I think Zoltán Kodály had it right. Kids should learn to sing (unaccompanied) before
anything else. In learning to sing, they connect with music in a physical experience and tune their ears to the wide variety of intervals necessary to make great music.
Singing feels good. Mix in some movement to help with rhythms and any kid, regardless of socioeconomic status, can learn music – a lot of music.
Based on what I’ve seen in my neighborhood schools, we don’t do that.
If I were to teach music, I think I’d start first with teaching the kids to hear basic intervals. I’d teach them to sing using solfeg (movable do). And I’d teach them all of that while using positive song lyrics – words that I’d want etched into their souls.
Here’s an example of a song with positive lyrics (focus on the chorus). Had we more time (this was done in three short 1.5-hour volunteer sessions), it might have been cool to work on learning some intervals and movable do type lessons. At a minimum, they’ll have learned something positive about being themselves.