6 ways Mister Rogers influenced music education

Fred Rogers hosted 895 episodes of 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' over 31 seasons.Getty Images

November 22, 2019

You might know that Fred Rogers majored in music composition at Rollins College and that he wrote many of the songs featured in his long-running public television program. You may even know that the opening notes of "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" were inspired by a Beethoven sonata. But did you know that the structure of the show itself was based on a musical form?

"Fred said music was the heartbeat of it all. The program has a musical grid. He even composed the script in sonata form," says Faulkner University music professor Art Williams in a recent article on the website Cued In.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was "probably the largest music appreciation classroom there's ever been," he says.

The show inspired Williams to study music as a child. It left such a lasting impression that he even completed a dissertation at Indiana University examining Fred Rogers' methods of music education. His study identified six key areas in which Mister Rogers' Neighborhood promoted music education:

1. Original Compositions — Rogers composed more than 200 songs for the show. He worked closely with child psychologist Dr. Margaret McFarland to craft lyrics and melodies specifically for young listeners.

2. Music Underscore — The program's jazz-inflected music was designed to be "a character of its own," Williams says, and unlike anything else children might have heard on television at the time.

3. Opera Production — Children were able to view the collaborative process involved in producing thirteen original operas on the show.

4. Musical Guests — Rogers invited a range of guests onto his show for conversation and performance. Visiting musicians included Yo-Yo Ma, Hilary Hahn, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis and many more.

5. Music Lessons — The show featured many segments in which Rogers visits a music shop for lessons, learns how instruments are made, or explains the basics of staff notation.

6. Musical Messages — Through his conversations with children about music and his choice of musical decorations around the set, Rogers sought to promote positive attitudes about music throughout the entire run of his show.

Read more about the impact of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on music education on the Cued In website, and watch a special music-themed episode below.


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