Unification News for February 1999

Interview with Dr. Sally Ann Goodall

Specialist in music and music education.
Melissa Brosseau

Dr. Goodall earned her Doctorate in Music a the University of Durban-Westville, S. Africa were she is currently head of the music department. She is teaching a course on Sacred Music at UTS this trimester.

Part One.

What do you feel is the value of music and creativity for our life and specifically for our spirituality?

I believe in music/art education so much that sometimes it shocks people. Arts education is the very best way to educate people as holistic beings. I see the education of our spiritual life as our total education. Music is great for this kind of education because it takes us away from something that is purely intellectual and it reaches parts of a person that can’t be educated through the usual curriculum of geography, history, math, etc. Music involves our emotions, feelings and values. It prepares us socially to work with others, and educates us in terms of our own striving to become an ideal person.

When it comes to spirituality, music enables us to become spiritual in a way that we cannot just by learning about teachings or beliefs or ideologies. Music enables people to become more trustful in their own spiritual lives and in themselves—to recognize that their own spiritual life is in fact the central core of their being. Through music, and other art forms, we can reach that core much more readily.

Nowadays it is helpful to get somewhat away from the intellectual. It is possible that if we only had training in music we would still be able to become people who had intellectual information & all skills. That’s how highly I think of it

How can we help children become more aware and connected to their creativity and music?

Generally children develop better musically if they come from families who sing together with them, for example at home and church. Look at African people. They have a very developed sense of rhythm and movement. From that sense of movement, the sense of music comes. African children see their parents singing and dancing and are not admonished to stop squiggling and moving around. They experience great acceptance from and involvement with their parents

It doesn’t matter how accomplished the parents are, the important thing is to be involved. Let the children see you as a parent taking part, and sing and dance together with your children. The relationship is the main thing. As a parent, create a relationship in which you perform music together with your children.

I have seen the pattern of parents who have their children take lessons because they never took them themselves. But they don’t take any part in the lessons, nor get lessons for themselves. This is not a healthy foundation for a child. It is better to sing and play an instrument or dance together. Dancing together is a great foundation for music. In other words, it is a much more effective foundation when the parents are involved in the lessons than if there is not any parental involvement.

How do you recognize talent in young children and what is the best way to nurture their talent as they grow?

At a certain age children suddenly wake up to music, usually between 18 months and three years. This is a common phenomenon for all children whether or not they are gifted. If the child is as keenly interested at 6 years as they were at 18 months, then probably your child has more interest than average. If the child then goes on to sing, dance or play an instrument with joy and enthusiasm, and still has the same commitment at 9 years old, then you have an above average child. They are one in a thousand. If the child is gifted you would notice between the ages of five and eight years, you do not usually notice as early as three. You have to keep watching over a certain amount of time. Again, this will develop with parental involvement. If the father or mother or both sing and play instruments together, this is always, always, always the best foundation.

If the child is extraordinary, it does not necessarily mean that in today’s art world, they will be able to earn a living at it. But, that doesn’t mean that the child should not pursue music and the arts. Just keep it in perspective.

It is most important to get a teacher that the child likes. It is totally counterproductive to send your child to a teacher that he does not like. This is more important than if the teacher is well known, especially in the beginning. As the child progresses, especially if they develop above average, the teacher should pass the child on to another teacher. The best way to find a good teacher is by word of mouth, so ask around.

It is important not to push the child to do something just because you want to do it. Do not try to fulfill your dreams for music through your child. This is also completely counterproductive.

It is also important to consider how much money you are going to be willing and able to invest in this music education for the childhood years. If you are considering an instrument, pianos are very expensive, much more than a wind instrument or guitar. So ask yourself what you are prepared to invest. Even if you have no money, but you continue to sing and perform in church and at home, and find school groups for the children, they will find a way to pick it up.

It is extremely important that the children make some of their own decisions about going ahead. Too frequently the parent pushes the child when they are not truly gifted and it turns out to be a horrible experience for the child.

What if you see your child is gifted and enjoys music but they don’t like to practice? How do you deal with this in a positive way?

The first place to go for ideas is the child’s teacher. Also show interest yourself in whether practice is done or not. You might set up a roster together with your child. You may want to explain that if they don’t practice, you could withdraw the money to pay for lessons. But, if you say this you must be willing to follow through and do what you say, otherwise you will look foolish. It is very important to realize that it is the child doing the work and not you. No matter how gifted a child may be, if they genuinely do not want to do the work, it really is their own choice. If they regret it later they usually find enough energy as an older person to do it then. Or they will have to undo the difficulties themselves. It is so important for them to realize that they have a responsibility and they are the ones who do the work. If it drags on over a couple years it’s probably better to drop it.

If the child is not ready at age 6, would you advise giving another chance at 8 or 10?

It is unusual if a person is truly gifted for them not to want to practice. If they are gifted they see that practicing brings a lot of dividends: lots of acceptance from other people, positive feedback, people will praise, love and clap for you. Giftedness has so much pull that it really pays to practice, and if that is not enough pull this could be an indication that this child will continue that kind of pattern in life. It can be devastating for the parent who sees all the potential and doesn’t want to waste it. But you are not the one in that skin so, yes, exalt children, try everything, but realize you are not the one doing it.

It seems that by a certain age some children may not be ready to be involved, but they will be ready later, and that they are not handicapped for that later start.

That happens all the time. It is said that the child who begins music at five or six and the one who begins at seven or eight has reached the same point by the age of ten. So anywhere along those ages doesn’t mean that much of anything is lost. It also depends on which instrument you play. It is best not to be teaching children to read and write and learn music notation at the same time. Do one before the other, usually read and write and then go on to the music. But some children, you cannot hold back. Then you should give them support to go on.

It seems that it has a lot to do with what is within you that wants to find an expression and finding the way to facilitate it’s expression – whether dance, writing or an instrument.

You need to make it clear to your child that development is going to need discipline, it is something they are going to have to do. Help your child to set up a schedule and try to apply some pressure that it is done. But there’s not much more than that you can do. It is the child’s responsibility.

Part 2 of this interview will continue in next month’s UTS News and will explore Dr. Goodall’s unique perspective on music and race relations based on her experiences in S. Africa.

 Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Tparents Home