Background and Philosophy
We have always been aware of the beauty, mystery and power of music; neuroscientists now show its power is even greater than we supposed, reaching into the very neurons with which we reason, remember and learn.
Inspired by a 1996 Newsweek cover story by Sharon Begley entitled “Your Child’s Brain”, the 42nd Street Fund developed Music and the Brain as a classroom keyboard instruction program. The Newsweek article highlighted research linking cognitive abilities and music in the developing minds of children. The Fund believed the encouraging laboratory research should lead to real life improvements in NYC public school education. A team was assembled that included researchers, scientists, business people, school directors and music teachers to figure out how this could be done.
In 1997, the pilot program of Music and the Brain involved Kindergartners at P.S. 144M Harlem and Midtown West Elementary school in midtown Manhattan, with class sizes of 20-30 children. Lisha Lercari, the Director of Music and the Brain, attended music classes at these schools daily and prepared lessons to be taught by the music teachers. Lessons were designed around individual songs that introduced new musical concepts. Rhythm cards and other teaching materials were created to give children a firm understanding of music notation.
Students were encouraged to discover and analyze the song of the day by studying the poster sized written notation. All lessons included ear training, pattern recognition, discussion of song form, composer, place of origin, and genre. Critical activities such as finger exercises, singing, and movement were also used to prepare the children to go to the keyboard to play the song of the day during the last half of class time. Ultimately, these key elements of the lessons served to teach the children how to listen attentively. Best practices were determined from this in classroom experiment and the multi-level curriculum began to take shape. The initial successes of Music and the Brain were featured in a Dateline NBC story in 1998.
With the help of many music teachers, Music and the Brain has since developed to include a repertoire of 156 songs (World, Classical, Folk, and Children’s music). Materials include 3 piano books, teaching manuals, rhythm and keyboard cards, theory papers, poster-size copies of each song and 43 CD recordings. Piano/keyboard labs are set up in each school with 15-25 keyboards. Music teachers using the curriculum in New York City and given an initial training and then attend annual Music and the Brain workshops to enhance their classroom success. Since 1997 more than 125,000 students in NYC schools have received Music and the Brain instruction at an approximate rate of more than 20,000 annually. Teachers, principals and students have attested to the positive results of the program through written testimonials.
Music and the Brain is a project of The 42nd Street Fund/42nd St. Development Corp. Support has also come from The Dana Foundation and the now discontinued Texaco Foundation. Music and the Brain is currently working on a homeroom music integration project made possible by the Ford Foundation. The goal of this project is to give general elementary classroom teachers the tools to offer their students the benefits of music literacy throughout the school day.
MATB has a Science Advisory Committee in place to attest to the program's neurobiological underpinnings. It's members include Dr. Constantino Iadecola, Chairman, the George Cotzias Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, and Director of Neurobiology, at Cornell University Medical College; Dr. Joseph LeDoux, the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science at the New York University Center for Neural Science; and Dr. Torsten Wiesel, Nobel Laureate.
Music and the Brain Abroad
Music and the Brain is currently in more than 100 New York City public schools and schools in other US cities. Music and the Brain materials have been translated in Spanish, French, Hebrew and Japanese.
We are proud to have multiple international programs:
Santiago, Chile with more than 250 Pre-K through 2nd graders at Centro Educacional Menesiano De Culipran, and 400 Pre-K through 3rd graders at Alborada School
Paris, France where children ages 2-5 are participating in the program at The Bilingual Montessori School of Paris
Afula, Israel where children of all ages are using the program at Emunah Children’s Centers and Achuzat Sari
As links strengthen between early music instruction and cognitive ability, Music and the Brain is helping level the playing field by emphatically improving the way children learn.