Music Together is an early childhood music program for children birth-kindergarten & their parents and caregivers. Their mission is to provide the highest-quality music and movement experiences to as many adolescent children as possible and to involve their parents and other adult caregivers, including early childhood professionals. Follow this blog and discover the joys of making music with your..
Amidst the picturesque mountains of Zurich, Switzerland, many devoted families attend classes at director Cezanne Winter’s center, Let’s Make Music Together. However, none are quite so invested as Sara Keene (not her real name), who has continuously attended classes for thirteen years—and counting.
Sara discovered Music Together in 2006, when a friend recommended it to her after the birth of her first child. “I immediately thought that this program would be very stimulating for the development of my child, and also a great opportunity to have an activity to meet other mothers with children,” Sara recalls. Little did she know that Music Together would become an activity that she would continue to love for so many years, or that her household would blossom into a family of six—three boys and three girls! Over the years, she has enrolled all of her children in mixed-age classes from the time they were born through age four, with her youngest children still in attendance.
Sara goes to every class with her children, typically enrolling two siblings at a time. She enjoys the camaraderie that builds within the playful, safe environs of the class community. She also believes that the program has greatly enhanced her children’s interest in continuing to make music. “When the older children were young, they had a lot of fun ‘replaying’ the Music Together classes at home,” she says. “All my children have expressed an interest in learning to play instruments, and some have developed a real passion for it. Developing a passion for something is the most important thing of all for me.”
By now, Sara and her children are quite familiar with the Music Together collections; over the years they have enjoyed singing the songs at home, in the car, and as they go about their daily activities. The tunes have become a part of the children’s lives, with the older siblings passing on their favorites to the younger ones. And with so many songs to choose from, the music never gets old for this family. “We love all the songs, but in every collection we find ones that become our favorites. And when there are new songs that come out, that is always very entertaining!” remarks Sara. A few they especially like are “A Ram Sam Sam,” “All Around the Kitchen,” and “Dancing with Teddy.”
Soon, Sara will be making even more Music Together memories with the new baby she is expecting! She looks forward to continuing to share the wonder of music with her children as they learn and grow with Music Together. “Music…was the first language that my children learned,” says Sara. “And because all my children attended Music Together, we all ‘speak’ that same language. The songs are a lasting memory for everyone.”
The simple and enjoyable act of making music with your child naturally fosters important social and emotional skills, such as self-regulation, self-confidence, leadership skills, social skills, and socio-emotional intelligence.
Director of Early Learning, Music Together®
Making music with your child can be so much fun for both of you, whether you’re singing along to the radio in the car, jamming on plastic bowl “drums,” or dancing to songs on your iPod. Plus, music-making helps your child’s development in many important ways. The best part? You don’t have to have a great singing voice or play a musical instrument to have an impact. The simple and enjoyable act of making music with your child naturally fosters important social and emotional skills, such as self-regulation, self-confidence, leadership skills, social skills, and socio-emotional intelligence.
In fact, recent research[i] has found that preschoolers who engaged in participatory group music and movement activities showed greater group cohesion, cooperation, and prosocial behavior when compared to children who did not engage in the same music activities. Singing and dancing together led to increased empathy (the ability to understand and even share in the feelings of others) for the children with whom they were making music. Even in infancy,[ii]adult-child music and movement interactions can lead to better communication and increased emotional and social coordination and connection, both rhythmically and emotionally, between the adult and the child. Researchers propose this might support infants’ earliest abilities to engage in positive social interactions with others.
So, you can have fun making music with your whole family and know that you are also supporting your child’s social and emotional growth. Here are some ideas for music activities you can try at home to specifically support several areas of socio-emotional learning.
Self-control and Self-regulation
Singing a song like “A Ram Sam Sam” (from the Fiddle Song Collection), where you are challenged to incrementally leave out a phrase in the song, is a fun way for children to practice the crucial skill of impulse control in daily life. You can try this technique with any song you and your children know. As you sing a familiar tune, ask your child to leave out one of the words in the next lyric/phrase. During this game, children exercise self-control and self-regulation and experience what it feels like to resist doing something. It’s the same concept at work in the popular backyard game “Red Light, Green Light!”
Self-confidence and Leadership Skills
Ask your child to lead YOU in a favorite song, maybe one she learned at school. Just follow your child’s lead whether she gets the lyrics or melody “right” or not. This simple activity gives her a chance to be the leader—and supports her self-confidence as she experiences that her way of interpreting the song is accepted and embraced by you. Similarly, songs that ask children to come up with their own word or sound also support self-confidence and leadership skills. For example, in “One Little Owl” (from the Tambourine Song Collection), children can choose an animal to sing about and imitate its sound in their own way.
Social Skills and Socio-emotional Intelligence
Whether making music with just you or with the whole family, group music-making challenges children to work with others as an “ensemble.” They learn the importance of respecting others’ space and how they express themselves. They also get to practice working together towards a common goal (e.g., when holding hands while dancing). Respect, collaboration, and working as a team are all important social skills for your child to develop.
Making music in a group also challenges children to watch the people around them for subtle cues to timing, volume, and expressiveness—the same cues that we use for reading expressions and moods on people’s faces. Being able to perceive and understand people’s feelings is a basis for empathy and moral development.
Actively making music with your child is a fun and easy way to support your child’s socio-emotional learning, helping them to develop self-regulation, self-confidence, leadership skills, social skills, and much more! So, the next time you sing with your child, try some of the activities suggested here. And remember, it doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself “musical.” Your joyful participation and enjoyment is what is most important!
[i] Kirschner, S. & Tomasello, M. (2010). Joint music-making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31, 354-364.
[ii] Gerry, D., Unrau, A., & Trainor, L. J. (2012). Active music classes in infancy enhance musical, communicative and social development. Developmental Science, 15(3), 398-407.
Cirelli, Jurewicz, Trehub (2018). Musical rhythms in infancy: social and emotional effects. Cognitive Neuroscience Society, 25 Annual Mtg, March 24-27, Boston
Cirelli, L.K., K. M. Einarson., L.J. Trainor (2014). Interpersonal synchrony increases prosocial behavior in infants. Developmental Science. 17:6, pp. 1003-1011.
Kirschner, S., M. Tomasello (2009). Joint drumming: Social context facilitates synchronization in preschool children. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. 102, pp. 299-314.
Williams. K. E., M.S. Barrett, G.F. Welch, V. Abad, M. Broughton. (2015). Associations between early shared music activities in the home and later child outcomes: Findings from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. 31, pp. 113-124.
Winsler, A., A. Koury. (2011) Singing one’s way to self-regulation: the role of early music and movement curricula and private speech. Early Education and Development, 22: 2, pp. 274-304.
In honor of Music Monday, we’re giving away a Hello, Everybody Singalong Storybook gift set. Enter now through Friday, April 12 by sharing your family’s favorite song with us. Post it online with the hashtags #woyc19 and #MusicMonday and tag us @MusicTogether on Facebook or @MusicTogetherWorldwide on Instagram.
Here are a few musical ideas you can try to celebrate making music with your family—on Music Monday and every day!
Play a Sound Guessing Game! A fun activity from one of our expert teachers:
Invite kids to close their eyes while you (or a musical helper) make music with an item in your home (e.g., pencils, crayons, crayon box, spoons, pots and pans—or instruments if you have them!). Play the instrument and have the children try to guess what you just played. Take turns sharing and guessing. Check out more ideas for musical games from Music Together teachers to continue the fun!
“Although humans are not usually born in litters, we seem to insist they be educated in them.” – Dr. Lilian Katz
If you’re like many of us, you probably grew up learning in classrooms separated by age: First-graders in one room, second-graders in another, and so on. This is a common way to educate children, but it’s not the only way. You may have heard that Montessori schools combine multiple ages into each classroom, but did you know Music Together pioneered bringing mixed-age groupings to parent-child programs?
The resulting “family model” of early childhood education means that all members of a family can learn—and play!—together. Recent research on mixed-age classes highlights additional surprising benefits.
Benefit #1: True Empathy. Babies are born with the raw material to develop empathy, which often shows up as a reflex to mirror emotion, like when one baby cries and others cry, too. But in order for this potential to become what researchers call “true empathy,” children have to receive and give caring. This is rare in same-age schooling, but opportunities for nurturing exchanges abound in mixed-age classes.
Benefit #2: Meeting children’s unique needs. As a new parent, you may have joined a Baby Play Group to find support in parenting an infant for the first time. Finding community, comparing experiences, and sharing challenges all help new parents feel supported. (What a lifesaver these groups can be for parent and baby!) If, however, that baby never gets the opportunity to socialize, explore, and learn outside of this same-age group, key developmental needs will go unmet. As children grow, mixed-age settings provide the opportunity to be nurtured and mentored by older children, and to offer caring and leadership to younger children.
Benefit #3: Learning by teaching, leading, and modeling. In mixed-age play, older children learn by teaching, become leaders, and model for younger children. The little ones, in turn, emulate older children’s skills. You probably learned to tie your shoes by watching an older sibling, neighbor, or friend—one who took the time to patiently show you how to make loops, cross over, and pull until you got it right. In mixed-age groupings, younger children naturally turn to older children for guidance, and older children instinctively offer help to the younger ones.
Benefit #4: More creativity, less competition. When children of multiple ages play together, the focus shifts from competing for limited resources (like toys and attention) to having fun! Children have more chances for deep, imaginative play, for exploring new ideas, and for working together in novel ways. Parents, too, in a mixed-age classroom are less likely to compare their child to others. Nagging questions like, “Should my child be clapping, too?” are more likely to move into the background. Instead, they catch a glimpse of what’s ahead for their child and mentor other parents with a little “been there, done that” wisdom.
Luckily, Music Together families experience some of the benefits of mixed-age classes: fostering leadership, caring, empathy, and creativity—all of which support early music-learning and foster lifelong success in school and life.
When Peter and Stephanie Rich were choosing a name for their son, they knew they wanted a name that connected to harmony, and peace, and music. They were both very familiar with the Tony Award–winning tap dance master/choreographer Savion Glover, and they liked having a connection to an artist that they admired.
“After he was born and we saw our baby’s spirit, it just really clicked,” says Peter. “Savion: a name that speaks to a bringer of harmony, art, and peace.” Savion and his parents carry on a connection to those same values in their class at Music Together of Ithaca, New York. In fact, Savion has become so attached to the music that his parents make sure that Music Together songs are playing during every car ride they take.
“We once took a three-hour drive to see family, and Savion didn’t do well—lots of crying,” Stephanie recalls. “So on our next trip, we used the Music Together app for music, and he was fine! Now, every day and everywhere we go, we play Music Together songs. It makes such a difference.”
Savion is particularly taken with the songs that Grandma Yvette sings, such as “John the Rabbit,” “One Little Owl,” and “All Around the Kitchen.” Peter and Stephanie noticed that he seemed to gravitate towards her bluesy, soulful voice, and often stopped crying when he heard her singing. This piqued Peter’s curiosity, so he did a little research to find out more about Grandma Yvette, and discovered her bio on the Music Together website. Imagine his surprise when he discovered that she was the mother of Savion Glover! “We were so excited!” Peter exclaims. “We already loved Grandma Yvette through her music, and then to find out this funny, cool coincidence. . . it was really incredible.”
Peter and Stephanie wish to thank Grandma Yvette for having such a positive influence in their lives, and for bringing little Savion so much joy through the music she sings with the Music Together band. “We appreciate her voice and her musicality; she brings love into the music, and that filters out into our home and into our Savion’s life,” says Stephanie. “It’s so great singing along with her, and her influence has really spread out to our whole family. It’s such a sweet story for our son and our early parenting years.” It’s pretty safe bet to assume that it’s a sweet story for Grandma Yvette and her son, too.
School concerts, seasonal community events, religious ceremonies, holiday hits playing on the radio—all offer abundant opportunities to take advantage of the physical and emotional benefits of music during the busy holiday season.
Music is a source of comfort and peace as well as connection between family and friends. It promotes development in babies and young children, bonds families across generations, and stimulates areas of the brain involved with motivation, reward, and emotion. Here are five reasons to make music this holiday season.
Music helps us create and recall powerful memories. Music can spark happy memories and is often an important part of treasured family traditions, especially around holidays. Singing while you decorate the tree, at a holiday party, or at a religious celebration can help form memories and bonds with extended family and friends that will be recalled for many years to come. Create a new musical tradition: Sing a favorite holiday song in the car on the way to your holiday celebrations. Then, do it again next year.
Music relieves stress. There’s no doubt the holidays can be stressful. Did you know that singing can relieve stress? Studies show that singing has the ability to slow our pulse and heart rate, lower our blood pressure, and decrease the levels of stress hormone in our bodies. Making or listening to music can actually result in increased levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain’s reward system. So, sing along to music in the car while navigating the mall parking lot or getting ready for company. It will help you stay calm and, most importantly, model for your children a healthy way to deal with the stress of everyday life.
Music connects us. The holidays can be lonely for some people. Singing, especially in groups, can relieve this loneliness by connecting us to others in ways that no other activity can. Research indicates that music-making as a shared experience can activate and synchronize similar neural connections in all those participating. This alignment can result in feelings of empathy and shared intention that promote positive social interaction and bonding. When you sing with others this holiday season, during a religious service, at a community event, or at a family gathering, everyone reaps the benefits!
Singing is intergenerational. Music is an ageless way to connect with older relatives and create ties between youngest and oldest family members. Plus, music supports the aging process. In later years, participating in music activities helps keep the brain active and engaged and supports us physically, socially, and emotionally. Sharing memories of holiday music-making from their past and teaching those songs to future generations can be happy for both elderly storytellers and the family members listening and forming new memories.
Music-making is beneficial to children’s development. Music stimulates social, physical, cognitive, and emotional development and promotes language and concentration skills, confidence, and self-esteem. During the early years, active engagement with music promotes brain development and naturally supports growth essential to life and learning: That’s why we say music-learning supports all learning. Support your child’s development this holiday season: Sing your favorite carols in the car, jam to your holiday playlist, or go to a holiday concert or musical. (Check out performances at your local middle and high schools.)
The magic of music shines exceptionally bright during the holiday season. We hope you’ll enjoy it and use the wealth of musical opportunities as a springboard for making music throughout the entire year.
On Friday, October 5, we’ll be celebrating the 3rd Annual Kids Music Day, and we hope you’ll join in!
Founded by the national nonprofit organization Keep Music Alive, Kids Music Day was created to inspire music schools, retailers, and other organizations to hold events that honor and benefit kids making music. This year, as part of Kids Music Day weekend, an estimated 800-1,000 participants worldwide will hold open houses, instrument petting zoos, student performances, community and/or family jams, drumming and ukulele circles, and instrument donation drives. Find one in your neighborhood by visiting www.kidsmusicday.org.
Promoting the value of music in children’s education—the goal of Kids Music Day—is clearly consonant with the mission of Music Together, so many of our centers are celebrating with special events or offers from Monday, October 1, through Sunday, October 14. Ask your center director to find out if there’s anything planned near you!
Supporting Kids Music Day this year are several music industry leaders and other corporate sponsors, including CASIO EMI, Alfred Music, Remo, Conn-Selmer, Kala Brand Music, and Advantage Rent A Car. Celebrity artists, too, are showing their support for music education by signing on as Kids Music Day Ambassadors. Among these artists are such singers, songwriters, producers, composers, and instrumentalists as Julie Andrews, Richie Sambora, Nancy Wilson (Heart), Sarah McLachlan, Victor Wooten, Mandy Harvey, Jim Brickman, Bernie Williams, Siedah Garrett, Orianthi, Alma Deutscher, Todd Rundgren, Jan Hammer, Damien Escobar, Amy Holland, and Charlie Worsham.
Kids Music Day is actually one of two international holidays founded by Keep Music Alive. The other holiday, Teach Music Week, is held annually in March, and it also aligns closely with the principles of Music Together. In 2018, as part of the 4th Annual Teach Music Week, more than 600 music schools and retailers in the United States, Canada, and 10 additional countries offered free music lessons to new students—adults and children alike. March was chosen for this week-long celebration because March is also Music in Our Schools Month, doubly emphasizing how important it is for schools to include music in children’s education. (March is also our own appreciation month, Sing With Your Child Month.)
Keep Music Alive was founded in 2014 by husband-and-wife team Vincent James and Joann Pierdomenico to inspire more children and adults to enjoy the educational, social, and therapeutic effects of playing music. According to them, “[E]very child deserves the opportunity to learn how to play music, and every adult needs to be reminded that it’s never too late to start playing.” In addition to creating Kids Music Day and Teach Music Week, Keep Music Alive has published the book 88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life. Half the proceeds of sales of the book are donated to non-profits that support music instruction and education in schools and communities in need.
Kate Battenfeld has been teaching Music Together in Carlsbad, CA, for almost 20 years. She is also a music educator at Buena Vista Elementary School. Here’s her story.
Since 2002, Little Kids Rock has been on a mission to restore and enhance music education in public schools. To date, they have donated over 75,000 instruments, curriculum tools, and professional development resources to K–12 and collegiate educators. Last winter, I was awarded a grant to start their Modern Band program at Buena Vista Elementary School. In Modern Band, students learn to perform and improvise popular music using guitar, bass, percussion, keyboard, and vocals.
I was thrilled to be able to introduce Little Kids Rock and Modern Band to Buena Vista Elementary, and my students were equally excited. Beginning in January 2018, fifth-grade students rehearsed once a week, quickly catching on to basic keyboard skills and simple guitar and ukulele chords. They named their band “The Dolphin Wonders” and were proud and excited by their renditions of “Best Day of My Life,” and “I Gotta Feeling.” My students loved being on stage as they showcased songs for friends, family, and the school community.
“I think it’s really cool that people care about kids and their music learning experiences,” said one student. Another chimed in: “Plus, it’s really fun to hang out with your friends and play songs together!”
I look forward to continuing and expanding the Modern Band program in the fall. This coming school year, my goal is to incorporate it into all of my classes, from grades kindergarten through five. This month, I am attending the Little Kids Rock Modern Band Summit in Fort Collins, Colorado! This four-day professional development conference includes teacher-led workshops, special guest speakers, and nightly jam sessions that foster creativity and community in a peer network of more than 2,000 Modern Band practitioners nationwide. I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I return!
Music Together is proud to support Little Kids Rock and the mission to change lives through music. Learn more.
Communities around the world are planning Make Music Day festivities, with events in over 800 cities and 120 countries on June 21. In the US alone, there will be over 4,000 free concerts in over 50 cities. The annual global celebration of music brings people of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels together to make and enjoy music.
Join in the fun this year! U.S. cities hosting major celebrations include New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Portland, St. Louis, San Jose, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and more, with festivities being held in many other communities around the world.
Visit MakeMusicDay.org to find one near you—and create your own by sharing your favorite songs with your children, families, and friends.
Make Music Day - YouTube
Make Music Day celebrates and promotes the natural music-maker in all of us, regardless of ability. Every kind of musician—from bucket drummers to opera singers—pours onto streets, parks, plazas, porches, rooftops, gardens, and other public spaces to share their music with friends, neighbors, and strangers.
Based on France’s “Fête de la Musique,” a national musical holiday inaugurated in 1982, musical events take place in more than 750 cities in 120 countries, including the U.S., Germany, Italy, Greece, Russia, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, Australia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Canada, and Japan.
Here are a few highlights of the larger events planned for June 21, 2018:
More than 175 Mass Appeal events nationwide will bring together musicians of all levels and ages to make music in large, single-instrument groups led by experienced facilitators. Instruments with Mass Appeal events include guitars, harmonicas, accordions, ﬂutes, percussion, trombones, bassoons, French horns, synthesizers, ukuleles, djembes, harps, voices, dulcimers, and more. Free guitar, harmonica, ukuleles, drum and other instrumental lessons are also being oﬀered.
In New York City, there will be a citywide celebration of music, with free, outdoor performances in public parks, sidewalks, community centers, and more. Some highlights include “The Well-Tempered Clavier at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza,” which will showcase professional and student pianists performing preludes from J.S. Bach, and Improv Everywhere, which will host a new participatory audio adventure, “The MP3 Experiment Number Fifteen,” at the Brooklyn Bridge.
Sousapaloozas in Chicago, Cleveland, Iowa City, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Salem, and Wichita will bring together hundreds of brass and wind music musicians to play the music of John Philip Sousa.
Street Studios will feature DJs and producers bringing gear and engaging passersby in the spontaneous, collaborative production of original music on the streets of cities across the US (Chattanooga, TN; Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; Montclair, NJ; Mountain View, CA; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Reedsburg, WI; Salem, OR; Seattle, WA; Somerville, NJ; Stamford, CT), and the world (Bangalore, Budapest, Lagos, Moscow, Querétaro).
Music Together centers across the world are celebrating Make Music Day, too! Here are a few highlights.