A recent article in the New York Times asked the question: Is music the key to success? Of course, at Kindermusik, we would answer a resounding: Yes! We wouldn’t be alone in that exclamation either.
The body of music education research continues to grow concerning how musical learning can increase social-emotional abilities, math skills, language development, inhibitory control, collaboration, empathy, creativity, cultural understanding, and so much more. Studies show music can decrease pain during medical procedures, lower blood pressure, and lift our overall spirits.
Getting personal about the benefits of music
However, the music education research only tells part of the story. Music is personal as much as it is social. Take the case of United States Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. A bullet to her brain left her in critical condition and unable to speak. However, through music therapy, she is learning how to speak again.
In the above television interview, Dr. Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Columbia University sums up the benefits of music on language by explaining: “Nothing activates the brain so extensively as music to it to have been possible to create new language areas in the right hemisphere.”
The New York Times article provides more personal stories from individuals who credit the benefits of music to their success in other areas:
The television broadcaster Paula Zahn (cello) and the NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd (French horn) both attended college on music scholarships.
Larry Page, a co-founder of Google, played saxophone in high school.
Steven Spielberg is a clarinetist and son of a pianist.
Condoleezza Rice trained to be a concert pianist.
Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, was a professional clarinet and saxophone player.
The former World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn has played cello at Carnegie Hall.
(Source: WorldBank.org James Wolfensohn performs with Bank/IMF Choral Group at Christmas Concert, 2004)
Music provides balance, explains Mr. Wolfensohn in the New York Times article, who began cello lessons as an adult. “You aren’t trying to win any races or be the leader of this or the leader of that. You’re enjoying it because of the satisfaction and joy you get out of music, which is totally unrelated to your professional status.”
So, again, we answer the question, “Is music the key to success?” with a resounding, Yes…and so much more!
The big question of what I would be when I grew up was not such a big question. I’d known since before I went to school that I wanted to be a teacher. Occasionally I get an AFFIRMED stamp on that decision, and on those days my heart just sings. Last week, on Tuesday morning, October 4th at about 10:55, I had one of those moments.
I have this little guy in that Our Time music class. His name is Ben, and he’s been in class with me since before he was born. I actually think he was in class before his mother even knew she was pregnant. After he arrived on the outside of mom, he came as a tag along in a car-seat with his older brother, and when he could sit up, he came to Village (you don’t have to wait that long… come before they sit up!) and now he is coming to his second year of Our Time. So he’s less than three years old and has been in class longer than that.
Ben and I have a connection that I can’t quite explain… so when his mom came to me last fall and said Ben had been diagnosed somewhere on the Autism spectrum I was literally shocked. Not this child, who is so lively and connected, who smiles at me and hugs me and makes eye contact and snuggles into my shoulder so tight that you couldn’t slide a piece of paper between us. Nope. I couldn’t see it… ‘cause Ben and I are connected.
But I started watching him with other folks and I did notice that he only makes eye contact with his mom and me in class. He doesn’t touch anyone but the two of us, and he doesn’t really interact with the other children, and the other moms are treated like shadows on the wall. He is very interested in the activities, but on his terms. So after the shock wore off, I began to understand. It didn’t change anything, ‘cause Ben and I are, well… we’re connected.
Last week in class we we’re doing the Keel Row, just like we always do after we’ve found Lukey’s Boat (Because you dance a Keel Row on a boat- duh!) But I wanted to add a level of personal connection to the communal experience of the dance so I asked the parents to call out to the children across from them and to use the child’s name when we go in and out of the circle during the refrain. The song is highly patterned- intro, verse, refrain, interlude, verse, refrain, and interlude, verse, refrain, refrain. So, there are exactly eight times in the song where the parents were calling out the kids across from them.
Last Tuesday was a running in and out day for Ben; this means he dashes into the action, watches for second or two, or maybe longer, and then dashes back out. Sometimes back to mom, sometimes to a spot of his choosing. I know sometimes he’s watching, sometimes he’s absorbing, but not actively focused on what’s going on. During the dance he ran around the outside of the circle. I could tell he was aware of what was going on, because he knew when to back up so that no one stepped on him when we were backing out of the circle.
But what happened next was so unbelievably wonderful. As we came out of the circle for the second to the last time, Ben dashed in to the middle of the circle, threw his arms up in the air and beamed at the whole class. I took the opportunity and shouted out for everyone to say hello to Ben as we came in; I fully expected him to dash out of the circle before we got there. We all headed back in, the whole class shouting “HI BEN!” and he squealed with delight and wriggled with obvious joy, even jumping up and down a bit. And he made eye contact with a goodly percentage of the class and was a complete member of the community. My heart swelled… my eyes got teary. I blinked hard and did a Scarlet O’Hara,“ I’ll think about it another day” because we we’re about half way through class. I still had plenty of work to do and no time for tears.
So I pulled out the memory and thought it about on the way home- and I realized something really important; not only did Ben choose to make a connection with his class in a socially huge way, he knew when to do it… he knew the pattern in the song, knew it was the last chance to be a part of the dance, knew when he needed to be in the center of the circle and knew how to say “MY TURN” with out any words. I got all teary again… no matter how far away he seems sometimes, he’s not. He’s right there, and he’s getting it. This was only the 4th time we’ve done the dance in class, and he knew what the pattern was, knew this was a safe place and that he could take that leap of faith to join the community.
Today, Ben danced the WHOLE dance. Standing right next to his mom. He kicked, he went around, he went in and out- he squealed with delight, he made eye contact with other adults. When we read the “Pete and PJ” he Wishy Washy Whee’d with the group, right on time, every single time. And his WHEEEEE! was whole-heartedly spectacular.
And later, when he came to drop off his big brother for his class, he gave me the sweetest hug, with his head on my shoulder, and a pat.
-posted by Miss Allison, who says, “Here comes that stamp- AFFIRMED! I so made the right decision back when I was five and decided to be a teacher.”
Although the poet Robert Frost was not a preschool, Parents as Teachers, or Head Start teacher, we think he could have been writing about what happens inside a early childhood classroom when he penned: “I’m not a teacher, but an awakener.”
Every day in Parents as Teachers and Head Start programs around the United States, preschool teachers awaken the potential in children. At Kindermusik International, we think—and the research supports it—that music can unlock this potential in all children, especially those most at risk.
KindermusikSing & Play, our brand-new curriculum for young toddlers can be used as part of a Parents as Teachers, Early Head Start, or Head Start curriculum to impact a young child’s social, emotional, physical and intellectual development and increase school readiness.
5 ways new Head Start curriculum, Sing & Play, enhances toddlers’ growth:
Created for children between the ages of 12 and 24 months, each Sing & Play lesson includes an average of 11-13 activities with one or more of the following lesson components: gathering time, singing/vocalization, language development, instrument play, movement, pretend play, and greeting/closing rituals. Plus, each lesson features a specific focus, which is experienced, discussed, and discovered through music and movement. Participating children see gains in:
Language and Literacy—phonological awareness, auditory discrimination, listening and attention skills, vocabulary development, oral skills, expressive language, verbal memory, and following directions.
Social-Emotional—pretend play, sharing and taking turns, self-esteem, cooperative play.
Music—steady beat competency, vocabulary development, ability to identify and express, rhythmic patterns, listening acuity.
Physical—creative movement, rhythm and coordination, eye-hand coordination, fine- and gross-motor skills.
Parent involvement in early childhood development
It’s not only teachers who are “awakeners,” parents are, too. Sing & Play includes the tools and resources needed to boost parent involvement in early childhood education. Through Kindermusik@Home, parents receive access to the music from class as well as parenting tips and ideas on how to incorporate musical activities into their everyday routines and rituals.
One of the fabulous benefits of your enrollment in Kindermusik isKindermusik@Home – a whole new way to access and enjoy your Home Materials throughout the week. But how can Kindermusik@Home make parenting a little bit easier? Well, you might turn to Kindermusik@Home when you…
need a lullaby to calm your baby to sleep
are looking for a special way to connect with your child and sneak in a few giggles or cuddles
are desperate for a diversion in the long line at the grocery store or the waiting room at the doctor’s office
can’t remember the words to your child’s favorite song from class
can’t get out on a rainy day and an educational activity for kids like a video field trip or kid-friendly recipe might be just the thing