The Real Reason Minnesota Kids Were Taught to Play the Recorder
Think back to elementary school music class. You were learning basic notes, singing songs, and then one year every kid in the class was handed a plastic recorder and you all learned "Hot Cross Buns". And then our poor parents had to sit through an ear-piercing spring concert of us showing off our sick recorder skills. I just winced typing that sentence.
Why was that required learning?! What was the education system preparing us for by teaching us to play those spit-filled plastic tubes?
In an interview with NPR, Curious City's Valerie DePriest gave some context as to generations of kids learning to play this instrument:
The recorder came into the public schools during a confluence of events in the 1950s. There was a revival of interest in music of the Baroque period in the U.S. that led to the creation of the American Recorder Society in the early '60s.
The American Recorder Society is still a thing in 2021. They are a non-profit membership organization that promotes the pleasures of recorder playing and have been around for over 80 years. But why were they so heavily used in schools?
Recorders are inexpensive to make, and well-tuned. For those reasons alone, schools could cheaply teach kids how to play an instrument that could be a launching pad for other instrument learning down the road. The small size is also perfect for children's hands, and it is far more portable than things like pianos, which is another popular "first instrument".
Another article on the subject detailed that we are taught to play the recorder as kids because it doesn't require a lot of technical skill. Kids can get a decent noise out of the instrument with just their breath, and it promotes learning through experimentation.
So we weren't taught it to summon some sort of dark energy like I suspected. That's probably a good thing. Now to go dig through the tote of stuff my mom kept from my childhood to see if I still have my bright purple recorder from 3rd grade. I'll bet anything I can still play "Mary Had a Little Lamb".
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