sing on feature

On Our Bookshelves – Sing and Shine On!

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BOOK: Sing and Shine On!

AUTHOR: Nick Page

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 1995

When I interviewed Nick Page earlier this year, he recommended that I read his book.  So I did.

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There are over five million music teachers in the United States and countless more around the world. Sing and Shine On! is for them. It is specifically about teaching singing, being subtitled “An Innovative Guide to Leading Multicultural Song.” Nick Page wants to make sure that that music teachers know that although we are not all going to be professional musicians, and although we are certainly not going to all fill concert halls or perform in operas, every one of us, children and adults alike, has the ability to sing, and to sound amazing. Many people believe they are tone deaf—they may have been told so by a music teacher, asked to be quiet when others were singing, been moved so as to stay away from the microphones during the performance. But we really can all sing, and he makes a persuasive case that the division between singers and non-singers is a false one. (I believe him on this—I’ve seen him in action.) Sing and Shine On! is full of practical advice for educators, like choosing songs with limited ranges for beginners (or for young men with changing voices), and how to improve intonation by having students listen more closely and sing more quietly. He described various teaching methods, such as teaching by call and response, teaching using movement, teaching using rounds, and so on. And he writes about the power of a song’s tradition…what is meaningful about a song, the necessity of learning about a song’s history, why was it written, how has it been sung: all of that is as important, if not more important, than the melodies and the rhythms. Additionally, he tells teachers to respect and honor the musical tastes of children: insulting their music (even if a teacher can’t abide rock, rap, or pop) is insulting them, and is clearly no way to broaden musical taste.

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As for the rest of us, those who aren’t music teachers: this book is for us, as well. If the specifics of teaching strategies, selecting songs, and leading song celebrations for students are not of particular use or interest to you, turn to part three and read the chapter “Sixty-Five Reasons Why Singing Should be Central to Education and to Life.” Those words of wisdom are for everybody: music teachers, music students, former music students, recovering music students, teachers of other subjects, students of other subjects, school administrators, members of school boards, politicians, parents, grandparents, concerned citizens, lovers of music, policy makers, “influencers,” lovers of the arts, patrons of the arts, and any other categories of human beings I’ve left out. Reason 1: “Music is essential to provide cultural identity.” Reason 6: “Harold Gardner, who has researched how the brain and the body learn, points out that there are many types of intelligences. One type is musical intelligence. Each form of intelligence helps strengthen the others. Remove one, and the others suffer.” Reason 17: “Students who sing music of other cultures begin to form antielitist frames of minds.” Reason 31: “Singing is an act of compassion. When children sing, they make the world a more beautiful place.” Reason 42: “Singing removes stress.” Reason 62: “We humans have a need for both normal and extraordinary experiences…Music and celebration provide these experiences.” In financially uncertain times, schools cut spending, and music is often considered unnecessary—a nice extra benefit, but hardly central to the curriculum. Nick Page knows that we have to get our priorities right, and that we are doing students a huge disservice if we don’t teach them music. And if you read this book, you will know and understand that, too.

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RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 1/2 Whistles

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HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com.

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Lead-In Art Courtesy of Kjpargeter / Shutterstock.com

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