Why Music?-Hope Academy of the Bronx

Tom and Charleen Bridgman graciously offered to drive me along with my violin and harp to Hope Academy in the Bronx so I could present some musical instrument demonstrations to the Scholars.  Tom and Charleen are friends of Bob and Jeannie Hall who visited Grace Church last summer, when Bob gave the message and Naomi Woodmansee the school principal gave a presentation on the Academy.

There were two classes of 40-minutes each: one for nine 5th and 6th graders and one for seven 7th and 8th graders. My classes were based on the following plan, but changed as necessary to meet the direction the Scholars’ interest took.

  1. Music and you.

I started by asking the scholars why they like music. Which music do you like? Why do you like music? They filled me in on their thoughts: Music makes me sad and happy; it’s relaxing; it’s inspiring.

I shared why I like music:

-It’s fun to learn, especially when you can tell you’re making progress.

-After you learn, it’s fun to play rather than just listen – like playing a sport rather than just watching it!

-Music provides opportunities: If you learn to read music, you can play in an ensemble. You can meet great people who also play. You can help others with music!

  1. God tells us to use Music to praise Him

The Psalms tell us to use music for praising the Lord.  The Scholars read out some passages from the Psalms that mention musical instruments (Psalms 57:8, 71:22, 81: 1-3, 92:1– 4, 150), and we made a list of the instruments, which fell into four categories:

Strings: Lute (similar to a guitar), harp, instrument of ten strings, Psaltery (12 strings), lyre (like a harp) Winds: Trumpet, flute Percussion: timbrel (a small hand-drum) Human: Voice and dance

I showed the Scholars pictures of what the ancient Biblical instruments of 3000 years ago may have looked like.   There is an excellent collection of them in the Potsdam (N.Y.) Public Museum. These designs have been modernized for the instruments of today, as you can see from my violin and harp.

  1. Some properties of Sound

3.1 Resonance. Sound has vibration. The frequency of the vibration determines the pitch of the sound. Sounds of slower frequency are lower than sounds of higher frequency.  This frequency is measured in hertz (Hz). The normal vibrational speed of an item is called its resonant frequency.

The note A above middle C vibrates at 440 Hz. The normal hearing range for humans is between 20 and 20,000 Hz. Some animals can hear outside that range.

Things with the same frequency of vibrations resonate with each other.  This is called sympathetic vibration. Let’s see if the violin and harp will talk to each other! The scholars took turns sitting behind the harp and listening to the sound box when I played an A on my violin. They could hear the same note vibrating within the harp’s sound box. The same thing happened if you sang a note to the harp. The singer’s note resonates on the harp.

3.2 Entrainment is the changing of one resonant frequency by a stronger one. An increase in pulse rate can be caused by the tempo of fast music. Calming music might decrease the pulse rate.

(Information in this section is from:  The Power of Sound by Joshua Leeds.)

    1. Use of music to influence the human body.

4.1 Music can also be used to cheer up people! A Scholar read 1 Samuel 16:23. And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand.  Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.    

4.2 If you study an instrument, you might consider going into musical therapy. Music can be used to influence such things as: blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.  It can decrease muscular tension and improve body movement and coordination. It can foster a sense of safety and well-being, and sharpen mental focus.

4.3 Music also revives feelings and memories.  Several Scholars said they had had experienced that with a particular song. Also, people may be able to sing when they can no longer talk because singing and speech are controlled by different places in the brain. That makes music useful for therapy with older people.  I suggested they might try this with some of their older relatives, finding out what songs they would have listened to when they were young and perhaps singing those songs to their relatives.

  1. Violin demo. The violin is a beautiful-looking instrument but much of its design is dictated by ergonomics and how it can produce sound. For example, the cutout sections on the sides of the violin allow the bow to fit close to the instrument.  The f-holes on the front of the violin allow the sound to reverberate from within the instrument.  A Scholar covered the holes with her hands and the sound of the violin changed to a whisper. The wooden peg inside the violin that connects the top and bottom is also necessary for the instrument to make a resonant sound. The violin does not have frets like a guitar.
  2. Harp demo. Based on 1 Samuel 16:23.

Scholars took turns playing the harp.  They were told to visualize themselves as David playing music to calm King Saul. I played some quiet violin music to accompany them.

Some Stringed Instruments of Praise from the Psalms

Kinnor-Small Hebrew Harp









Kinnor-This harp is copied from a design on a Jewish coin struck 160 B.C. The Jewish Talmud declares that King David hung above his bed a Kinnor of gold, that night winds passing over its strings made soft aeolian music.










Nebel – large harp. Believed to have been the chief instrument accompanying the Psalms in the Temple Service in Jerusalem. It is mentioned many times in the Bible.










Psaltery-This wooden triangular-shaped instrument is a descendant of a Hebrew instrument


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