Children’s Music Education Digs Deeper with Music and the Brain

One of the highlights of Nashville’s TEDx conference of couple weeks ago was a presentation from Music and the Brain Director Lisha Lercari, who focused on music education. Lercari, whose career began as a music teacher, started her work with Music and the Brain in 1997, when the program launched as a pilot at a school in Harlem. In the subsequent years, the program has expanded to cities including New Orleans, Chicago, and Philadelphia and internationally to Chile, France, and Israel, and has educated over 500,000 students.

“They read music from the first day,” Lercari says of the students before her talk at TEDxNashville, during which she taught the audience basic music theory in a matter of minutes. “It’s amazing,” she continues. “[It’s] because they want to and because it’s fun.”

The Music and the Brain program focuses on teaching kids to listen carefully and learn, skills that translate to other areas of study as well. It’s a program that’s seen such success that many New York City schools have added second and even third music teachers. The program, which currently targets 3-5 year olds, is a comprehensive approach: students will study, say, a Japanese song by discussing Japan and finding it on a map, talking through the Japanese words, and singing through the song and its repeats and eighth notes before they ever go to play it.

“What I tried to do was design materials and a curriculum that would be really easy for a teacher to use so that they could require a lot of their kids and keep the bar really high, but be given the tools to do it,” Lercari shared before she took the stage to give her talk at TEDxNashville. “If you give [students] a songbook with five songs in it, they’re gonna learn five songs in a year. Our book now, we’re up to 38 songs.”

It’s a program that they’ve revised continually over the past two decades, reflecting the students’ seemingly limitless aptitude. “One of the biggest things was understanding how much these children could do, how young, and then watching it happen,” she says. 

For more on Music and the Brain, visit their website.