In the Queensland Curriculum, the content of the music syllabus includes the study of the people, places and cultures involved in musical creation and performance. As our country becomes increasingly diverse, it is important for students in every school setting to study a wide variety of musical styles, cultures and genres. The Toowoomba Grammar School Music program of 2022 embraces this holistic approach to the study of music, encouraging teachers and students to explore a variety of musical styles and music-making traditions from around the world. There is a real need for music education programs in our nation’s schools to be inclusive of a variety of music-making traditions and opportunities. Toowoomba Grammar School continues to respond to these needs.

There are certainly social benefits to becoming a more diverse connoisseur of music. For example, young men will be very well prepared to recommend music to other people and better able to select suitable music for any occasion. However, it is particularly fascinating to find that different types of music feed our brains in different ways. Listening to a diverse array of music doesn’t just help us broaden our tastes; each genre has unique benefits to offer. The thought is that we use different parts of our brain when we’re listening to different genres of music. Therefore, in order to facilitate the full use of our brain in music, we need exposure to a full range of musical styles.

Pop (popular) music and rock music are associated with higher levels of endurance and spurts of energy, possibly because of their usual upbeat nature. This makes it an excellent choice for your workout playlists – it may literally help you run the extra mile. However, there’s a secondary benefit to taking in pop music. As a genre defined by the fact that everyone’s tuning in, pop music can serve as a means of connection for us all—the accessibility of the lyrics and the memorable nature of its melodies can give even strangers something in common to discuss.

The stories told through rap songs are often ones of hard work and personal transformation, which has led many to believe that listening to rap and hip-hop can help those experiencing depression. According to research from Cambridge University’s Department of Psychology, rap music, “with its rags-to-riches narrative trajectories, displays ‘positive visual imagery’, a psychotherapeutic technique common among sports stars, in which one envisages the place where one would like to be, so as to facilitate one’s progression to a better mental place.”

Additionally, because of the intricate beats and often intense word counts relative to other genres of music, rap songs often include incredibly clever wordplay—which can make the genre a great creative resource for poets and authors. A highly recommended starting point to the genre is the Hamilton soundtrack. In addition to being a Broadway sensation, Hamilton has got hip-hop, jazz and rap—and it’s eminently accessible, making it a great gateway to enjoying genres of music that you might not have previously turned to.

The classical genre is a wide field which contains in itself an incredibly broad spectrum of music. Some pieces may suggest a sense of calm, whereas others can evoke the complete opposite. The strength of orchestral music – what we often think of as “classical” – involves telling a story, oftentimes without using words (program music). Classical music, due to its most famous composers, is a genre that often suggests music from the past. However, classical music is also a genre thriving in modernity, with composers such as Unsuk Chin and Edward W. Hardy continuing to compose exciting and new works. There are also applications for classical music that are very practical. For teenage boys, studies have indicated that listening to classical music in traffic reduces road rage. Hot tip for seniors: just set the radio in your car to your classical station and forget it. It’s mindless classiness.

While jazz music was the predominant genre of popular music throughout the early 20th century, for a while, this genre was relegated to elevator music. However, it is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity. This is good news for your brain, as music with a more mellow tempo (of about 60 bpm) is associated with a feeling of calmness and relaxation. Many classic jazz songs run at that more relaxing clip, providing a great incentive to slow down and take a journey through popular songs of the past. Jazz is also regularly fused with musical elements of other genres, making it a fantastic vehicle for musical learning.

Heavy metal and associated genres – which include screamo, punk, and other extreme styles of singing – often get a bad rap, but studies have shown that listening to this music is associated with enhanced positive emotions. Not only that, the technical aspects of learning how to play heavy metal are often described as being similar to learning classical music.

TGS students who engage in both the curricular and co-curricular aspects of the School music program have ample opportunity to experience these various genres and more. The String Ensemble, Orchestra and Wind Orchestra incorporate classical music and program music; The Big Band helps students to get their heads around jazz; RnB and RnB Too expose students to performing popular soul and rock music; The Grammarphones and choirs perform a range of traditional cultural and folk music amongst many other things; and our guitar ensemble allows students of this less “traditional” instrument to gather and play together.

Students in our classroom music programs have opportunities to compose and perform in any style they wish, including heavy metal and rap if they wish. There is even a Year 8 music unit that focuses on electronic music and fusing it with elements of Indigenous Australian music. The Year 7s have a unit of work which focuses on getting them to play sections of rock songs together.

When Toowoomba Grammar School students look to listen to music or are in need of a mood shift, they have a musical education to draw from that allows them to select their musical ambience with a bit more intent. When opened to a world of diverse music, students are set with a dizzying array of options to really help set a mood. With an expanded library of music to choose from, students can decide if their morning is to be upbeat or moody. They can decide if their next party leans classy or casual. Appreciating a wide selection of music gives people more options as well as exercises their brains. Make your musical diet as healthy and varied as the wide world around us – we may all just be a little happier for it.

- Mr Mark Chalmers
TGS Director of Performance

The TGS String Ensemble

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