Musical Intelligence

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences captivates me. During my work on my CBA portfolio I was thrilled to have the opportunity to research and write a paper on this fascinating theory.  Had this theory been around when I was a child I imagine people would have said that I excelled in musical and naturalistic intelligences – but they would have been wrong.

Music in particular is very difficult for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed many years of piano lessons and hours of daily practice.  I sang in youth group and church choirs.  I played the flute in the school band and as a duet with my mother at the piano.  I played the piano to accompany a good friend – who was a phenomenal singer – as she competed in numerous talent competitions.  I distinctly remember receiving many positive comments and praise for my musical accomplishments but, I have a confession….I do not really comprehend musical concepts.

I have absolutely no sense of rhythm.  I cannot dance or even clap along with the beat. In a group – I’m the one looking around and trying desperately to coordinate my actions to the movements of everyone else.  I can read music and with much practice I can usually play what is written but if it isn’t written on the paper I cannot make it up.

No, I am definitely not musically inclined but, I love music.  Music, and nature fuel my true intelligence – intrapersonal intelligence – self reflection and understanding of my own strengths, weaknesses and emotions.  It is through solitary exploration of music and nature that I can begin to understand me and where I fit in the world.  My likes and dislikes and how I truly feel.

It is not the ‘performance’ of music that I enjoy it is the practice – the hours of private perseverance it takes to learn something that initially makes little sense to me.  Like nature, music instils a sense of awe and wonder that drives my desire to learn.  Performing for an audience is stressful, overwhelming – the emphasis is on playing a piece ‘correctly’ as it is written – the way others expect it to be.  Only when I am alone, practicing, do I truly ‘play’ and enjoy music.

I am inspired and amazed by others who can create or modify a piece of music with seemingly little effort.  My son is one of those people.  He uses printed music but doesn’t rely on it the way I do.  He took guitar lessons for three years and has taught himself to play the ukulele and piano too.  Handed a mandolin and a chord book he was able to play a simple song in only a few minutes.  Knowing that I have grown tired of the materialism of Christmas he decided to play a song for me instead of buying me a gift this year.  He chose to learn “The Gift”; a Garth Brooks song he knew was one of my favourites.  It was a song that he was not familiar with and had no sheet music for but he listened to a recorded version of the song until he had learned the basic melody and then he added bits and pieces to create his own arrangement.  It was beautiful.

I’m not sure if his musical abilities are a result of any special musical intelligence.  As a young child he showed no more musical interest or aptitude than any other child I knew.  However, I do believe that his musical skills flourished as a result of his intrinsic motivation to learn and the methods that were used to teach him.  He was not taught through drills and lessons that focus on right and wrong – play it the way it is written or you’ll fail the test.  But rather, have fun, make it up as you go along, try something different, experiment….play with it.

There is always music in my childcare home.  There are many instruments available for the children to use.  Sometimes there is a CD played quietly in the background – the genre varies greatly.  The children sing, dance and create music freely throughout the day. Some days are really loud and others may not describe it as music.  Sometimes there are impromptu jam sessions and the children try really hard to collaborate and cooperate.  We’ve had a few child initiated episodes of ‘Daycare Idol’ but our musical goals are always the same — be creative and have fun.  Our music is as individual as we are.

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