Music belongs to human beings 

More people than ever enjoy music today, yet little money is allocated to culture. Certainly orchestras are getting squeezed because of this. As traditional audiences begin to fall away, the question of what it means to be an orchestra becomes increasingly important.  

"You have to appeal to a wider audience and you have a social mission, including education."

- Ruth van de Putte

Was drawn Ruth van de Putte, music education expert. 'Orchestras have had an educator for some time, but you see that this has become increasingly serious. And that is a necessity, because music education in the Netherlands is waning. Professional musicians understand better than anyone else the social, cultural and aesthetic importance of practicing music, and are increasingly armed with a didactic endorsement. In that respect, there really has been a great development in giving orchestras an educational function as well.' 

That orchestras are now getting involved in this is an important development, according to Van de Putte. 'It is obvious to start music lessons at as young an age as possible, but at the pabo future teachers receive hardly any musical training. It used to be very common to play an instrument. For example, children received recorder lessons in elementary school or sang in church, but today this is no longer the case. As a result, the threshold for many group teachers to make music in the classroom is also very high.

At the same time, however, more people than ever are enjoying music. 'It plays a huge role in people's lives,' says Van de Putte. 'Music simply belongs to human beings; experiencing its beauty is of the utmost importance in life. Because it gives color, confers meaning and provides meaning in life. Also, the call for connection is tremendously strong and one really finds it in the performing arts and especially music. Music helps show emotions, find comfort, it provides comfort. Everyone has something to do with music, even soccer fans unite in the stadium by singing together.'

And that is also what makes it such a shame that making music for children is no longer the norm. 'It is such a shame that in politics it is seen as a hobby or an extra. Because music offers so much. So the fact that music education is now often only reserved for children of rich parents is incomprehensible to me.'

From group five to group eight, children at a number of schools in The Hague are taught an instrument. 'However, in the past the children were often not asked what they actually wanted and a large number of them stopped before the end of their elementary school years,' says Van de Putte. 'We then invested tremendously in finding the right, driven teachers who can set the right atmosphere in the classroom. Teachers who can create a safe learning climate and who are actually interested in the student. We really wanted to create a bond between the kids, the teachers and the music.'

"We really wanted to create bonding between the kids, the teachers and the music."

- Ruth van de Putte

And that made a huge difference, Van de Putte noticed. 'The children all play an instrument that they themselves think is cool and that they really want to play. We also put a lot of effort into playing together. Children learn a lot from that, but it also makes them part of a group. This has had a phenomenal effect and children now want to continue playing together even after primary education . We noticed the same thing in the corona days. At that time we insisted that music education would continue and schools were very happy with that. A lot of children were out of the picture, but precisely because of the music lessons we were able to reach them. In those days it was very familiar to the children that the teacher would come by at home to change a string, or to play a concert with classmates in the street. Music heals and really is of enormous importance to the well-being of many children. Especially in the past year, we have needed it badly.

Text: Marjon Kruize
Originally published in "Analysis," a supplement to the Algemeen Dagblad on Dec. 7, 2021.  

The Residents makes it possible!
Music is an outlet for children and is also the instrument for connecting cultures. We want to give as many children as possible the opportunity to experience the power of music.