Oakridge Music School students playing classical and jazz piano and singing live at Starbucks and special venues.

The Importance of Learning Classical & Jazz

Musicians Can Be Bilingual Too!

The average person considers music to be a singular language. It is one of the oldest vehicles of communication, capable of expressing emotion and often having a profound effect on its listeners. However, the ability to appreciate music in its multiple forms is often ignored. We agree that bilingual people have an advantage over those who only know one language. In October 2001, the Juilliard School of Music, renowned for its unparalleled classical instructors and performers, added jazz to its academic curriculum. The world's finest music institution is only one of a growing number of supporters backing a combined education in both classical and jazz for children and young musicians.

To express oneself in any language, one must first understand the language phonetically (learning by ear) before learning to read and write. To read and write a language, one must be familiar with its structure. In parallel, someone foreign to a language may have a more structured and scientific understanding than a native speaker. As a child, I was always fascinated when my uncle, a doctor of linguistics, would ask me, "How do you say that in English?" He was asking how to express the language colloquially and with English as my first language, it was natural to me.

Children learn foreign languages naturally by ear. On the other hand, adults tend to learn languages logically and methodically, referring back to their native language for comparison. It is obvious which method is easier; if one is brought up in a specific culture, it is easier to learn that culture's language via naturally rather than via studious reading. Furthermore, when one understands and grows up in their native culture, one can understand the nuances of its language. For example, English speakers have varied dialects that differ depending on geography. There are noticeable differences in dialects between people from Canada's west coast, east coast and the prairies. They all speak the same language but exhibit nuances that are inherent within their cultural structure.

Understanding music requires a similar method. Before learning to read or sight-read, one should be familiar with pitch. However, this is rarely the case in music education where the emphasis is on reading and not listening. Both classical and jazz artists employ a musical alphabet, but they use it in different ways. Jazz is a sophisticated language that is commonly overlooked in lieu of a "traditional" classical music upbringing. Growing up as the only Korean children in school, my sister and I were told by our Grade 1 teacher not to speak Korean at home, supposedly as it would confuse our understanding of English. Nevertheless, our father spoke English to us, and our mother spoke Korean. As a result, we can both understand Korean but not speak the language. This example demonstrates why I firmly believe children must learn both musical languages – that is, jazz and classical.

(Oakridge Music Studios)
music lesson location:
497 West 40th Avenue
Vancouver, British Columbia
V5Y 2R5
(604) 321-1551 - OMusicStudios phone number
(604) 323-1555 - fax number