Music as a Tool for Storytelling

August 11, 2017

Contributed by Elizabeth Draper, Music Director for Cantata Learning

Since the advent of humankind, in all corners of the world, people have told stories. Storytelling helps us to make sense of our world. It is a tool for teaching as well as a means of enjoyment and entertainment. Storytelling is a way to share and interpret experiences. It is used to document history and even explain our own creation and existence.

Music and storytelling go hand in hand in many cultures. Take for example the European Bards, or the Griots of Western Africa, Hawaiian Hula dancing, and folk musicians from around the world. Even American-born hip-hop incorporates storytelling. And, let’s not overlook that Bob Dylan just won the Noble prize in literature on account of his ability to tell stories through his song lyrics!

Music is an effective way to convey and recall ideas. When listeners are engaged in both listening and singing they are activating the whole left/right brain connection. Songs often make useful mnemonic devices, and musical memory is special because it is generally structured differently from other forms of recall.

One of the most common places in our culture to be immersed in storytelling is the library. Cantata Learning’s new Fall series topics include fire safety, holidays (including a song about Diwali—which is one of my favorites!), the water cycle, and even drawing.

However, a classroom favorite will surely be the Library Skills series. Well-loved librarian Shannon McClintock Miller teamed up with musician Emily Arrow to create a charming series of stories about the library. Adults and kids alike are sure to enjoy Emily’s Kindie-folk-pop sensibilities. A title that really stands out to me in this series is Fiction or NonFiction. Once you hear Emily’s catchy melody, you will never forget which is which!

Speaking of mnemonic devices…

Fiction or nonfiction,
how do you know which to choose?
Fiction is make-believe.
Nonfiction is true.

Let Cantata’s books guide you in incorporating music with your storytelling this season!