In Praise of Japanese Music Class

When I was a kid in Michigan, music class meant that we gathered our chairs around a piano and sang songs from a mimeographed lyric sheet.  Maybe once in awhile the itinerant music teacher would pass out some tambourines and castanets. 

Only now, all these years later as a mother in Japan, do I understand how lame all that was.  We never learned musical notes or how to play instruments or the names of the great composers.  Not during the regular school day.

Last week my daughter was thrilled to get a recorder and to begin learning how to play it.  The kids at the deaf school also learn to play taiko – traditional Japanese drums – and perform at the annual culture festival.  Before the recorder, my kids learned to play something called a harmonium. 

I had a look at my son’s music class workbook and noted that he was learning about Bach and Beethoven.  And although my hearing son has a dread of music class whereas my deaf daughter loves it (go figure), I’m so grateful that my children are being educated in the arts.



5 thoughts on “In Praise of Japanese Music Class

  1. I had no idea until I came to Japan that ‘do, re, mi’ (and I was the world’s biggest Sound of Music fan) corresponded to ‘C, D, E’. Our music teacher would pound on a key at the piano and try to get us to imitate it ‘F, F, F!!’ ‘No, I said D, D, D!!’ If only she had taught us using ‘do, re, mi’ like they do here — doesn’t that seem a lot easier to grasp??

    I don’t think I’ve ever met a Canadian in Japan who didn’t think their singing skills seriously sucked compared to 98% of the population here.

  2. Hmm, I am now learning the recorder and musical notation (the Do-Re-Mi kind) under duress, for a class I’m taking. But it’s nice that the kids here learn it, too. I actually came to appreciate the elementary school music classes I took after moving here, because they taught us all sorts of folk songs and songs from America’s history, which I think is kind of neat…

  3. When I was in grade 6 and 7 in Canada, we had singing time first thing in the morning every day. The teacher would play her guitar and we’d all sing – or lip sync. Some of the songs were old traditional songs (ie. Froggie Went a Courtin’), some of them were from the 60s (ie. Circle Game) and some were sort of both (Scarborough Fair) and every once in a while we would sing a song our teacher had written herself. She had a whole roster of originals on anti-war themes for Remembrance Day in November. The prints were just typed, copied sheets and often they didn’t have any credits included. A lot of us kids were under the impression that our teacher had written “Blowin in the Wind” because it “seemed like something she would write” and were shocked years later when we happened to find out that it was a Bob Dylan song.

  4. @ Jean–Japanese learn the “fixed Do systerm” like they do in Europe, in America (and it looks like Canada too) learn the “moveable Do system.” I don’t know why.

    @ Gaijin Mama–you should look up Evelyn Glennie:
    She is one of my favorite musicians, an absolute genius percussionist, and I was shocked to find out that she’s deaf. There’s an essay by her about it in the Wiki site.

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