Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hello Everybody, So Glad To See You...

That's the beginning of the Hello Song, which is a staple of our music class.

When Wee One was very small, she began to show signs that she liked music. When I would sing to her, she would often make noises back to me like she was also trying to sing. Music helped to calm her when she had colic, and became part of our nighttime ritual (thanks to a cell phone that has a music player, that part was easy.)

At a store to purchase some nursing accessories, mom picked up some brochures. One was for Music Together, an early childhood music program. I liked what I saw in the brochure, and I wrote an email to the Director to request the free CD/DVD and more information.

While it was obvious that my babe loved being sung to, what was much less obvious was ... what to sing? Beyond "Rock A Bye Baby" I didn't have much of a repertoire of lullabyes that I knew (and that's kindof a creepy song to sing to a crying baby anyway). I thought this might be a source of some songs I could sing to her.

The CD/DVD had some sample songs - as soon as I heard "Zoom Zoom" I was hooked! The DVD showed some aspects of the classes, and talked about the curriculum behind the program.

Music Together is a product of the Center for Music and Young Children by two folks with some impressive credentials, and the name Princeton attached :) There are 9 sets of song collections - enrolled families receive the song collection on CD as well as a songbook with the complete music for each song.

We went ahead and enrolled in her first music class. I was a little nervous - she was only 5 months old when we started, so I wasn't sure how she would react in the mixed ages class we signed up for. And I wasn't sure what people would think - a 5 month old in music classes!!!???!?!?

The beauty of the Music Together approach is that it is a fun way to expose children to music, and they begin to absorb aspects of rhythm and tone and pitch without those concepts being formally discussed. The teacher, after a song, will sing some notes that the group repeats, and then the next fun song begins. You hardly notice that you were being "taught" the key of the song, but the children absorb those sounds and learn ... while having fun.

The classes are very structured. Each class begins with the Hello Song. There are some active songs that allow movement. There are songs that use a specific instrument - egg shakers, sticks, bells, etc. There is a "play along" song, then a "quiet song", and finally the Goodbye song. If your child needs predictability and structure, they will probably come to feel comfortable in this class.

It has been beautiful to watch my wee one develop in the context of the music class. At first she could only sit in my lap as I tapped on parts of her body in time to the music. Then once she could sit up on her own, she could sit in front of me. At the beginning of this current semester, once she was crawling, she began to crawl into the center of the circle to become more involved in the activities. This morning, she decided she was a big girl! She didn't want to be in mommy's lap for anything, she wanted to be in the middle of all the action.

The activities of music class have helped with her motor skill development - she loves to shake the egg shakers and have them make noise. The first time she clapped was an afternoon after we had sang "clap, clap, clap your hands, clap your hands together" in music class.

And of course, she sings. The first time she sang out in class, the teacher stopped the group so they could hear her vocalizations. This morning in class she was "singing" right along with everyone else while trying to hit a bell with a stick.

Some of my best mommy moments have been centered around music. Nights that I have been able to comfort her by singing "Shady Grove" - a lullaby from our first music collection. Or just the other day, when I started singing "Biddy Biddy" and shaking a toy of hers ... she recognized the song and the biggest grin I have ever seen broke out across her face.

So for me, its about the memories. Sure, she's probably picking up rhythm and pacing and pitch and tonality and one day she'll probably be able to sing on key. But she will also have memories of sitting in mommy's lap as a group of smiling people sing "Hello" to her by name. And I have a bunch of songs I can sing to her now.

(I gotta take my regular camera and get some better pics of her in music class - this cell phone camera isn't cutting it!)

If you are interested in signing up for a Music Together class, let me know, If you sign up with a currently enrolled family, you both get some $$ off your tuition, but you have to sign up together.

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