Motion, Noise and Tears Affect Music Education

"Notes da Capo" by John L. Puffenbarger

September, 2000

A clinician conducting an in-service session for educators remarked, 'Get rid of two things, and you will have a successful class. Get rid of motion and noise. For example, if a door opens, everyone will look towards the door. And if a pencil drops, everyone will turn towards the sound. Motion and noise always destroys the attention of students.'

Music educators realize it takes a great deal of concentration to perform music. Musicians must look at notation and perform several functions at once. To perform these functions well, a musician must listen, which requires a special

ingredient: silence. It has been said that an artist paints on canvas and a musician paints on silence.

Even though a music teacher may try to eliminate motion and noise from the classroom, outside influences may sabotage the effort. In spite of enormous efforts, certain incidents are beyond the teacher's control. Let's examine several of the numerous situations that actually happened in WV schools.

A custodian looked at his calendar and noticed that a PTO meeting was scheduled for that evening. He connected a garden hose to an outside faucet and proceeded to hose down the classroom windows. Inside, a band director tried to instruct young musicians in their first week of beginning band.

While rehearsing in the school auditorium, an orchestra director's class was interrupted as workmen carried furnace parts through the rear door, down the aisle, up the stairs to the stage, and across the stage to the furnace room door. They made the trip several times, compounding the interruption.

Construction knows no barriers in the educational environment. Teachers' classes have been interrupted by maintenance workers repairing doors, replacing windows, wiring outlets, installing light bulbs, and fixing heaters and air conditioners. And who has not had to talk louder as the grass was being cut outside the window? The ultimate trial for a teacher trying to present difficult concepts to students occurs when workmen use a jack-hammer next to the classroom.

At some high schools in years past, announcement sheets were distributed and read during homeroom periods. Then came the invention of the intercom system. Some principals made announcements over the intercom anytime persons delivered messages to the office, regardless of whether class was in session or not. Of course, these announcements were often made just as a music teacher was explaining an important passage of music.

One day a choir director was tape recording a rehearsal so that the recording could be submitted to the WVMEA Honor Group Selection Committee. The teacher had asked that no announcements be made during the taping. The choir was in the middle of the second selection when the principal made an announcement over the intercom. The teacher was so upset he climbed onto a counter and tore the speaker off the wall. (That's one way to get rid of noise.)

A band director was teaching in a small kitchen/lunchroom while three cooks prepared lunch. One day, the band director noticed that students in the back room were rubbing their eyes. Soon, other students stopped playing and began rubbing their eyes. The band director soon realized that the cooks were chopping onions, so he dismissed the class and sent them back to their rooms. When the principal asked why class was stopped early, the director explained that the students could not see the music. The solution was for the cooks to order dehydrated onions for use in future meals.