The Musical Human

In his book ‘The Musical Human’, a recently released survey of mankind’s connections with music over the generations, Michael Spitzer charts the movement from almost universal involvement in the making of music to the recent decades where most people are consumers. Any survey of world cultures reveals that singing and dancing are a part of being human. All cultures have music. Work songs and ceremonial songs abound. Before recorded music, people gathered around pianos, there was singing around campfires, in the trenches, wherever people came together.

Current surveys reveal in the developed world around 70% of school-aged children are involved in making music. This drops dramatically to around 6% in the adult population.

Yet, we are surrounded by music – it accompanies us everywhere, underlaying modern life whether the supermarket, a video or in the car, it’s a background to our world. But do we ever really engage with it? Michael Spitzer asks ‘Why have we become so dependent on ubiquitous music, while being at the same time almost completely disengaged from actually making it?’

Here at Carey we have made some clear choices regarding the place of music in our community. All Year 7 students have a practical involvement in making music in their respective ensemble. There will be great excitement next week when the Year 7 Beginner Ensembles come together for their first rehearsal. We also have a strong commitment to musical literacy, because we believe that giving all of our students at least basic skills with musical notation is a valuable life asset. We also make time in our music classes for deep listening – for exploring the inner workings of musical compositions.

We then support the core Year 7 program by offering a huge range of opportunities for students to have continuing engagement in music throughout their time at Carey. There are bands, orchestras, choirs, chamber groups, musicals and many other ensembles. Assemblies and chapels provide opportunities to sing, and concerts camps, tours and festivals provide opportunities to share the joy of music making.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it so much harder to experience the fantastic experience of making music together. As we rebuild our programs, we are optimistic that 2022 will be a great year of music making.

There are many Middle School students involved in our bands, orchestra, choirs as well as the forthcoming musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We are confident their deep involvement in making music will enrich their lives.

Martin Arnold
Head of Middle School Music