Over the last couple decades, public schools around the country have notoriously cut funding for music and art programs in order to save money, even though studies have consistently shown how valuable creative outlets are to a student's education.
One study found that schools with music programs have over 90% higher graduation and attendance rates than those that don't, and other research shows that kids who have access to music education perform better in reading and math.
For many Minneapolis and St. Paul educators, music education is imperative to a well-rounded curriculum, and increasingly, public schools in the area are not only keeping the status quo when it comes to their programs, but are also trying to reach a broader spectrum of students by offering guitar classes.
In the past, traditional big band instruments such as horns, drums, clarinets and flutes have dominated the music education landscape, leaving students who are interested in playing guitar to seek out private guitar lessons.
Over the last few years however, more and more schools have begun adding guitar classes to the slate because the instrument is more affordable, more durable and more portable than the traditional music education instruments. Plus, it's a major component in all kinds of mainstream music, which makes it appealing to a wider audience of children and teens.
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While schools all over Minneapolis and St. Paul are in effect offering free guitar lessons to students as part of their education process, many private guitar teachers have noticed that traditional teaching methods haven't yet caught up with the more modern outlook.
In fact, many music teachers try to teach guitar in the same manner they teach a horn instrument, preferring to focus on reading music and playing single melody lines, when most modern guitar music is played with the guitar as a rhythm backdrop for a singer who sings the melody.
Teachers that teach a traditional method of learning guitar run the risk of undermining all the good intentions of instituting a guitar program in schools in the first place; studies show that over 85% of guitar students quit before they reach the 10th lesson, often because they experience slow progress or lose interest.
As it happens with most other subjects, when music teachers think outside the box and actively seek to create an environment of success in learning, students typically respond well.
The truth about guitar is that students can learn how to play and sing songs effectively without ever learning to read a note of sheet music, and can efficiently learn all the tools they need to do so and still have plenty of time to hone the skills by the end of the semester.
This typically requires taking a motor skills-first approach, and allows students to only have to mentally learn how to read a chart that tells them where to set their fingers to make chords.
The rest is all active, physical doing: change the chords on the guitar and strum along with it. After that, learn to sing a song.
The advantage of learning guitar by doing is that it's easier on the student to learn and the teacher to teach; it's more about coaching than learning facts or memorizing melody lines.
Plus, as students get more advanced in the guitar program, music theory principles can be introduced in a less abstract manner — and if students check out of the music theory part, at least they'll still know how to play the instrument the way many, if not most, guitar players play it.
Even though public schools throughout the area are offering guitar classes to students, the fact remains that many programs still teach a method that causes many students to quit or lose interest.
Taking guitar lessons though The Approachable Music Project helps ensure that students learn the skills necessary to play modern music on the very first day. We're located in south Minneapolis, and since we're close to Highway 62, we also serve St. Paul and the Twin Cities suburbs conveniently. Contact us for more information.
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