“I’m not talented at music”, “I don’t know anything about music”, “I’m tone deaf”. These are all things I hear so much from adults including parents of my students. I can predict that many of my posts are going to start with this similar theme. To all parents I say “everyone can learn”. I am 100% sure of this. The reason you might be saying these things is because you don’t know (or your parent’s didn’t know) how simple the formula is to be able to sing, play an instrument, dance and not feel intimidated by any aspect of music making or listening. Give your kids a chance – don’t let them also end up saying these things.
So, with this in mind I suggest as a step one – get involved in an early education music class, do what the instructor tells you to do and stick with it. There are so many options for early childhood music classes. I’m working on a post that will compare the major ones but until my research is complete I thought I would review the one we are enrolled in now, Music Together. It will be hard to find an easier or more impactful way to go than this method.
Each week we go to the class on Sunday morning and I genuinely look forward to it. Evan also loves it. I’m pretty sure he likes the music but he for sure loves the running around! Each location is different but ours in held in a karate studio so there is a big squishy floor space for the kids to run around before and after and sometimes during the class.
This is for babies and up but mostly for kids younger than school age. Home listening CD’s and uploads are included in the fees. You are expected to listen to the songs outside class then come each week and participate in the class where the instructor leads. Each song is accompanied with props that aid in engagement, cognitive learning and the development of rhythm and pitch.
The songs are mostly unique to Music Together but the listening does include traditional children’s songs. I like that the songs are inspired by a mix of cultural backgrounds (for example, eastern and western influenced scale patterns and keys), they have interactive breaks where the listener is expected to copy what they hear and I really love that they have a strong lean toward the rhythmic development side.
I also like that the class is not super age specific so you can bring siblings and there’s no problem. For parents of multiple children it is hard to find an activity where everyone is welcome. Adding to that, both parents can participate. There is no restriction of a one parent to one child ratio that I have seen elsewhere.
The Up’s and Down’s
I love that Music Together has reading books that line up with the music. What a great concept! I actually forgot about this though and realized that a little more pushing or promotion from the instructor would actually be a welcome thing. We all need reminders hear and there.
This brings me to the fact that, as with any education, the amazingness of your class is dependent on your teacher. But with Music Together it is also reliant on parent participation. The Suzuki Method (a method of learning an instrument that starts with the child playing by ear) has the same requirement of home listening and because I’m a Suzuki teacher I know the importance of this. A child cannot learn to play by ear without hearing the music a lot first. The same applies to Music Together or learning to enjoy anything in life, for that matter. For most things you have to hear or do something many times before you like it. In this class the child is learning the songs but the parents are learning the songs too. These songs are new to everyone so if the listening is not happening at home, the parents don’t sing therefore the kids don’t sing and the only person left singing is the teacher. I have not divulged to anyone in the class that I am a professional musician but maybe it’s obvious since many times it’s just me and the instructor singing alone – or if my friend is there (wife of a professional musician, it’s the three of us!). Is it any wonder that Evan is one of the youngest but is starting to sing along? It’s not rocket science, he’s simply listening more than the other kids. When we are listening in the car I am singing along. During the copy-cat sections I am coping what I am hearing. As I am trained to think, learning music is the same as learning a language. You (parent) and your child have to hear something many, many times before you can speak it or sing it or play it.
As Suzuki teachers we are constantly, lightly mentioning the importance of the listening to the parents of our students. I find myself wishing our very lovely teacher would emphasize the importance of the home listening more (and perhaps a reminder that there are cool products like story books to make the listening even more fun!). I think it’s fair to assume that all the parents of the kids in this age group are strung out! Perhaps the teacher is not wanting to turn them off. But the goal here is to get the children immersed in a musical environment and developing their brains. I think a subtle reflection on this and soft suggestions each week would go a long way – for our class anyway. I’d like a little more vocal company – I don’t have that great a singing voice!
The good news is if you start with this, you are on your way!
The path is like this:
Listening => Singing => Playing
The child sees:
Listening Parent = Listening Child
Singing Parent = Singing Child
Participating Parent = Participating Child