One of our guitar teachers, Magdalena, recently had a recital that included two songs that might be considered controversial. She sent out the following email explaining her views on picking songs appropriate for kids. We think it's a good read for students and parents of all ages. Here's what she wrote:
I wanted to make a little note about some of the songs the students have chosen and that I'll be singing with them. I always try for them to pick songs they like and want to learn, and if they are within their level I'd rather teach them the songs they like and listen to than others. They learn better when they learn songs they know, and they are more motivated to learn them.
Many of the songs I don't know before they suggest them and, being a Spanish speaker and a guitarist, I usually listen first to the music and what the guitar will be doing, and not at the lyrics. Sometimes I've realized before a recital where I was going to sing the lyrics for a particular song, and that what the song was talking about was not appropriate for the student to be singing.
The fact is that there are all sorts of things being sung about out there, and people listen to them, good or bad, inspiring or disturbing. Most times, listeners don’t even reflect on the lyrics, they just like how the songs sounds. Especially if they are young, they usually don't have a good idea of what it is that the song talks about. Many times I try to reflect with them on the lyrics, since the lyrics are delivering a message and are part of the song, of our culture, and of what people are trying to communicate. While some songs are just dumb or have an uninteresting message, many sing about love, about the search for happiness, about difficulties in life, etc. And others bring attention to darker aspects in life, social problems, violence, injustice. Groups like Green Day are often singing about things in our society they don’t like and criticizing them.
As your children’s teacher, I feel a responsibility about what I’m having them learn and what I’m personally singing. But as an artist too, I know that art and communication can’t always be only about the uplifting aspects of life, or the nice or happy ones. One of the functions of all forms of art is to express ourselves and to reflect about our world, with its good and bad things, hopefully not to inspire the bad but to reflect on them and learn from them and to try to find a good path. I wish it was always like that, but it’s true that people write songs about all kinds of things, and I think that’s also part of art. As a teacher, I’ll try to select what my students sing about to have constructive messages.