Monday, May 19, 2014

Music is a Universal Language ~ from Laila Hirtz

Each semester means new beginnings as a Music Together teacher. We may have repeat families, or classrooms that are very familiar, but each new class has their own feel, pace and energy. You never know what “mood” each class will bring.

This last fall, our center was invited to teach outreach classes through First Things First at Maricopa Integrated Health Services in South Phoenix and Maryvale;  at first, I wasn't sure how the classes would work. Most of our families attended did not speak very much (or any) English (and my Spanish is horrible!).  While this may seem to be a negative, it was really a hidden blessing. It proves to me and my families each week that music is a universal language, and we don’t have to speak to each other to make music together.

It DID work!  We communicated in so many ways and especially through the music.  We made eye contact, we mimiced each other’s behaviors, and we had fun together! We used big and little arms, loud and soft voices, and watched each other for cues. At first, the children were the ones communicating with me through touches, waving of their arms and loud noises. They would get my attention and mimic what it was they wanted me to do, and I always understood. Seeing me have such fun with their children encouraged the adults to do the same, and soon we had a wonderful community feeling and rapport with each other, even if it was not through words. 

Our class experiences were a terrific way of proving that music can be its own "language"!!   We sang vocables (“la la la” or “do do do”) and also the regular lyrics to songs.  And when we threw in verses of “Jack In The Box” or “Mary Had a Red Dress”, it was so apparent that the families had been listening to the CD's! We even had English learning happening through music.

This way of communicating may seem like it was a minor feat, once we were in the middle of the semester, it was huge! I felt a deep closeness to the families, and had heard many (translated) stories of music making and musical behaviors of the children at home. The families knew all of the songs; they even sang loud enough that I could barely hear myself - which is every Music Together teacher’s dream. 

Music is a Universal Language

from Laila Hirtz
Early Childhood Music Specialist and all around super fun human bean!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What!? My Brain is Plastic!?

I really love making music with young children and their mommies, daddies, grandmas and caregivers!  I feel so fortunate to have been able to do this awesome work for many years and, while I truly believe that music-learning for it's very own sake is KING (and also supports a child's development in almost all areas), I was recently listening to a talk at our annual Music Together Conference, from Karl Paulneck, and learned how music learning is even MORE powerful than I had previously known.  Music even helps the brain develop and grow!

First of all, here is a little bit of brain information:  we know that brain' ability to make new connections, repair themselves and restructure is super important.  This helps us learn new things, solve problems, and relate to the world.  Can you imagine not being able to learn new things just because you were turning 50 soon?  This would be so personally disturbing.  We used to believe that the brain was a physiologically static organ, but new research is showing otherwise!  Yaaa!  The brain's plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity, describes how our experiences reorganize neural pathways.  When we learn new things, our brains get structured accordingly.  This is super exciting.

More exciting news that I learned from Karl Paulneck:  there are FOUR things that stimulate the brain's neuroplasticity.  Drum roll please......

  1. MUSIC
  2. Intentional EXERCISE (and movement)
  3. PLAY 
  4. NUMINOUS EXPERIENCES (experiences that take us away from our ego and when our sense of self is absorbed, such as spiritual experiences or possibly singing in a choir/ playing in a band or group music making at Music Together)
Anyone who has been to a Music Together class knows that we do all four of these things each and every week we get to see our families.  The numinous experience happens when families are singing and moving together with their children and get lost in that awesome soup of sound with silly ostinatos, or rounds, or precious lullabies into babies ears.

I love that our brains are "plastic"!

♥   Kathy Rowe
Music Together in Phoenix

PS  Read more about Karl Paulneck's Welcome Address at the Boston Conservatory:  Welcome Address

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Grownups Acting Silly and Having Fun in Class!

Is it okay for the grownups to sing out of tune, dance very silly, or have more fun than their child in class?   Answer:  YES!!

Have you ever been to a Music Together class where all the big people are singing and dancing and acting silly?  You might notice that the children are super engaged when this happens.  It's like MAGIC!!

When I first starting teaching this program many years ago, I was a bit intimidated by having grownups in class.  I had been teaching music in the grade school setting for over a decade (without grownups) with ease, grace and LOTS of silliness!  The idea of doing this in front of the mommies and daddies, at first, seemed terrifying.  What if they thought I was an idiot?  What if they judged me?  Okay, now I know it doesn't matter and it's gotten so much easier.  It helps to realize how very important it is for us to model FUN music-making for our children!   The more you do it; the easier it gets, REALLY!!

Yesterday, I had a lovely conversation with a family in our program that LOVES her current class.  All the grownups are fully engaged in the music, sing loudly, and get very silly.  She shared that she had attended make-up classes that didn't have this same energy or focus . . . the teacher was still super fun, the music was still awesome Music Together music, but she noticed that the big people in class seemed to not be as into the singing, dancing and acting silly.  I think that this can be super scary for many grownups!!  However, the more you do it, the easier it gets, REALLY!

Why is this so crucial to a child's musical development?  Children get their disposition doing things (like making music, cooking, gardening) by seeing their favorite adults doing these activities.  I've hear people say, "if you want to raise a child who like to read, make sure they see you reading."  Music Together teachers say, "if you want to raise a musical child, make sure they see you making music!"

Have fun, sing loud, and be silly!  
♥  Kathy & Music Together in Phoenix

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sweet Stories from Class - Laila

We just finished our Summer classes.  What a hoot this summer was.; lots of everyone's VERY favorite songs, Trot Ol' Joe, Su La Li, and John, the Rabbit!   Teacher Laila was telling me this amazing story from a mom in one of her classes, and I said, "you HAVE to write that down". 

"I had a mommy come up to me in tears in class one day because her very young daughter was singing a song from one of our CDs. She had a video of this little sweetie singing in the middle of the mall, belting out the song like it was her job. What I found so incredibly touching about this is this mother simply couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t a moment she expected, and it took her by complete surprise. You see, this mommy, who is very enthusiastic and fun in class, still has a hard time singing without feeling uncomfortable. For her to hear her daughter singing without shame and enjoying herself was a feeling she hasn’t yet been able to have herself. Have you ever seen a parent experience their child doing something they have never done? It’s amazing. And although this mommy still hasn’t completely found her voice yet, I can see her having more and more fun in class every week."

Music can be so powerful in a child's life!  Thanks for sharing this story from class, Laila!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Making Music with My Family

Talk to any Music Together teacher and they will surely say . . . "I have the BEST job in the world!"  Getting to work with families of young children is amazingly rewarding, meaningful, and FUN.  We always share about the importance of making music with your family at home; not just putting on the CDs, but actually MAKING the music yourself. I truly believe this is great for bonding and community and fun!

Even though I really think this is important and good, I've noticed as my children have gotten older making music with them is not as easy.  I recall my daughters as adolescents would often not appreciate family singing or my attempts to get them to join in, even just around the house or in the car, but especially not dancing in the almond butter isle at Trader Joes when a Cure song would come on.  My dog loves singing with me and the chickens definitely tolerate it, my husband is a great sport at going swing dancing, but active music making with the children has been more difficult. 

Now, I have teenagers!  I also have the Music Together bumper magnet that says, "My Family Makes Music Together"; and it's felt like little bit of truth-stretching until recently (even though pets are considered part of our family).  After returning home from a long weekend to New Orleans with this daughter and seeing tremendous amounts of wonderful live music, including an all-girl momma-daughter-grandma jam band, I thought it would be fun to make a band with my friends and daughter.
Spiderbaby, our band, started practicing last fall with my good girlfriend, her daughter, my daughter and me; it's been a fun adventure with some ups and downs, and learning to navigate feelings, attitudes, song choices and such.  It was mostly for fun, playing our favorite Toasters/Specials/Cake/Patsy Cline/Johnny Cash songs, but this Friday we had the most crazy-good opportunity to play a real gig (fund raiser for Coalition Against Domestic Violence) at Rips.  It has mostly felt satisfying to make music that I really adore for my own personal enjoyment, but it also clear any guilt about that my bumper-magnet on my car being for REAL:  "My Family Makes Music Together" (and not just the ones with four legs or feathers)!

♪  Kathy

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Music Together Teachers ROCK!

This weekend, we hosting a Music Together LLC Teacher Training at our Kids.Play.Music. studio.  I learned SO much!

The  three day training was lead by an amazing clinician (and now friend) from Las Vegas, Melanie Ron.  I was fortunate to get to sit in on much of the training of newbie teachers who had come from all over the country to immerse themselves in the cutting edge principles of early childhood music & movement:  how to develop a song, understanding music development in birth to age 5, how to support parents in nurturing musical growth, practicing leading a group and how to support a new generation of musically competent children.

We also had a few seasoned teachers coming back for "refeshers"!  They were sitting in on the training after having taught the Music Together curriculum and delving deeper.  

I was so inspired and amazed at the breadth, thought, research, and support that goes into teaching Music Together.  New teachers take away a whole new paradigm for looking at young children & music, but even seasoned center directors get to take away a PLETHORA of knowledge.  It was inspiring to get to listen to this very familiar information in a new way, but it was also affirming to be part of an organization with such love and integrity.

One of the new things that I learned was in regards to  "EXECUTIVE FUNCTION.  I learned that our Music Together classes support a child's pre-frontal cortex which is in charge of a person's executive functions.  This is SO exciting because it involves planning, attention, mental flexibility;  all of which leads to a better chance a success in school.

I am excited for all the new creative teachers that I met that are going out to do this awesome (and fun) work, and I am really excited to go teach this week!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Five FUN Reasons to Join Us for Summer!

We are so excited about our summer classes starting today at Music Together in Phoenix.  Summer is always the "Best Of...the Nine Collections" and this summer has some of my very favorite songs; "Trot Ol' Joe",  "Maria Isabel", and "She Sells Sea Shells"!!

Here a FIVE FUN reasons to join us making beautiful music this summer:

  1.  Music making is a whole-brain experience that supports the growth and development of a child's pre-frontal cortex which is in charge of the brain's executive functions (planning, problem solving, attention, mental flexibility, etc).   
  2. Families get a choice of joining for all 8 weeks of summer fun, or choosing a flexible 6 week option and informing us of the 2 weeks they will not be attending!   If you miss a class, two make ups will be provided.
  3. The first five years of a child's life are crucial for their music development; this is the easiest time for children to gain basic music competence (singing tunefully and keeping accurate rhythm).
  4. 45 minutes of joyful music making with your child EACH and every week!
  5. It's INDOORS with air conditioning!!!

We hope you can join us!
Kathy Rowe
Music Together in Phoenix

Ridin' In the Car video from around the world (from Music Together, LLC)