. If anyone would like to take part in the questionnaire (or short interview), let me know in the comment 🙂 Next year I will respond when I will gather enough people. Thank you!

  20. His defiition is really poor. He talks the perceive value music a has for himself and he thinks all people should perceived it the same way. But music doesn't mean the same for everybody. So whats the value of music. Very interesting

  21. Rest in peace, Richard. The couple of times I met you were inspirational, and you will not soon be forgotten.

    "Every child should have access to proper music."

  22. Rest in peace Richard. I was lucky enough to be in the audience and this speech changed our children's lives with a commitment to a musical education

  23. I think it's pointless. How many will go on to be professional musician? very little and I'm an pro musician myself.

  24. Richard Gill seems like a lovely, funny, compassionate man. I"m sorry to hear of his passing. This lesson is so valuable.

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