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Early Childhood Music Classes: What is their value and what is appropriate?
Photo by Eileen Molony
Dear Parents of children ages 4 1/2 - 6,
I wish to encourage your participation in the wonderful Music Makers program. Research indicates that, up to age 9, the most nurturing environment for your child’s musical growth is a group class that involves singing, ensemble playing, and dance and movement activities. Families who participate in these classes delight in the joy and enrichment this curriculum brings to their children. I love to hear, whether from our Musikgarten keyboard teachers or private piano teachers in the neighborhood, the appreciation they have for the Musikgarten children who have followed our sequential program for music literacy. They affirm the bright musicality, joy in music making, and the confidence of these children.
I genuinely value sports and the other arts; they build significant skills, teamwork, and discipline in our children. Yet in these endeavors you will not share a journey like the musical one that continues to richly and deeply nourish your relationship to your child. Every step of the way the parents and caregivers partner with the teachers and children, keeping their relationship to the music affectionate, playful, enthusiastic and connected. The songs, musical activities, stories, poetry, instrumental play, appreciation for nature and music literacy are shared and enjoyed in the context of family togetherness. Though it is a drop-off class, you participate in the last 15 minutes of the hour long class. All week long you are encouraged to share in the music making activities and discoveries.
One day your children will pursue the study of piano, or another instrument, or perhaps join a choir. Maintaining a good-natured and musical partnership with your child is one of the key factors that determines a child’s success and happy development as a musician. At Musikgarten we love to partner with parents in the beautiful work of teaching your children to love to make music always and forever.
Below I have shared one parent’s appreciation for this program as well as the course description.
P.S. We offer limited scholarships for families who cannot afford the full cost of the class.
"What a difference it made for my younger daughter to take the Music Makers series of classes. My oldest, Madeleine, took classes as a toddler up to Family Music, but then we weren’t able to fit the pre-piano classes into our schedule. We found our way back and she is now almost done with the piano program. But now that Sarah has been through the Music Makers series, I see a big difference, and I am so glad that she was able to take part in these classes. Even though she has not yet started piano, she sits down at the piano for fun, improvising, making up her own songs. I can’t tell you how many times I waited in another room, listening to her creations, not wanting to interrupt her process and break the spell. She would run over afterward and tell me the story she was making up as she was playing. “When I was playing up high, the butterfly was fluttering around the flower, and when I was down low, the bee was chasing her...” Just heartwarming!
"Besides the creativity that she feels free to express with music, I also appreciate all of the pre-note reading activities in the Music Makers series of classes. This work, which in any other setting could be dry and boring, just came to life in Ana’s class and was presented in such a fun, no-pressure way. The small group setting, the movement associated with the skill, and the warm environment all contributed. This was something that my older daughter misses out on, and I now see the benefits of the skills that are taught in these classes. If I could do it all over again with Madeleine, I would change our schedule to make these classes a priority!
"The confidence she gained during this important time is so apparent. Besides being able to express her own ideas in a musical way, she is able to sit down at the piano and figure out songs that she has been hearing her whole life in your classes. She has not even started the keyboard classes yet, but she has already taught herself Hot Cross Buns, Minuet, Ode to Joy, and others. It’s amazing to see the musical ear she developed, and how that contributes to her being able to figure out these songs she loves!”
MUSIC MAKERS AT HOME
This curriculum richly supports the development of the skills needed to pursue a successful musical journey. One of the hallmarks of the Musikgarten program is that we are preparing children to be lifelong, joyful musicians. Our curriculum and teachers support music making that fosters a dynamic, playful and creative relationship to music making. Instilling a passion for music is key. As Ellen Johansen writes, “This is the enduring motivation of children to spend the time to learn an instrument and to put in the hours to refine their technique and their musical ear.” Children learn to love to make and express music, not just to play the piano and to simply follow the song sheet.
Music Makers at Home and Around the World: The Next Step
You and your child have enjoyed the singing, moving, rhythmic and tonal activities that are hallmarks of a Musikgarten class. In the next level we keep all of these great elements, plus offer musical discoveries that meet the developmental needs of your child as he or she enters a new phase of independence.
So how do we teach all these important musical skills and have so much fun?
• We sing songs with opportunities for individual responses and a broader range for vocal development.
• We practice moving with more complexity.
• We continue to practice rhythm and steady beat.
• We tell stories with movement and music, inviting the children to bring them alive.
• We offer many different opportunities for children to verbalize their ideas and suggestions.
• We continue to practice patterns with accuracy, using tonal and rhythmic names that we later connect to notation.
• We emphasize making connections between symbols and sound first with graphic notation and then with note reading familiar patterns. Later, these are found in the notation of favorite songs.
• We develop ensembles, building skills on large motor instruments.
At this time many parents ask us: When should I start my child on an instrument?
Success on an instrument starts with preparation. The Music Makers at Home and Around the World curricula lay the foundation for tonal accuracy, beat competency, motor readiness, and note reading. We teach young children to audiate, that is, to hear the notation in their heads. In this way we teach music, not only operating the piano. At around age 6, when fine motor skills are starting to develop, the children can bring this wealth of musical experience to their instrument with confidence. Most importantly, learning in a way that engages with the natural motivation of your child fosters a love and a passion for music making. What a powerful gift!
That’s not all:
Did you know that, in addition to musical skills, your child will be practicing key areas of development for this age?
The musical activities your child enjoys also help to build impulse control, inner speech, self soothing strategies, pre-reading skills, pre-writing skills, balance, and motor skills. The important rhythmic and movement activities actually prepare the brain to learn; all while experiencing the joy of making music with friends.
What does this look like in class?
In class, we sing songs that delve imaginatively into the thematic material for the session, whether exploring various natural habitats for the first year or diverse world cultures for the second year. We tell stories based in the theme often with responses and movement from the children. Listening examples introduce instruments from the orchestra and we, in turn, explore the instruments we use in class as well. Step by step we build ensembles, inviting the children to make their own music. They love recording it and listen intently when it’s played back. Through this process we introduce graphic notation and eventually traditional notation patterns. The children delight in the games that we play with the notation cards, identifying, matching, and composing while they gain the confidence that they are reading music!
The activities in class and at home are supported by the beautiful materials for each session including a CD, poster/folder with game pieces and notation cards. Parents join for the last 15 minutes and are encouraged to continue the joyful music making at home.
We look forward to a wonderful fall season of musical adventures.
Questions? Please contact Amy Pappageorge at (708) 601-1042