The capacity of music to help build community is widely understood and well documented. Reaching back into collective memory as far as the Temple period, Psalm 150 describes the ability of different musical instruments to help us praise God and use everything available to us, including our own breath, to do so. The psalm emphasizes the joy of music for both individual and communal praise. It stands out amongst the psalms for its inclusive power and purpose.
I have had the unique pleasure and privilege of co-leading a number of musical ventures shaped by the Music by Heart curriculum and its creator, Lior Ben Hur. I have also had the opportunity to see its gains and efficacy as a parent. I can say both professionally and personally that this program gives students the confidence to explore music with an authentic curiosity and appreciation for its power and their own. From Kindergarten onwards, students are encouraged to explore pedagogically appropriate musical forms – rhythmic drumming, singing, to xylophones and more complex percussion, basic strings, chord progressions, working as a band, right through to music theory, composition, and songwriting. Each of these emerging skills are applied every year to a class performance and several other community ventures throughout the year. Music becomes a tool for every student to lead and succeed, regardless of singular musical interest. They know that these skills, while strengthening their own skill set, are going to be applied readily in real time, in their world with their hands.
Music by Heart is a comprehensive K-8 Music Curriculum that brings the authenticity of the community, its members, and their talents to the fore. The approach seamlessly melds together California State Standards with an emphasis on using tools and talents for the purposes of building community, and community leaders. What this curriculum offers above and beyond most is its distinct emphasis on a diversity of different skills, to reach every single student in the classroom, and gear them towards applying those skills not just for musical purposes, but for applications in their Jewish and wider communities as well.