Why bother to blog? Why about children’s music education? How can a child be learning music if he/she isn’t walking or talking yet? Well…just like any language: by observing! The general misunderstanding about what early childhood music education should look like prompted this blog and if even a few of you get involved with music as a family, then I’ll consider it a success!
Titled A Guide to Music Education in Early Childhood, my graduate project was designed to serve as a guide for families and caregivers to gain a better understanding of the most impressionable periods of learning in the first years of life and how to support a child’s music development during this time. Why is this necessary? Why does this matter to me?
I WAS THAT PARENT IN CLASS WONDERING WHAT THE POINT WAS! Many enter this field of teaching with experience in early childhood education or as a performing musician looking for more work. I was just a parent of a one-year-old, in the suburbs, wanting something creative and educational for my son to do! And, as a single parent, something I could pay the bills with would be even better. With my choral, dance and musical theater experience, I was excited to hear of a children’s program called Music Together® and the opportunities it could provide for me as a working mom and for the community. When I began teaching the program, I immediately found myself eager to learn more about the philosophies behind this playful, even silly “curriculum”.
Enthusiastic moms were thrilled to join me weekly to sing songs, play percussion instruments along with recordings, and wave scarves in the air. Yet when it came to explaining why these activities were important, I felt at a loss. When asked why they joined the program, the most common answer from parents was (and still is) that they were looking for something to do with their child. I observed children learning to sing in tune, keep a beat, and demonstrate their creativity and independence in music-making while many others their age couldn’t. I watched friendships blossom, social and language skills develop that seemed much more advanced than usual, and I wanted to understand more about the music development that was occurring so that I could share the benefits with the parents.
The desire to further my training in music prompted me to attend the University of California at Davis and study music with an emphasis in vocal performance. I chose the vocal performance emphasis because I thought if all these parents and children had to listen to me sing each week, it should be as good as it could be! And when studying music and voice specifically, I realized that Music Together® included core components to vocal and general music learning at the college level! Just in a playful way…
Play-based learning was what I needed a better understanding of…so I worked hard to be playful again. Realizing that the silliness and play was getting the attention of the children and also keeping the parents relaxed and enjoying the classes, I was inspired to focus on early childhood education…understanding how children learn. PLAY IS KEY!
Each day, week and quarter were filled with “aha!” moments as I discovered that many of the vocal and rhythmic components in the Music Together® curriculum I had been teaching were being taught on the collegiate level to music students. I was thrilled to teach infants and toddlers by modeling with their parents. Private instruction is the “norm” for teaching music…it’s what’s expected. Yet I challenge you to consider the learning that takes place when children are surrounded by a community of children and adults all making music together….singing harmony, playing rhythmically, layering sounds and HAPPILY creating together. Experiencing adult models and experimenting with music in a comfortable, playful setting is the most conducive setting for learning music in the early years.
Music instructors are looking for certain musical competence when children begin lessons: they want children to be able to keep a beat, sing in tune, and have musicality! All of these pre-cursors can be learned with continuous, frequent exposure to live music making from infancy.
Upon completion of the M.A. in Music Education, I knew what components to look for in high-quality music programs. And we were doing it! Music Together® has it covered. Singing! Movement! Playing! Together! As with language, children learn music by enculturation…being immersed in it. And since live music making as a family isn’t necessarily a societal norm here, we have a program to help. It is my hope that parents, caregivers, and anyone who loves sharing music with little ones are able to gain some insight into the unique and magical approach for early childhood music learning.