Happy Monday, friends! And happy Music Monday from me 🙂
I just returned from a wonderful weekend in Kansas City, MO, where our church participated in Heart of America’s Leadership Training for Christ (LTC). 3rd-12th grade students participated in a variety of events, including Bible reading, song leading, choir, drama, art, and more. Through the process, they learned how to apply their talents and serve God and their communities in positive ways. It truly was a ministry of encouragement and as a musician I was especially encouraged by the voices I heard lifted in praise to our God.
I had the honor of directing our large choir, which had 35 elementary, middle, and high school students. For me, it was a new challenge combining all of those age groups, but it was so rewarding to see them be successful. We started rehearsing in January and spent almost every Sunday after church singing together. This was a blessing in my life and hopefully in their lives as well. If you are interested in watching a clip of their last song, please click here. Thanks to Shayna, one of the amazing LTC coordinators, for recording it with her phone and sharing it with me!
On Saturday morning, I was a judge for about ten 7th-9th grade girls participating in song leading. It was a beautiful experience to see young women lifting their voices to God, conducting with strong leadership, and being willing to step in front of a group of people. I loved giving constructive feedback and I know the participants from this weekend will continue to grow.
Finally, I had the experience of worshipping with hundreds of people from different congregations, states, and backgrounds. The ability for us to be united under one God was only made stronger by our ability to be united in song.
After reflecting on this weekend, here are some ways I think we can inspire our youth to keep singing:
1. Be positive: Our singing voices are so personal and unique, which is a beautiful and terrifying thing. I know from teaching young students that they are often very proud or very embarrassed about their voices and need positive encouragement to keep singing. Don’t be afraid to praise their accomplishments, while also promoting growth when they are struggling with something. At LTC this weekend, I tried to keep any criticism of young voices constructive and helpful, not negative and demeaning.
2. Start with songs they know: Many of our LTC choir songs were songs the students grew up singing. They felt confident participating because they knew the melodies, words, and some of the harmonies already. This brings me to number 3:
3. Sing with your kids from a young age: Even if you don’t consider yourself a singer, please sing to and with your children. I have strong memories of my mom singing in church, my dad rocking out to Kansas, my elementary school teacher singing folk songs with me, and so many other adults showing me how to use my voice. I sang in church, school, the car, with my friends, etc. This may not seem like a big deal to us adults, but to young voices it is very encouraging. I am glad I got to do this with the young voices in my church.
4. Pick songs kids enjoy, and ones they might not enjoy: It’s never a bad thing to choose songs kids like 🙂 I remember singing a song from Wicked in middle school choir and, at the time, it was the coolest thing ever. Almost every girl in my class tried out for the solo and it was a positive experience for our choir. However, I also think it was good for us when we sang songs that were considered “boring,” “difficult,” or “cheesy.” These helped us experience something outside of our comfort zone, grow as musicians, and appreciate music that was beautiful to someone else. Our LTC repertoire featured some old songs, some new; some fast songs, some slow; some songs in major, some in minor 😉 Providing variety teaches kids a lot about music, their own preferences, and their singing abilities.
5. Encourage creativity: Composition and improvisation are big words in music education, but so many kids naturally make up songs without even realizing what they are doing. If a child in your life wants to sing you a song they made up, listen. Encourage them to write their ideas down. Record it and add instruments on GarageBand. Make a music video. Do whatever it takes to keep their brains working and their voices singing.
6. Allow them to take ownership: This weekend, one of the small choruses from East Hill church of Christ, the congregation I attended during college, performed an a cappella arrangement of a piece I had never heard before (which reminds me, I need to ask them for the name again! My memory…). Their director told me they came up with all of the harmonies on their own and really took charge of the group. This type of ownership makes music more intrinsically motivated and means they are probably going to keep singing in some capacity throughout their lives.
7. Sing in groups: As I said above, it was a challenge working with voices of all ages for LTC. However, their ability to succeed despite their varying levels was part of the reason I was so proud. Someone at the conference reminded me that in a few years, those young ones will be the leaders in the group. What a positive experience for our young students, who were able to sing with the teenagers to whom they look up, and for our older ones, who could patiently spur on their little brothers and sisters in Christ. Whenever you can provide students with an opportunity to sing with others, please take it!
Thanks for reading today’s post, I regret not taking pictures this weekend to share. Have an awesome, music-filled week!
What other ways can you encourage musicality in children? Do you think singing is as important as I do, why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!