Friday, February 12, 2016

Follow Up Info for UNCA Students

Kari Richmond - founder and director of Asheville Area Music Together.  
I'm happy to talk about kids and music any time!  Come watch a class!

More about Obwisana, the children's song/game from Ghana:

Play and Music Together

Early Music Lessons Have Longtime Benefits

Slideshow of how music affects the brain:

Edwin Gordon's theory of audition, music learning process for children:

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)  is a professional membership organization that works to promote high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age 8, by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research. We advance a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of young children.
The association comprises nearly 70,000 individual members of the early childhood community and more than 300 regional Affiliate chapters, all committed to delivering on the promise of high-quality early learning. Together, we work to achieve a collective vision: that all young children thrive and learn in a society dedicated to ensuring they reach their full potential.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2nd ed)  -  Oliver Sacks

The Ways Children Learn Music (2nd ed)  -  Eric Bluestine
one elementary school music teacher's clear explanation of Edwin Gordon's music-learning theory and the curriculum he has developed based on Gordon theory

The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body -  Steven Mithen 
"The propensity to make music is the most mysterious, wonderful, and neglected feature of humankind: this is where Steven Mithen began, drawing together strands from archaeology, anthropology, psychology, neuroscience--and, of course, musicology--to explain why we are so compelled to make and hear music. But music could not be explained without addressing language, and could not be accounted for without understanding the evolution of the human body and mind…"   
This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession  -  Daniel J. Levitin  
What can music teach us about the brain? What can the brain teach us about music? And what can both teach us about ourselves?  In this groundbreaking union of art and science, rocker-turned-neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin (The World in Six Songs and The Organized Mind) explores the connection between music - its performance, its composition, how we listen to it, why we enjoy it - and the human brain. 

Photos of the Zone

Friday, July 4, 2014

Music for Infants

Why Music for Babies?
All answers adapted from the introduction to the Music Together Babies Song Collection.

We talk to babies and toddlers even before they can speak, so shouldn't we sing to them too? Singing to your child is like reading to her, feeding her, talking to her, swimming with her. You're sharing  an experience with her that brings joy and bonding. Exposure to musical experiences in early childhood starts your child on the road to singing in tune and keeping a steady beat. The brain in the first 5 years of life is wide open to absorbing the sounds and rhythms of music, but stages of synaptic pruning in the brain in middle childhood mean that music, just like language, is a use-it-or-lose-it skill.  Give your child the gift of music.

Q: How do I know that my baby is responding to music in her environment? What will he do?
A: Watch for your baby's response to music, especially as someone begins to sing or play. While listening, the baby may stop her usual movements or activity and seem to stare intently or freeze. When the music stops, the baby will often change activity again. Here are some of the ways babies respond to music:
* Feet stretch out or kick
* Eyes "brighten" or change focus
* Tongue moves in repetitive motion inside mouth
* Eyes look to the sound or movement sources
* Hands clench
* Hands wave wildly in the air
* Torso middle moves rhythmically
* Cooing sounds
* Smiles and giggles
* Squeals of delight
* Crying in the resting tone after the activity ends

Q: How can I validate and encourage my baby's response to the music?
A: Imitate him!  With a tiny one, you can imitate eyes widening, vocal babbling and cooing, wiggling fingers at waving arms, and singing the tones she babbles or cries on when the song is over.  Give her time when the music is over.  Infants often take 5 to 10 seconds after the music is over to make a responsive sound.  You can then respond by imitating her sounds.  You might get a musical conversation going!

Q: How can I help my infant develop tonally?
A: Your baby is likely to pay particular attention to your mouth when you sing, so exaggerate your mouth movements, especially when you are doing songs without words."

Babies love contrast and are particularly attentive to changes. So at home, juxtapose favorite fast activities next to slow ones, and loud ones next to quiet ones. When you perform a chant, use your high-pitched voice some of the time and your low- and medium-pitched voices other times. When you sing, vary the sound quality of your voice to offer contrasting dramatic interpretations.

At home, engage in lots of resting tone play - that is, fool around vocally on the home pitch of a song. Sing the resting tone quietly in each of the baby's ears, or sing the resting tone while you 'brrrrrr' your lips or sing the baby's name or anything else that would be fun.

Q: How can I help my infant develop rhythmically?
A: There are many different ways you can help your baby to feel the rhythm of the song or chant. You can hold your infant close as you move to the beat.  You can gently tap or stroke your baby on various parts of her body. Your can move your baby through space in time to the music by swinging her in your arms or in a swing.

Let your child see you dance while he rests on a blanket or in a seat.  You can show him different ways of walking, skipping, dancing on the microbeat or the macrobeat with small or large movements.  Wave a scarf above the baby as you sing or chant. Two parents may enjoy "flying" their infant towards each other until they are face to face.

For more ideas or to see the above tips in action, watch and listen to your Music Together teacher.

Q: Why is my baby's babbling important, and how can I support babbling outside of class?
A: Music Together lab schools have found that the introduction of sound play and games at an early age supports vocal development by increasing the frequency and variety of vocal expression. Parents and other primary caregivers can encourage their babies' singing voices as much as they do their early efforts at speech by responding to their child's vocal sound play.

All you really have to do to support your infant's babbling is to follow her lead! You might notice that your child likes to lie in bed making sounds to himself for long periods of time. This is his way of mastering the sounds he is hearing in his environment through play. The child's own "babble" is the perfect source of sounds to imitate when you are together.
If you can let go of words for a while, you can enter the wonderful world of sounding that your baby is exploring and actually communicate with him!

You will probably notice that your baby has some favorite sounds and that her preferences change as time goes on. You may also notice that she plays with some sounds for her own delight and uses others specifically to communicate, either with pets, objects, other children, or a parent. Most parents in our culture will communicate back to the child at these moments with words, perhaps in a sing-song voice known as "motherese" which mimics the child's higher range and inflection. But the communication is still in words. Instead of words, try to communicate back to you baby using the same kinds of sounds she is making. By communicating to her in the same mode or "language" of the moment, you acknowledge and validate your child's creations and extend the duration of her play.

In all cases, watch your baby for signs of disinterest, stress or fatigue and stop when your baby is ready. All of this vocal play serves to stimulate the creative process and motivate the child to further play, discovery and expression.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Music Together, Week 5 coming up!

I have been having a great time singing and dancing in Music Together class with you the past couple of weeks, and I hope you and your children are enjoying the fun in class AND taking it home with you! Since there's little talk-time in class, I wanted to take a few minutes to follow up with you on some of the learning opportunities that have occurred which you may not have noticed. A little knowledge can help you make optimal use of new opportunities that will be presented in upcoming classes, as well as to support musical learning at home!

First, I want to thank all of you who participated in making up new veggies for John the Rabbit to eat in class a couple of weeks ago! I did not create that solo-singing activity to embarass you parents, but to give your children the opportunity to hear you pipe up in your singing voice within our little musical classroom community. What an awesome demonstration to your child that ANYONE has the right to have his musical voice heard in the group, regardless of "ability."

We had lots of fun with Rig-a-Jig-Jig this week, pretty much following the large movement activities as they are on the recording. Next week, we'll have fun making up our own movements! Watch your children for ideas. The awesome thing about Rig-a-Jig-Jig and Clap Your Hands is that they are absolutely open for movement substitutions. This can be extremely helpful for those transition activities at home! If you dread the big "NO!!" or tantrum that comes when you say "time to clean up your blocks," try singing it to one of the above tunes. Try, "As I was picking up my blocks..." and you can sometimes even get your child singing if you substitute silly sounds for the rig-a-jig part, like "ploppity plop, away they go..." And you may find that you BOTH have more fun cleaning up.

Playin' in the Kitchen Well, this one's obvious. Who needs a drum?! Get out a bowl, pan, wooden spoons, measuring cups, etc, and have a jam session while you cook breakfast! Babies love the sounds and tastes, and bigger kids love the silliness!

She Sells Seashells Have you noticed that the little hand movements we do in class involve crossing the body's midline? Processing music and midline-crossing activities like our hand movements BOTH support neural development of the corpus callosum, the structure in our brains that connects the right and left cerebral hemispheres. According to researcher Daniel Levitin, in his book This is Your Brain on Music, the front portion of the corpus callosum is significantly larger in musicians than non-musicians.

One mom complained about those high notes this week! Last time I taught this song, it was ME complaining! Now, after singing with my son for several years, I understand that those high notes are there for the kids. But, nobody will know if you sing it lower at home! : )

Monday, March 23, 2009

Music Together for Preschoolers

It has been my experience that many families stop bringing their children to Music Together when they pass out of the toddler phase. I understand that preschool and other classes sometimes cause a conflict in scheduling, but I also think that children often start to express a reluctance to come to music class. Parents are understandably reluctant to pay for a Session of classes that their children aren't excited about. However, the music class environment continues to be important for older children but for different reasons than for toddlers and babies. Older preschoolers often have attained a certain level of musical competence (meaning they can sing in tune and keep a steady beat to a song that they hear). But at this age, it's common for preschoolers to start to notice others in the class, and they suddenly realize that they can't make music with the same ease as the adults in class. Of course this promotes a certain self-consciousness and return to shyness, or that they would prefer to avoid an event where their purpose or *place* isn't clear.

Preschoolers benefit greatly from support of them continuing to make music in a group setting and especially of honoring their ideas and leadership. If your preschooler starts to express a reluctance to come to Music Together, have a non-pressure talk with him to see if he has any specific issues that challenge him. Of course, the parent is going to know best in these situations, but I do urge you to consider

* Feelings of self-consciousness are normal, but they can persist and worsen if your child isn't encouraged to push on through the challenge. As long as Music Together class isn't actually traumatic for her, there's much benefit to be had from supporting your child's attendance through the difficulty. As with any age, there's no need to pressure any amount of active participation! It's enough to be there and see the adults participating joyfully and un-selfconsciously. After a few weeks, she may venture into the circle again and find a new participation role more fitting to this new stage of maturity.

* Your child is likely to have challenges with other settings or tasks in the future. If your child has difficulty with a certain school subject later on, chances are he won't get to just quit. You'll sit and talk with him and gently let him know that you'll help him and support him through the challenge so that he can succeed.

I always love to get suggestions from the children in class for movements, lyrics, and sounds that the group can make. I think the older children are the most likely to have some creative ideas. However, in the noise and activity of class, it can be difficult for them to speak up or to be heard. Please advocate for your preschooler when she has an idea to share with the class. You may need to make the suggestion yourself so that I can hear it, but you can certainly attribute the idea to your child. "Emerson would like for us to make train sounds."

The bottom line is that you know what is best for your child, but please consider these thoughts when determining whether to continue to bring your preschooler to Music Together. They DO have their place! We just have to help them find it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Another Music Together Teacher Shares

Music supports all kinds of learning, -we use our voices, listening skills, motor skills, our emotions, spatial reasoning, language skills. It expands thought into an expression from the heart. Most of all, it lifts us up out of ourselves and allows us to go to a place beyond words and gives us a sense of the beauty and joy of life. I believe it helps to make us happier, more compassionate, more satisfied and expressive human beings and enriches our life experience.

Music isn't something where we go from point "a" to point "b" and then we are finished. Musical development is something that continues all of our lives. I'm still developing musically as are all the adults in our classes, as are all of the children.

Judy Woodson
Director, South Coast Music Together

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Can your child sit still in class? Should he?

Can and should your child sit still in Music Together class? Not necessarily and not necessarily.

In each new enrollment season, at least one parent who is interested in enrolling in Music Together will express concerns about bringing her busy busy child to a class environment. I always try to reassure these parents and encourage them to bring their little movers to class.
It's understandably difficult for parents of "busy kids" to see other children just sitting quietly and "politely" in the circle watching the teacher. These parents wonder if their own child (who's turning somersaults in the corner) is getting anything out of music class...or they worry that their child is distracting others.

Worry no more! Of course it's very age-appropriate for children to be on the move...all the time! Movement and learning go together--it's been shown in neurological research, and more and more schools and businesses are acknowledging this fact and honoring it by incorporating physical activity into their curricula and programs. The Music Together program makes it possible for all types of learners to participate in or at least observe a variety of types of physical activity during each class--large gross motor movements and small fine motor movements, fast and slow, quiet and loud. Children are welcome to wander about and freely choose when to actively participate or passively participate through watching and/or listening. Children who sit quietly in the circle simply tend to be more visual and/or aural learners, while the movers tend to be kinesthetic learners.

Sometimes a child will seem totally disengaged from the class activity...sitting in the corner, looking out the window, playing with an unrelated object in the room, etc. But a child under the age of 5 is not capable of completely separating his attention from his environment. Even if his active attention is on a chair in the corner, the child's brain is noticing his parent's voice and actions, as well as the sounds and activity of the rest of the class. If you get close, you'll often hear the child in the corner humming or singing to himself. And parents often report that these seemingly disengaged kids will sing just as beautifully as you the car on the way home from Music Together class!

What to do if you have a "busy kid?" Continue to participate in the Music Together activity! Kids under 5 are tuned into their parents' voices and actions more than those of any other person. Your child knows what you're doing even if she seems not to be watching. Alternatively, engage your child in whatever part of the room he chooses to be and in whatever way is appropriate to his current stage of development. If your child grabbed an egg shaker and headed for the hills, go to him and sit and shake your eggs together. If your child headed off to turn somersaults, go sing to him, turn some somersaults yourself (or just watch), and tap his back to the beat.

To balance this info, let me say that safety is a priority in Music Together. While hopping, dancing, waddling, crawling, walking, and most other forms of movement are fine, there is no *running* in class. Generally, children are able to moderate their activity when given an alternative. "You may not run in class. Would you like to bunny-hop or waddle like a penguin?"