When I first did my training for Music Together, my daughter was 3 months old and I thought I had tons of time to get her into a music class. And I did – BUT I didn’t realize how much music had already been a part of her life. Actually, for EVERY baby music has been a part of their little lives without you even knowing it.
Did you know: A Baby’s hearing develops at approximately 19-20 weeks gestation? They are in there half of the time you are pregnant, HEARING. It’s muffled, but it’s there. By the time a baby is born, their hearing is their most developed sense. Their sight isn’t good and even their central nervous system isn’t perfect yet. But their hearing is quite sharp. Even though they don’t give you a lot of feedback when they hear your voice, they are very heavily relying on that sense in order to understand their surroundings.
The other aspect of music that your baby has been exposed to inutero, is rhythm. They hear and feel your heart beat with some force, since they are in very close proximity to it! As you can imagine, it is no surprise to us then when a young baby falls asleep during the loudest part of music class.
When your child is born and they are fussing, we instinctively rock them and speak to them in a high pitched voice. This is an instinctual reaction for us. Without even thinking about it, you are soothing your baby with a steady beat and a pleasant tone of voice in their ear.
All babies are born musical – even you!
When we are born, we are born with the potential to acquire a variety of skills. This includes the ability to speak ANY language, to walk and to MAKE MUSIC! This is NOT to say that we are all destined to be professional musicians or perform on Broadway, but it means that we all have the aptitude to make the music of our culture and to participate in making music as a community.
In North America we are losing the tradition to make music as a community
Our culture perpetuates the myth that music is only for the ‘talented’ ones. That we are only allowed to CONSUME music if we are not GOOD at it. It’s an interesting piece of baggage that we carry around as adults. We have been told, at one point or another that: ‘maybe you should just lip sync on this one’, or ‘wow, you’re tone deaf!’, or ‘maybe you should leave it to the pros’. So many adults believe that they are not allowed to sing or make music and as a result they shut down and refuse to open their mouths.
Music is vital to our growth and development – not just as children, but as people!
Music actually changes the way that our brains operate! Seriously! It’s a little bit of magic when you see an Alzheimer’s patient sing a song from memory, perfectly. Or a non verbal Autistic child communicate with you through music. It begs the questions how and why?
Music activates ALL parts of the brain!
Activities like reading and math, use very specific parts of the brain, where-as making music, engages the entire brain. Even just listening to music activates the entire brain, but not to the same extent as actually MAKING the music. Just think about it: we turn on a song, and as we listen, we process three different components (pitch, language & beat) and tap our toe simultaneously. We are able to process the music SO QUICKLY that our toe isn’t the slightest bit delayed in it’s movement. From this, we can conclude that we are hard wired to make sense of music and we process it so naturally that we aren’t even aware we are doing it!
When we speak to our children, we aren’t as repetitive as when we sing to them.
Songs naturally contain more repetitions than speech, which can help with language development. We also create musical patterns in class, which is an element of math. So we are exposing the children to numbers and predictions as soon as they are born. We are allowing them to anticipate the next dance move, the next melody line, the next activity, the next game – it’s amazing to see how excited they are to clean up instruments! They are so overjoyed by the fact that they KNOW what’s coming, that they WILLINGLY want to clean up!
And no matter how much they love music class, they are (usually) never upset when it is over, because we sang the ‘Goodbye Song’ and that is the end of the format that they understand. It is absolutely magical to watch them settle into the routine, the predictability, the anticipation, and it is all because of the repetition that is incorporated into music!
“Singing daily for at least ten minutes reduces stress, clears sinuses, improves posture and can even help you live longer”
So many times I have PERSONALLY arrived at music class stressed to the max, and within ten minutes of class, I am breathing deeper and smiling brighter. I always know that I just have to get to class, and I will be okay. The craziness of my day will always subside with the community and love I feel from the Moms around me that are just trying to keep it together. And for that 45 minutes, we are all able to keep it TOGETHER!
When one child is have a particularly difficult day, the community comes together to support that child and that parent in whatever way they can. The energy in the room is just incredible. We NEED community as people. And making music connects us in such a deep way- there is just nothing like it.
As human beings, we NEED community – and making music connects us in such a deep way –
there is just nothing like it!
I specifically remember one Mom coming into class with her two year old son dangling like a football under her arm and her infant screaming in a car seat grasped in her other hand. The 2 year old had no coat no boots and no hat on (it was the dead of winter) and this Mom looked like she was going to cry. I have no idea what happened before they walked through that door (although I could take an educational guess!) but at the end of class, she looked at me and said ’This class turned my day around. Thank you’. Brilliant. Exactly. Music makes us HAPPY! A Baby Music Class isn’t just for the babies – it’s for the ADULTS too! We need each other. And sometimes I will throw a challenging activity into the class just to focus on the adults for five seconds. It’s wonderful to see them bonding and singing enthusiastically – and OBVIOUSLY enjoying themselves.
Children learn best in a family style learning environment.
In North America, we have become obsessed with the idea of grouping our children with other kids their own age but watching this family style learning it in action makes that research completely undeniable. The older children show off for the little guys, while the little ones try to mimic the older children. We are designed to copy everything our loved ones do when we are small, so anyone that is a part of the family unit is a VERY important role model for the child. Siblings are especially exciting to watch because the little one always looks at the older one with stars in their eyes.
It’s amazing to see just how influential loved ones are to little people. If our loved ones are doing it, we want to do it too. This is also why the adults are encouraged to participate as much as possible in each class. Because the children look to YOU to see what they are supposed to do and they will mirror it ALL. If you don’t participate, chances are, they won’t either!
It is also WONDERFUL to have the mixed age class because each child is at a different stage of development. For example, if I need suggestions for a song, and I have 10 four-year-olds in front of me, I won’t be able to include all of them. If I only have 4 or 5 four-year-olds in a class, I can be sure to include all of their ideas. If I had a class filled with 2 year olds, I would have to limit how many egg shakers they are allowed (2 year olds are HOARDERS!!), but since I only have 2 or 3 two-year-olds, they can hoard all they want! Being able to serve each child at their level of development is such an incredible gift to give these kids. The mixed age class is beyond cool.
When I was a teenager, I always that music was about being good at it.
I was actively pursing a career in musical theatre and had dreams of making it big on Broadway. After having children and becoming a Music Together teacher, I have come to understand that being ‘good’ at it, is NOT the point. Music is SO MUCH MORE than that. Music is a part of WHO WE ARE.
We come into this world with the potential to be music makers.
We are HARD WIRED to process and make sense of it. We thrive when we participate in it, and we learn important life and academic skills through it. It is the most fulfilling activity that I can think of for any family to find joy in each other. Even on the hard days.
“I sing because I am happy,
and I’m happy because I sing”
Pamela is the proud owner and director of Music Together® of Orangeville and has had the pleasure of teaching the program since 2014. Pamela is a graduate of the Music Theatre Performance Program at Sheridan College and before entering the parenting world, she was a professional performer, working with Stage West (Vagina Monologues), Drayton Entertainment (Anne of Green Gables, My Fair Lady), Theatre Orangeville (A Christmas Carol), Moonpath Productions (Totally Scrooged), TIFT (Emily), ACT Productions (I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, Tick Tick Boom), Oh Canada Eh? (Rocky Horror) and many others.
Pamela was a part of the CBC mini series ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria’ and finished in the top 40 finalists for the role of Maria VonTrapp in the Mirvish Production of The Sound of Music. Pamela sang with Donny Osmond in Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and performed for the Queen of England in 2002. You can hear Pamela as the voice of Miss Harbor on the Children’s TV series ‘Paws and Tales’ and see her on the front of the ‘EZ Up Closet Organizer’ at Canadian Tire.