MUSICAL EDUCATION THAT WOULD MAKE STUDY A PLEASURE TO CHILDREN.
“Do you know,” said an anxious mother to a group of interested friends the other day, “my little Lucie is getting to be a great girl, eight years old this spring, and I have not settled in my mind whether or not to have her instructed in music. She doesn’t seem to have the slightest inclination toward music, and besides, I do so dread the unending and nerve destroying practice.”
“Then, by all means,” said one of the addressed, promptly, “don’t force her to learn, unless you want to inflict years of misery on both of you, only to find the utter uselessness of it all. I tried it with my daughter, so I know whereof I speak. She had not any talent for music, but I believed it was merely latent, and was determined that it should be cultivated. So I had her study for years with the very best teachers I could procure, and never allowed her to play anything at all that was not classical. Every day there was the weeping and protesting to be gone through before she settled down to her practice. And the result? Well, she learned to play fairly well, only fairly well, and when she married she refused to even have a piano in her house, and all the weary work of those long years was wasted.”
“How I pity that child,” said another woman earnestly. “But in spite of that awful example, if little Lucie were my child, she should have as thorough a musical education as I could afford to give her, but on a different plan altogether. I am not a music teacher, so I don’t know their professional view of it, but to my mind it seems as absurd to make a poor little beginner work away at even the simplest classics as it would be to require a child who has just learned to spell, to read Ruskin and Carlyle and accuse him of want of literary taste if he did not enjoy them.
“No,” she continued, warmly, “if I had a little daughter she should learn music on a new plan. Her poor little fingers should not be cramped by hourly practice of unmeaning and torturing technical studies, but for several years she should learn simple melodies, the folk songs of Germany, Moore’s Irish melodies, old English ballads, and music of that class. I would also have her learn to sing them, not as a means of inflicting future torment on her unlucky friends, but to cultivate the musical ear, which no amount of piano practice will do. In this way she will get a knowledge of pure melody, which is the foundation of all musical knowledge, and would learn to love it for its own sake. She would also be able from the beginning almost to entertain her little friends and excite their admiration, which is a great factor in child education.
“That was the way I was introduced to music and I have never ceased to thank my mother for her wise course. I was one of those children who are said to possess no musical taste whatever, and yet, by the time I was ten years old I used to play Mozart’s melodies with the greatest love and pleasure, and when I finally came to take up the purely technical part of piano playing I did it intelligently and with some knowledge of the end to be gained. And not to be accused of vanity, I think I may say that I play passably well, and I owe whatever social success I have attained to it.”
“Do you know,” exclaimed the first speaker, “I have always felt, without being able to express it, the injustice of shutting up a poor, helpless child by the hour with a formidable lot of exercises and scales, and it was really this that made me hesitate about Lucie. Now I am determined she shall learn on your plan, and not have any latent music that may be in her educated out on the orthodox plan.”