At the beginning of August every year we love to celebrate the birthday of one of our favourite American jazz musicians, Louis Armstrong. We try and attend a live jazz show, listen to old records and watch old videos of Louis Armstrong on YouTube with the family.
You may ask us why have we picked this one artist when there are thousands of musicians out there? We purposely picked Louis for many reasons: we like his music, we can educate our kids at the same time and he’s a good role model.
As one of the main influences in jazz in the 1920s his music encouraged solo performances rather than traditional collection improvisation, he popularized scat singing and he was the first truly popular African American performer across the whole American class system. What’s not to admire?
Playing prominent artists like Louis Armstrong to your kids is an easy and beneficial way to promote healthy child development. Music can influence your child’s cognitive, physical growth and social growth in many ways as well as help them deal with any emotional issues they may be having. On top of that looking back at the lives of these artists also has the educational plus of reviewing the era in which they are from.
For older children encouraging them to listen to different genres of music other than current pop and rap music may be easier than you think:
Why not play a little Louis Armstrong around the house, then encourage them to write a biography of his life for history or music class if homework is required. You’ll be surprised how much they will learn about the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s just from researching his life.
Take the family out to a blues/jazz/folk festival, your children may be more accepting of the music if they see other kids there of a similar age. Or they may just be totally moved by the music… you never know!
You don’t have to be a musician to give your children the benefits of music, simply playing it from a speaker and discussing it will help motivate them, just make sure it’s age appropriate! Encourage them to express how it sounds through basic music vocabulary such as:
Pitch – how high or low does the music sound?
Dynamics – how loud or soft?
Tempo – how fast is the music?
If nothing else, this will a least impress the teacher!
We find that playing music that you personally like will result in greater enthusiasm from your children as they will want to enjoy it as much as you do.
With younger children it may be more helpful to find music in every day sounds first before playing “adult” music. Songs like Hickory Dickory Dock encourages children to identify everyday sounds within music, which then helps them to become active listeners.
Once your children become too old for nursery rhymes move on to the adult music. It’s important that you don’t just focus on one genre, not every kid has to listen to classical music in order to achieve in later life!
You will notice quite quickly if your children enjoy and show aptitude to learning about different forms of music. If they do you can introduce them to a musical instrument of their choice, you may have the next Louis Armstrong on your hands!