I say this without hesitation; “I have the best job in the world.”
I love music and I love working with young families.
Sure, I’ve had the occasional bad day (usually on admin days during tax time), but almost never on the days I’m working at my centre.
My job is to facilitate joyful family music making experiences where both adults and young children feel free to sing, dance and make music (or not if they choose).
What could be better?
My music education was split between;
- formal instruction – music lessons teaching musical concepts, hours of practising scales and pieces to perform at organised events and competitions; and
- Informal experiences -listening to my parents’ 60s and 70s music collection (with a bit of Country and Western thrown in) then singing into a hair brush as I bopped along in front of the mirror, joining my parents as they danced and sang at family gatherings, making up songs and dance routines with my sister and cousins during family visits and attending live gigs at local clubs.
For me there were TWO types of music in my life; one was a bit boring (but legitimate), performance based (and judged) and the other exhilarating, creative, joyful and spontaneous.
I knew which one I preferred.
Over 18 years ago, when I started teaching early years music (after being a primary school teacher for 10 years), I thought I had discovered my calling. I set up my own business, running fun music classes for 1 year olds, 2 year olds……up to 6 year olds.. Once children reached the ripe old age of 3, parents dropped them at the door and we did all sorts of ‘child centered’ activities which taught rhythm, pitch, tempo, dynamics and other musical concepts for forty five minutes, and then they went home.
Looking back on it, I realise that this method did not suit everyone (my youngest child would have climbed the walls had he been expected to do organised activities for forty five minutes at this young age), parents only ever got to share the experience when they came at the end of term for our ‘open’ class and the sheer exhilaration of spontaneous musical expression, (which I loved as a child), was still missing.
Over 9 years ago, during an internet search, I stumbled upon a Parents’ Forum from The United States talking about this ‘amazing family music program’ where ‘whole families can participate in the same class’ and ‘individual learning styles are respected’. Apparently it is so good that ‘even musos take their kids there.’
I did a bit of research and realise, at long last I had found a quality music program for young children that linked to the exciting and creative experiences that nurtured my life-long love of music. My two types of music came together in a method aptly named Music Together®. http://www.musictogether.com
Whilst the nearest teacher training workshop at that time was in Japan, I was sure it would be worth the trip….and it most definitely was.
And so my journey with Music Together and my new company The Rhythm Tree began.
Now instead of parents leaving their children at the door, I run music classes for the whole family. Instead of teaching musical concepts, I offer experiences.
Music Together works on the principal that ‘all children are musical’. Many people mistakenly believe that only a talented few are musical. In fact, when given a supportive musical environment, children learn to sing and dance as naturally as they learn to walk and talk.
How is this possible you might ask?
Children learn differently to adults. They learn instinctively and constantly. They teach themselves through imitation and play, through being immersed in their environment, and through every interaction with adults and older children. The family-like setting of Music Together’s mixed-age classes enables siblings to attend together, creating an ideal learning environment where infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers can freely participate at their own levels.
I now find myself the ‘lightning rod’ for a beautiful community. Daily I share with parents and grandparents the joy of their children and grandchildren, young parents who are often learning what it is to share the world with their little people. We share jokes and stories and sing and dance. In some countries Kindergartens and Nurseries use Music Together as an effective way to develop their feeder communities. At the end of each year I sometimes wish I had this option. Saying good bye to families can be hard.