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The Musical Chest of Drawers

The Musical Chest of Drawers

Music Together® Blog

Music Together Blog

Nov 06, 2015
Jammin' with your toddler.

Playing music with toddlers could benefit their development even more than shared reading, according to University of Queensland research.

A UQ-led study has shown that music participation at home improves numeracy, prosocial skills and attention over and above the effects of shared book reading.

One of the study leaders and Head of UQ’s School of Music Professor Margaret Barrett said parents were asked to report on shared music activities when their child was two to three years old and a range of social, emotional and cognitive outcomes were measured two years later, when the child was four or five.

“Children who experienced more frequent parent-child music activity at two to three years showed stronger vocabulary and numeracy skills, more prosocial skills and stronger abilities to regulate their own attention and emotion at four to five years old,” Professor Barrett said.

“The study highlights that informal music education in early childhood is a vital tool for supporting the cognitive and social development of children.”

This study is part of an Australian Research Council funded study ‘Being and becoming musical: towards a cultural ecological model of early musical development’ led by Professor Barrett and Professor Graham Welch from University College London with team members Ms Vicky Abad, Dr Mary Broughton and Dr Kate Williams.

The study aims to provide a comprehensive account of how Australian families use music in their parenting practices and make recommendations for policy and practice in childcare and early learning and development.

In an analysis of data generated from studying more than 3,000 children, the UQ team investigated the associations between informal home music education for very young children and later cognitive and social-emotional outcomes.

The Music Trust, which works to actively promote music education in Australia, has awarded the research team the inaugural Music Trust Award for Research into the Benefits of Music Education.

Lead author on the publication Dr Kate Williams will accept the award on behalf of the team at a ceremony in Melbourne on 25 September.

Music Trust director Richard Letts said the study clearly demonstrated the advantages of musical education.

“Abundant research over past decades has accumulated evidence of the effectiveness of music education in accelerating development in IQ, academic and social skills, empathy and self-discipline,” Mr Letts said.

“These are very important findings but little of this research has taken place in Australia.

"By creating this award, the Music Trust is encouraging such research in Australia and drawing attention to the opportunities offered by music education for children.”

Media: UQ Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Gillian Ievers, g.ievers@uq.edu.au, +617 3346 1633, +61 (0) 406 510668.

Harris Poll Results

Survey Reveals Most Parents Are Misinformed About Inborn Music Ability

According to a recent Harris Poll, nearly three-quarters of parents (72%) believe you are born either with or without the ability to carry a tune. At Music Together, we know that this is not the case! Just as we are all born with the potential to learn language, we are also all born with enough music ability to learn to sing in tune and move in time---as long as we have an adequate music environment throughout early childhood. (You are providing this to your children through Music Together!) Want to learn more? Visit our website to read about the survey and our response to the results.

The Gift of Music Together

The Gift of Music Together:
Rachel Howe and Craig Van Ness

When Rachel Howe began classes at Willamette River Music Together near Portland, Oregon, in the spring of 2007 with one-year-old Marisa, she was apprehensive. She felt self-conscious: she didn’t think she was a good singer and she wondered whether the other moms and dads would judge her. And dancing with scarves? Uh-oh!

Despite Rachel’s hesitancy, she decided to “hang in there” for Marisa’s sake. After all, her daughter was having fun, so why not? Little did Rachel know that her connection to Music Together would become an integral part of her life with Marisa, and also with her daughter Eva, now age five. In fact, Rachel’s experience with Music Together affected her so deeply and so personally that she sat down and crafted a letter for her teacher, Craig Van Ness, prior to the start of the current spring semester—her last classes with Eva, after six years in the program.

“As I enroll in our final term of Music Together, it feels a little like the closing of a chapter of my life,” wrote Rachel. “You helped me see that my enthusiasm and enjoyment would influence Marisa’s experience. I found a way to let go of my insecurity and just go for it. Sing. Dance. Have fun with my daughter. And the more I did these things, the less it became a conscious effort to do so. After a while, I started noticing musical changes in myself . . . I used to repeat the tonal patterns on the CD until I could do them—and they really did get easier over time (though the pattern after 'Hippity, Happity, Hoppity' nearly did me in!). I would be singing with Marisa in the car and suddenly realize that I was on key. In a time when my life was all about my little girl and taking care of her, Music Together became a vehicle for my own personal growth. What a gift.”

Reading those words was a gift for Craig, too. As a Music Together teacher, Craig encourages families to make music a part of their lives, whether they are in class, or at home, or at the beach. He understands that many moms and dads come to class having very little experience being active music-makers. He knows how difficult it can be for someone like Rachel to put doubt and inhibition aside and jump, dance, and sing in a room full of adults and children. To know that Music Together had so deeply affected Rachel was inspiring and gratifying to Craig. But her letter of thanks resonated even further with him; for, just like Rachel, Craig also feels deeply indebted to Music Together for personal and musical growth. It was a gift that had changed his life, too.

For fifteen years prior to teaching Music Together, Craig worked as a mortgage banker. In his younger days, he had sung in choirs and loved musical theater, but his father was adamantly opposed to him pursuing a music career. So Craig joined the Navy instead and, when he got out, settled into banking. But in 1999, Craig realized how happy it made him to sing with his nephew, and this led to his discovery of Music Together. While observing his first classes at the teacher training, everything changed. “Bells, whistles, my heart exploded, and my soul sang,” he explains. “Suddenly, I realized what [Music Together] is all about. It’s not just about teaching music and getting adults to interact and be musical. It is about creating a space large enough for a child’s soul to sing, dance, play, explore, imagine, and create. I knew this was something I wanted to do. THIS makes a difference.”

When Rachel first started taking classes, she had no idea who Craig was or what he’d experienced before teaching Music Together. She simply knew that she’d found a place where she could delight in making music with her daughters. Rachel recalls galloping around the circle to “Trot Old Joe,” holding both babies close for cuddle time, and watching the girls dance in the circle together, having the time of their lives. And when Eva was fussy in the late afternoons, she would sing her “Great Big Stars.”

As their teacher, Craig was an instrumental part of the family’s musical growth. Through their six years of singing, dancing, and being silly together, Craig and Rachel developed a lasting friendship—a friendship centered on the joy of music-making. Just recently, as Rachel was driving to class with Eva, her daughter said to her: “Mommy, I’m going to be done with Teacher Craig’s class at the end of the school year. Will you miss class?” When Rachel responded that she most certainly would, Eva thought about it for a minute and then told her mom, “I think if you asked Teacher Craig nicely, he’d still let you come.”

For Rachel, Marisa, and Eva, this final semester of Music Together means the end of weekly classes with Craig, but it is certainly not the end of music-making for the Howe family. The depth of the musical foundation that Rachel and her daughters gleaned from the songs and activities they learned is an indelible part of their lives now.

“One consolation for me is knowing that, thanks to these years of Music Together, the girls and I will continue to share musical moments,” writes Rachel, at the conclusion of her thank-you letter. “Marisa’s piano teachers are always commenting on her natural musical ability, how she can ‘feel’ the beat so well for her age. I picture myself patting the beat to ‘hello, everybody’ on her little back years ago and just smile. Eva is so excited to begin piano lessons this summer, and I know her growth will continue as well. Thank you, Craig, for making so many of the memories that I will carry in my heart forever.”

—Kate Battenfeld is a Music Together Contributing Writer and Center Director of Joyful Jumping Music Together in Carlsbad, Oceanside, and Vista CA.

—Photographs by Dawn Damori.

Music Together Turns 25!

See the 25th Anniversary E newsletter for Music Together. If you watch the video you will see a brief glimpse of my very first set of twins, now 15, and my most recent set of twin boys. Enjoy.

Music Together 25th Anniversary E Newsletter

Aug 01, 2011
Importance of Music Education

Importance of music education….

Music is a human birthright. From the time we are born we coo with pitch or tone. Our first fully formed sense is hearing at four months in utero. Babies born into my Music Together classes recognize my voice from birth since they have essentially have completed two terms of Music Together classes by the time they are born. As a result, I rarely ever have babies cry in class.

Music Together’s first and foremost philosophy point is: All Children Are Musical. If you have spent time in my classes or workshops, you know I take this to mean: All Human Beings Are Musical.

Dr. Dan Levitan, author of This is Your Brain on Music and Six Songs that Changed the World, among others, postulates that the first human communication was based on tonality and rhythm derived from the world around them via pitches of birds and clicking of insects, predating hieroglyphics by a millennium. Simply, we learn and evolve from the environment around us.
There is a not a civilization on the planet that does not have music as a central touchstone in their day to day lives and to celebrate major events.

In the western world since the 1940s, we have increasingly become consumers of music due to the advent of radio and recorded, reproduced music. In the 21st century, we can download some of the best music ever produced, past and present, and enjoy it at our leisure. We consume a monumental amount of music because we love it. But, we are not active participants.
Prior to WWII, we did not have air conditioning, garage door openers, television, cable, video games, DVRs, or cell phones. Often today, we rarely even know or socialize with our neighbors. In pioneer days as we moved west across the country, we would gather in the cool of the evening. We sat outside waiting for cooler temperatures and made music with whatever was at hand: saws, washboards, buckets, stringed instruments and wind instruments of all types. The kids played and ran around, literally soaking in the sounds of their environment until they were old enough to learn an instrument. It was this saturation of tonalities and rhythms around the children which connected and bound the synapse pathways which enabled them to take the next step toward Basic Music Competence, the ability to sing in tune and keep a beat.

In winter after the harvest was in, we gathered inside around stoves, shared dinners from the bounty of the harvest, told stories and made music as a community of neighbors. Post-industrial revolution, many homes had pianos and we gathered there to make music.
Here and now in the 21st century as we face budgets cuts, the import of music and arts are leaving the public awareness as schools are forced to achieve artificial testing scores in order to preserve federal and state funding.

Music is an essential part of being human. Dr. Oliver Saks’ movies Awakenings and The Music Never Stopped, based on his research, and most recent book Musicaphilia asserts, “Ongoing, somewhat challenging, musical study is the best way to enhance and grow the connections in the logic centers of the brain." In the land of Music Together, thanks to the songs we sing repeatedly with the rich variety of tonalities and rhythms, my classes qualify as somewhat challenging.

Many, many studies of piano students show increased connections and facility in key areas of the logic centers of the brain.

It has been long believed that music was a higher brain function skill. In a research study conducted by Harvard University with Dr. Saks involving brain mapping of professional musicians, amateur musicians and non-musicians, it was discovered that music is processed and stored by the brainstem or what researchers refer to as the “lizard brain.” Even in an isolated environment with only background music, the brain stem pulsed in rhythm with the music even though the subject was not consciously aware of the music. This infers that music is essential to humans since the brain stem regulates all autonomic functions such as heart rate, breath and other essential body functions.

Most of us are terrified of singing openly in public, in part, due to celebrity worship. Thanks to reality television, the fear of being judged and “voted off” keeps many of us silent consumers of music, thereby making the mission of Music Together all that more important!

There is something so sweet, so essential to the being of human when we make music together. We toil together learning new music, getting to know one another, exploring our abilities, trying new things that we have never tried before and finally reaching a moment when we “sing!” As we gladden the hearts of others, the music in turn “sings” back to us and it is a part of us for a lifetime!

So many families share with me, with oh so much pride and love in their voices, that sweet moment when their child starts spontaneously singing, and often times those songs are from a previous year or semester that hasn’t been listened to recently. Or, parents’ share they found their child holding music class with their stuffed animals and playing teacher Craig, making it clear to all of us that their music is most essential to their young beings. So, plan some family music time, play, be silly and make some Music Together!

Aug 03, 2009
Music Together Preschool

Subject: The First Music Together Preschool in Oregon

Bringing Harmony Home®

Willamette River Music Together Announces:

Oregon's First Music Together Preschool
I am pleased, and thrilled to announce the first Music Together Preschool in Oregon.

Starting in June Children's Hour Academy in Lake Oswego will become the first Oregon Music Together Preschool at their Jean Road Infant and Toddler Campus.

Music Learning Supports All Learning®. Music Together meets or exceeds 7 NAEYC standards!

Each family will receive 2 CDs, an illustrated and musically notated songbook which supports preliteracy as well as future musical study, and a Parent Guide DVD and booklet.

Children will have music as an ongoing element each day and a weekly class led by a registered Music Together teacher trained in both developmentally appropriate practice and skilled in leading participatory music activities

Classroom teachers will receive on-going musical mentoring and support led by the Music Together Specialist so that teachers can easily interweave music thoughout their weekly lessons and activities.

Each classroom will receive the Music Together Preschool Guide, Teacher mix CD, 3 sets of family materails that can be placed in the various activity centers.

Children's Hour Academy

A bit about Children's Hour Academy:

The Children's Hour Academy is a small private school with limited enrollment. Our classrooms are small, maintaining low teacher-to-child ratios. We are a child centered developmentally-appropriate program for infants through elementary school. This program facilitates positive growth and care for children. We are licensed by the state of Oregon and have our Private School Accreditation. Our Christian setting is non-denominational. We welcome children regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, marital status of parents or special needs. Parents are encouraged to visit anytime.

Parents will be welcome to come and join in the Music Together classes.

Children's Hour curricullum and approach in educating young children blends nicely with the Music Together's "Research Based and Developmentally Appropriate" practices.

If you, or someone you know is looking for a really great preschool please forward this e mail and let Robin Van Houten and Briana King know that, "You heard it here!"

Since 1999 Willamette River Music Together has been offering parent child classes in Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tigard and Wilsonville.

Music Together LLC is a pioneer in early childhood music starting in 1987 in Princeton, NJ

Music Together in Metro Parent

The November issue of Metro Parent features an article on Music Together.
“We Heart the Arts.  Exploring the Arts at Every Age.”