A Brief Philosophy of Classical Music Education

May 4, 2017 — Leave a comment

Zoltan Kodály believed that true musical literacy – the ability to read, write, and think music – is the right of every human being.  For the Christian, however, it may be argued that musical literacy is the responsibility of every believer.  The apostle Paul commanded the church at Colossae to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with a heart of thanksgiving to God.  The Psalmist exhorted the covenant people of God to “sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth” (Psalm 96:1).  Everything in God’s creation was made to praise him – the seas and all its creatures, the field and everything in it, and even the trees of the forest sing for joy (Psalm 96:11-12)!  In Psalm 150, King David commands that not only are we to praise God with singing, we are to praise him with the playing of instruments.  God’s people are commanded to praise him with trumpets, lute and harp, tambourine and dance, strings and pipe, and loud clashing cymbals (Psalm 150:2-5). 

The truth of God’s Word on the subject of music and praise demands that his disciples should commit themselves to musical training and literacy for the purpose of becoming worshipers.  In his encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4, Jesus said to her, “the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23).  The believer’s desire to worship is birthed in a truth encounter with the true and living God.  This desire to worship God in truth should be accompanied by a desire to equip ourselves and our children to become musically literate to give our best worship to God.

The truth that God is seeking worshipers illuminates us to the understanding that it is good to praise the Lord through music.  God’s goodness is clearly seen in creation.  The refrain of the creation song is “and God saw that it was good.” In a song for the Sabbath, David wrote, “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love . . . to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.  For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy” (Psalm 92:1-4).  We give thanks to the Lord because he is good (Psalm 136:1).  The Bible commands us to “hate evil and cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).  It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance (Rom 2:4).  God is good!  His goodness encourages us to seek him, worship him, sing praises to him, play instruments of praise to him, and to commit to seek musical understanding to worship him in his goodness.

Not only are we commanded to worship the Lord in truth and goodness, we are commanded to “Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 96:9).  In the allegorical language of the Song of Solomon, the author refers to his bride as “altogether beautiful” and “without flaw” (4:7).  The prophet Isaiah writes, “In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious” (4:2).  The Triune God is beautiful and worthy of worship.  He is worthy of that which is beautiful.  Consequently, he is worthy of his people seeking to make their music and their worship even more beautiful.  Can an untrained musician worship the Lord beautifully?  Of course!  Beauty in worship may be defined as giving our very best to God.  The desire to worship the LORD beautifully should inspire us to seek music literacy and excellence in musical aesthetics.

“The world, in all its diversity, is eager to be guided towards the great values of mankind – truth, goodness, and beauty; now more than ever . . . Teaching means to accompany young people in their search for truth and beauty, for what is right and good.” – Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion, 2014

The pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty is a core principle of music education at Sequitur Classical Academy.  Christian parents and educators should always seek to lead our children and students in the pursuit of truth.  Ultimately, music is created by God, not only for our enjoyment, but to convey truth about him. What we do can never be opposed to truth. 

An understanding of that which is good helps the student to understand if a thing is acting according to its nature and purpose.  We must know that the purpose of music is to testify of a good God – the One who is good and worthy of our worship.

Beauty encourages the student to explore a sense of wonder and delight.  There is wonder and delight in a Bach chorale and a Beethoven symphony, but our greatest sense of wonder and delight is in him in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Therefore, our purpose of teaching music at Sequitur is to teach that which is true and good that our students and faculty may reflect that which is beautiful to the glory of God.  This is accomplished with a well-rounded program of music literacy, theory, appreciation and performance.  

Originally posted at SequiturBR: http://www.sequiturbr.com/music-at-sequitur.html

Ken Fryer

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I currently serve on the staff of Riverside Baptist Church in Denham Springs, Louisiana and serve on the faculty of Sequitur Classical Academy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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