Pictuer of Terry Eberhardt

Music Instruction: More than Meets the Ear

Terry N. Eberhardt, currently serves as the Instructional Facilitator for Music in Howard County Public Schools. In 2008 Mr. Eberhardt was named the Howard County Teacher of the Year for his commitment to music excellence in the classroom. He was featured as a Choral Director of Note in the January 2011 edition of the Choral Director Magazine, and this year was a semi-finalist for Grammy Music Educator of the Year.

I recently received a phone call from a parent who asked, “My daughter loves to sing in the shower. I’d really love for her to have some fun with singing, and I don’t want to overload her at school. Can you recommend a chorus class I could sign her up for so she could have fun AND get an easy ‘A’?”

It’s a common misconception that music classes are easy. Fun, yes—but easy? Far from it.

Music so thoroughly permeates our lives that we often take it for granted; it is a necessary and intrinsic part of the human existence. Music educators help students to understand and master this beautiful art form so that they may participate in and enjoy the benefits of the creative process.

Musicians are like athletes, constantly strengthening their muscles with exercises to maintain their abilities.They must work tricky passages into muscle memory to make them sound effortless. They need stamina, concentration, focus and patience. The technical accuracy needed in a myriad of muscles—from the tiny, unseen voice box of a singer, to the arms and fingers of a violinist, to the rib cage and lips of a wind player, to the legs and feet of an organist—requires hours, days and years of training to master.

Rigorous instruction gives young musicians the tools they need to to surpass the average day-to-day shower singer and prepare for a performance like a professional musician. Just as athletes train with their coaches on a team, musicians train with their teachers, and with their fellow choir, band or orchestra members. With guidance and support from the music teacher, students develop the skills needed to commit to the years of practicing, self-discipline, technical achievement, physical development, historical and stylistic research, and self-exploration needed to be successful at their craft.

And as students learn to read a page of music, they decode a whole new language, and decipher the clues the composer left on the paper. They are connected to a place and time that can be several oceans away and hundreds of years ago, while at the same time existing here and now.

The next time you are particularly moved by a musical performance, consider all that goes into its creation and execution. When musicians move an audience with their storytelling, it is a magical thing. It may even seem easy, but it’s no easy A.