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Music and transferrable skills 1366X500

Music and its impact on transferrable skills

Naomi Rowan
Naomi Rowan (3 posts) Music Curriculum Fellow, Director of Music at Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong View Profile

Music can have a profound impact on your child's education. Whether it is learning to improvise or understanding music notes and composition, children experience a range of transferable skills just by practicing the keyboard. Music Director of Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong shares the transformative effect that music has had on her students.

Thinking back 25 years or so, I was incredibly lucky that my primary school had a very musical staff.  We had a windband and recorder group with regular singing assemblies, but lessons were predominantly focused on music and movement, with some percussion thrown in for good measure.  As a musician in secondary school, I was often sent out of the room for music lessons to work on a separate performance piece – not exactly collaborative or effective differentiation!  Stravinsky was a core work at A-Level, and improvisation, despite being a saxophonist, was something I didn’t touch on until university.  The wide-reaching benefits of the arts were widely unknown and certainly not a priority.  Unlike UK schools which are now being forced to abandon the arts, Nord Anglia Education has embraced music, dance and drama as key elements of a rounded education, adding breadth and depth, raising expectations and developing cultural literacy.

Through the Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme, our young minds begin to explore keyboard skills at the age of three. This keyboard is a fantastic medium for exploring integral concepts of pitch, melody, harmony in a very visual, hands-on way. Thanks to keyboard conditioning, I now have 5 year olds who can play the 12-bar blues bassline in C and improvise on one note, and 7 year olds who can competently and musically exchange improvisation over four bar phrases.  This is a far cry from my own experience of music education!

I hear stories of year 1 students singing the opening phrase of Beethoven’s Fifth and parents talking about how their children love to practice at home and are inspired to compose in their own time.

As part of the programme, each school receives visits from Juilliard alumni now working professionally in the arts. Through workshops, concert performances and interviews about why music is important to them, these visiting artists bring an extra dimension to the arts in our schools.  These inspirational visits impact the whole community as highlighted in these quotes from two of our parents following an event with world class flautist, Jasmine Choi.

"What a fantastic opportunity for the children to hear amazing music in a small and casual setting. It was inspiring to see the joy and skill that Jasmine has for the flute and it was great for the children to learn more about her approach to life and the determination she needed to achieve her dream. Aside from the incredible music, we thought it was very special to hear a musician of such quality talking about her life in an honest and humble way. It meant the children could relate to her as a real person and engage with her story at a deeper level."

--Kerry Merrill, Parent at Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong

"My children have been so inspired by [Jasmine Choi’s] stories and her flute playing.  Who would have thought so many sounds could come out of a flute all at the same time? …What I loved about the concert tonight and music at NAIS in general, is how accessible it is for even the beginners.  Fledgling musicians feel cherished, nurtured and celebrated at this school."

--Susan Holt, Parent at Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong

Perhaps the most exciting outcome of the arts, is the impact on interdisciplinary skills. Our students are constantly exploring ways in which they can develop as rounded individuals. They undertake individual journeys, make personal connections to pieces of music, develop confidence by using musical concepts in their own work, interpret the work of others and communicate complex ideas in a variety of ways. Through an inclusive classroom approach that focuses on enhancing both depth and breadth, students are increasingly able to articulate how these skills can be transferred. We educate our young people for an unknown future, where technology is automating many aspects of existing careers.  The skills gained in music and the arts, not only aid them in other subjects, but futureproof their skills, equipping them as confident, expressive, collaborative and culturally aware life-long learners.

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