So You’re a New Primary Music Leader
“Music is of enormous importance in our worship services. I believe that those who choose, conduct, present, and accompany the music may influence the spirit of reverence in our meeting more than a speaker does. God bless them.”
Boyd K. Packer, October 1991, General Conference.
Remember to Follow the Handbook! Follow the Handbook! Follow the Handbook! Don’t go astray. Follow the Handbook! Follow the Handbook! Follow the Handbook! It knows the way!
“Music in Primary should create a reverent atmosphere, teach the gospel, and help children feel the Spirit of the Lord and the joy that comes through singing. The Children’s Songbook is the basic resource for Primary music. Hymns from the hymnbook and songs from the Friend are also appropriate. Occasionally, patriotic or holiday songs that are suitable for Sunday and for the children’s ages are also appropriate. The use of any other music in Primary should be approved by local priesthood leaders.” (Handbook of Instructions, Book 2 Section 5, p. 236)
“In selecting music… music leaders consider the feeling they want the songs to create. They choose songs that are familiar to the children…They also recognize birthdays and baptisms by having the children sing an appropriate song.” (Handbook of Instructions, Book 2 Section 5, p. 236)
The handbook says, Primary leaders, teachers, and children should strive to create a reverent atmosphere.! Keep this in mind, but also remember that you can have fun and still be reverent.
Don’t feel like you have to race to teach the Sacrament Meeting Presentation songs at the first of the year. Teach them as you go through the themes, as suggested by the 2007 outline. Savor the meanings of the songs. Help the children understand the words so they can remember the messages when they need them. We want the children to recognize when they feel the Spirit. Don’t forget to use songs they already know to reinforce concepts. We are teaching the gospel, not a list of songs.
Keep the visual aids clean looking and easy to follow. While visual teaching helps keep the attention of the children, it can remain simple and it does not require artistry. Be sure that your visuals do not confuse message of the song.
Make sure that the visual aids you use are in harmony with gospel teachings. A good idea is to use pictures from: The Gospel Art Kit, The Friend (Ensign, Liahona, or The New Era), Primary manuals, and/or from www.lds.org/newsroom. The pictures contained at these places are all approved by Church Headquarters.
Teaching a Song to Children
Children learn to sing a song by hearing it sung many times. Involve the children by asking questions about the song that will challenge their thinking. A leader should keep two steps in mind when teaching a song to children:
1. Know the song. Before you can teach a song effectively, you must know the song yourself.
Become familiar with the words and melody.
Notice parts that will make the song easier or more difficult to learn. Ask yourself how you might use the scripture references at the end of the song when teaching it. Look for keywords, rhyming words, and hard to understand words.
2. Make a plan. Ask yourself:
- a. How can I capture the children’s attention? (Perhaps with an object, a picture, a scripture, an experience, or simply a whisper.)
- b. What questions can I ask that will encourage the children to listen to the song? (Ask questions that help the children understand the gospel message— for example, What? Where? Who? When? Why? State the questions in such a way that children can discover the answer as you sing the song.)
- c. How can I encourage the children to sing the song? (Invite the children to sing the phrases that answer the questions. Vary the tempo and the volume to add meaning. Ask the children to listen to their singing without accompaniment. Expect the children to sit tall and to watch you carefully.)
- d. What testimony can I leave with the children that will strengthen them? (Bear your personal testimony, or read testimonies recorded in the scriptures.)
Adding Variety to Singing
Some children learn by listening, some by seeing, some by memorization, some by moving their bodies. We need to do our best to use all of these teaching styles. The following is a list from the 2005 Outline for the Children’s Sacrament Meeting Presentation. Of course, not all ideas will be used for music, but they all add variety.
- Activity Verses
- Application Techniques
- Attention Activities
- Audiovisual Materials
- Buzz Sessions
- Case Studies
- Choral Readings
- Comparisons and Object Lessons
- Drawing Activities
- Flannel Boards
- Guest Speakers
- Music with Narratives
- Overhead Projectors
- Panel Discussions
- Paper Stand-Up Figures
- Readers’ Theaters
- Role Playing
- Roller Boxes
- Work Sheets and Activity Sheets
- Teach songs with suggested actions or have the children help you improvise actions.
- Assign small groups to sing different sections or verses. (Have a child sing a solo or ask a group of children to sing.)
- Use songs that have two parts to sing together or optional parts such as descants, ostinatos, and obbligatos. This can challenge children and allow them to experience harmony.
- Arrange a medley of two or more songs that have similar messages or that tell one story.
Working with pianists
It’s helpful to the pianists to know (in advance) what songs will be sung on Sunday. Give the
pianist a list with page numbers in case practice is necessary. It helps keep reverence if
everyone can follow along and can be ready when it’s time for the children to sing.
You don’t know where your influence will end. Enjoy your calling and have fun!
Everything I Need to Know…
I Am a Child of God, I Lived in Heaven,
I Know My Father Lives, I Need My Heavenly Father,
Reverence is Love, He Sent His Son,
Jesus Once Was A Little Child,
Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam, Jesus Has Risen,
I Feel My Savior’s Love, I’m Trying to be Like Jesus,
An Angel Came to Joseph Smith, I’ll Follow Him in Faith,
The Priesthood is Restored, Seek the Lord Early,
Follow the Prophet, Love One Another,
Kindness Begins With Me, Keep the Commandments,
I Want to Live the Gospel, I Believe in Being Honest,
I Want to Give the Lord My Tenth,
Choose the Right Way, I Will Follow God’s Plan,
I Hope They Call Me on a Mission,
We’ll Bring the World His Truth,
Families Can Be Together Forever,
I Love to See the Temple, Love is Spoken Here,
When We’re Helping We’re Happy,
We Are Different, I Have Two Little Hands,
Pioneer Children Sang as They Walked,
My Heavenly Father Loves Me
…I Learned From Primary Music