General Music


General Music provides the opportunity for students to make music together. Once a week, Grades 1-8 have one 40-minute music class. In these classes, students develop an understanding of the elements and principles that govern the creation of works of art in music. They study the role, development and influence of music throughout history and across cultures. They are given opportunities to synthesize those skills, media, methods and technologies appropriate to creating, performing and presenting works of art in music. Finally, students seek to demonstrate and apply an understanding of arts philosophies, judgment, and analysis to works of art in music.  Our annual Winter Holiday Concert and Spring Musical Concert feature the majority of our General Music students. Previous productions include: "Peter Pan" (2010), "Flashback 1970s" (2009), "The Lion King" (2008), "The Sound of Music" (2007), "The Nifty Fifties" (2006), "That 70's Show" (2005), "This Is Polynesia" (2004), "Once On This Island" (2003), "A Broadway Revue" (2002), "The Wizard of Woodrow" (2001).

Music Aptitude: Critical Ages for Music Learning

When are the most critical times for music instruction? Edwin Gordon’s studies help pinpoint these critical times.

Ages 5 to 9

In one study, school children were given music aptitude tests every year from ages 5 to 9. The results varied according to the availability of music instruction:

1)  In schools where there was little or no music in the curriculum,

  • Between age 5 and 6—scores declined dramatically
  • Between age 7 and 8 and 9—scores declined slightly 

2)  In schools where music instruction began at age 7,

  • Between age 5 and 6—scores declined dramatically
  • Between age 6 and 7—scores declined somewhat less
  • Between age 7 and 8 and 9 (the years with music instruction)—scores went up slightly

Because of the dramatic change between ages 5 and 6 and the slight changes after age 7, average scores at age 9 were significantly lower than they were at age 5.

3)  In schools that provided an excellent music program beginning at age 5,

  • Between age 5 and 6—scores went up dramatically
  • Between age 6 to 7—scores went up somewhat less
  • Between age 7 and 8 and 9—scores went up slightly

Ages 9 to 18

Gordon found markedly different results with this age-group. Music aptitude scores remained unchanged regardless of music instruction. In general, the music aptitude of students who played instruments, sang in chorus, or studied music in other ways remained unchanged at both age 9 and age 18. The same was true for students with no music education during this period.

Gordon says, “By the time a child reaches approximately age 9, his or her level of music aptitude can no longer be affected by the music environment, even by a music environment of extremely high quality” (A Music Learning Theory for Newborn and Young Children, 1997, p. 10).

Students could still learn music and increase their musical abilities. However, the ease and clarity with which they were able to acquire musical skills and comprehend music seemed determined by age 9.

Music Aptitude Testing

Music aptitude tests are of two types:

  1. Developmental—For children younger than 9, music aptitude is a product of both innate potential and early environmental influences. Testing at this stage of life measures developmental music aptitude.

  2. Stabilized—For children older than 9, environmental influences no longer affect music aptitude. Testing at this stage measures stabilized music aptitude.

Early Childhood: Recognizing & Nurturing Music Behaviors

How can we nurture music behaviors in young children? MENC member Susan Kenney says, “Because the foundation for all future music growth is built in the first years of life, music educators must find ways to help parents and caregivers understand the musical behaviors of the young and to learn strategies for nurturing musical growth.” Here’s a quick overview of music behaviors and ways to promote learning from Kenny’s article in General Music Today (October 2008):

Birth to 3 months

Music Behaviors

What to do to Promote Learning

Will babble in response to singing or recorded musicSing gentle songs in a medium high voice while rocking, bouncing, and stroking infant to the beat. 

3 to 8 months

Imitates rhythmic movement in response to musicIncorporate gentle rhythmic movement while chanting nursery rhymes and singing.

8 to 18 months

Awareness of past and future begins to develop, making memory possible, which is necessary for song acquisition.Sing and encourage children to sing along.
Tries to match movements to music rhythm (try to keep beat, etc.)Play music and move children’s feet, legs, and hands to beat or rhythm.

18 months to 3 years

Interested in flow of words rather than meaning of wordsSing many songs and singing games.
Loves to improvise on simple percussion instruments, which becomes a way to exert independence.Provide an environment of simple percussion instruments for children to freely explore.


Enjoys playing group games like “Ring Around the Rosy.” Singing helps form relationships.Play many group singing games that involve working as a group.
Variety of movements in response to recorded music increases, and movement energy is more controlled.Help children develop muscular control by stopping and focusing on stillness or balancing on one foot sometimes while moving to music.
Experiments with short and long sounds on instruments, especially drums.Continue to provide many opportunities for free instrument exploration and found-sound exploration.

4- and 5-year-olds

Wants to conform, do things “correct” way.Provide many opportunities for children to hear you sing and to see you play instruments, followed with opportunity for them to try.
Can conceptualize music ideas.Describe musical events such as high/low, fast/slow, steady beat, same/different, etc., and begin to form concepts about pitch, duration, form, dynamics, tone, color.
Can echo tonal patterns and rhythms with voice. Harder to echo with clapping.Provide many opportunities for children to imitate tonal and rhythmic patterns.