A Family that Sings Together is Stronger

While social distancing would seem like a means by which we will all have more time to ourselves, anyone with family members at home knows this cannot be farther from the truth. Parents who are lucky enough to be able to work from home, and those who are unfortunately temporarily out of work are now exposed to live-at-home family members for longer periods of time. This poses a challenge for many, as they seek new ways to spend the time and entertain children. One great thing to do that does not require a bit of practice, technology, or materials is to sing. Singing together as a family is a great way to pass the time and has been shown to provide a great deal of benefits for each and every family member.

  • Singing helps to soothe the soul – Just about any mother can tell you that singing to a restless baby can soothe and calm them. In fact, a new study shows that singing calms babies for longer periods of time than talking. In this new reality of social distancing, when anxieties can run high, singing reminds even older children and adults of happy times.
  • Singing to children helps them to become better learners – Children’s music teachers have always known what studies have proven. Singing to and with children better prepares them for learning in school. The patterns and repetitiveness of songs helps prepare them to be ready to read. Singing with children at home also teaches them to share, take turns and speak up when they are eventually in a social learning environment.
  • The old Family Sing- Along – Whether its Campfire Songs, Christmas Carols or Car Trip sing-alongs, families (and tribes) have always sang together through time. The benefits of this are numerous, including learning about your family history through traditional songs, learning how to harmonize with a group, or even how to get over performance anxiety. And who knows, someone might just realize they have a love for singing!
  • From traditional to pop, there’s something for everyone – There’s a reason why many traditional songs stand the test of time. They are easy for everyone to remember and sing. Good examples are Christmas Carols or favorite children’s songs. Just about anyone in the family will remember the most popular traditional songs, and there are also plenty of modern songs that most everyone knows.  

With sports practice, music lessons, PTA meetings and the like, many modern families’ lives seemed like ships that passed in the night. However, the need for social distancing has shut down many of the things that kept us running all the time. As families rediscover what it means to be around each other much of the day, they will look for ways to pass the time and reconnect. Singing together, whether it’s just while cleaning house or having a sing-along session in the family room, can become a way to help alleviate the tension and strain of this strange new world, while at the same time celebrating what it means to be family.

Promoting Health and Hygiene in Your Children’s Music Studio

Recent events have given everyone pause about going to public areas where there is unnecessary exposure to others. According to the Center of Disease Control, nearly 22 million school days are lost each year due to colds alone, and 38 million school days are lost due as a result of the flu. While there is no sure-fire prevention method for keeping a classroom from being susceptible to a contagious illness, there are some steps that children’s music studio owners can take to make their classroom more healthy and resistant to germs. Listening to and taking the direction of health care professionals is always the best course of action for teachers and studio owners, but there are some things you can do to make your classroom safer and more resilient:

  • Keep sharing of instruments in class to a minimum – Music classes are often full of fun instruments such as rattles, jingles, and rhythm sticks. To help prevent the spreading of germs, have enough instruments on hand so that everyone in your class has their own. That way, you can clean them after each class to use in the next one. Be sure to use appropriate cleaning methods for sanitation depending on the instruments’ material(s) construction.
  • Wipe down surfaces during as well as after – Teachers will tell you that they are always going behind children and wiping down after classes. Take the opportunity to allow the children to help while teaching them to wipe down instruments and surfaces. A work song is a great way to make this a fun activity with music. However, because children are still learning how to clean things thoroughly, be sure to go back after them at the end of each class for a deeper cleaning and sanitizing.  
  • Share your policies and procedures with parents – Parents are concerned about their child catching a cold, the flu, or worse in a classroom setting. Clearly lay out and communicate your hygiene and cleaning policy and procedures to give parents some peace of mind. Post it in your studio, email it to all your parents, and include it in your welcome packet for any class. This will help to assure them that you are taking precautions.

These are some things you can do in your children’s music studio to help prevent the spread of germs and illness. Keep in mind that there is no sure-fire way to prevent infection completely, but taking these precautions can reduce the chances. Most of all, listen to the experts and your parents to gauge the best course of action for keeping your studio safe.

Virtual Music Classes: One Parent’s (and Music Teacher’s) Cautionary Tale, Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part account from a children’s music instructor and mother concerning the comparison of virtual to in-person children’s music classes. It continues our discussions with children’s music professionals on important industry topics.

Rebecca Simonfalvi Cauthron is a certified Musikgarten teacher providing instruction at East Dallas Children’s Music. She has been teaching the Musikgarten curriculum for twenty-two years, becoming trained and certified in every level of instruction in the program. As a result, Rebecca has been honored with the coveted Musikgarten Achievement Award. She has a Bachelor’s in Flute Performance from the University of Texas and a Masters in the Art of Teaching with a focus in Early Childhood Music and Flute from Texas Woman’s University. She is adjunct flute professor at Mountain View College and has taught flute for 25 years. She is also the mother of a two-year-old son. 

Below is a summary of my experience with my son for a virtual music class.

I had just instructed the same class a few days prior to this class.  I knew the lesson plans and was able to gather my make-shift materials ahead of time, which included sticks, recordings for sounds of the workshop, and a box for “Jack in theBox;” so many of these little details the parent would not think of and it would be a lot of work for the teacher to make sure that the parent was prepared for success:  It would be essential for the parent to make sure all materials were accessible before class began.  The listening samples would need to be cued up on a device that would not interfere with the streaming of the class.  Providing the lesson plans would be helpful to the parent so they would be sure to know the songs well enough to sing along, because the distant voices of the class would not be heard clearly enough simply as a result of poor audio streaming. I also cleared a corner of my house in order to provide an area that was large enough to move around, but would contain little-to-no distractions.

To stream the class, the teacher and I decided to place the phone up high and out of view so as to not distract the children in the classroom with a screen.  We used Facetime.  I muted my end, because of the slight delay.  Class began.  He rarely observed the class on the screen; we used it as a guide for interaction between us. My son was included in the Hello Song, rocking and bouncing went well, and he echoed the patterns given to another child who ran up to sing into the “microphone.”  While the other children took their turns and a transition occurred to get ready for the next song, he began to move about the room.

I felt a great urge to keep him in my lap in front of the screen, but I allowed him to do his work!

He did a few laps around the room and when it was time to do the workshop, he became extremely engaged.  Then it was time for focused listening for the workshop.  We could faintly hear the sounds, but more so what was missing was not being with his friends against his spot on the wall with his little hand on the knee of the teacher. He gains great comfort from this. 

There is a distinct and irreplaceable human element to what we do.

“Jack in the Box” went well, as he had been playing that game with a box we had at the house all week long.  A new song was introduced and he was less inclined to participate.  He distracted himself with something and moved around, but I knew he was still listening. Many times throughout the class, he left the area.  A home has so many distractions which would not be found in the classroom. He also hit the screen with a stick and pretended to type on the keyboard, which could have turned off the whole class and they would have never known, because I would not want to call back and distract the class further.  Regardless, he participated with every song.  For the final circle song, his Dad came in and we did it together, which was sweet.  Just a few days ago, many months after this one music class, he pretended to have music class with me in the area of the house that I had created for that one virtual class. 

One of the most important values missed out on in virtual classes are the guiding moments of affirmation and education we spontaneously give to parents based on the behavior of their child in class. At home, there were a few times that I was able to redirect my son, but I fear that many parents would resort to punishment, bribery, etc. that they wouldn’t necessarily have to resort to in a live class which might set-up behaviors, tensions, or cues that would be brought back to class that were unnecessarily developed due to the home environment.

I felt a great disconnect that I had to compensate for; it was strange.

He was engaged, but he wasn’t. We were doing it together, but not with the class. He heard the teacher, but it wasn’t really her correct timbre. We weren’t in the circle to see the other children’s faces. He observes so much of what is going on when he is in the class. During transition times, we did the song again, as I felt he lacked direction because he couldn’t go get the sticks from the basket while manipulating the crowd of children; go to the listening corner; or hear some of the conversations that were going on between the teacher and some of the other toddlers.

Sometimes it was just commotion and noise, even though what was happening was beautiful organized wonder.

We missed out on the love, the hugs, the smiles. The music and activities were fun and engaging and I am so glad we did this, but I would not recommend it to families. I had to act as co-teacher to get this to work, although we are all co-teachers when we, as moms, take our children home and engage with them in musical activities. That is what we strive to make of our parents!

My final thought: Eye-contact with the individual child on their level is one of the most important human elements that cannot be replicated through an on-line class experience along with exploring the boundaries of the music room environment, the feeling of space being taken up by other children and parents, and the warm gentle hug initiated by the toddler on the teacher’s legs to offer their gratitude and love.  If there is a forced quarantine, value your class enough to delay your classes, offer a voucher for the summer, send your parents a weekly video guide with your ideas for singing and playing with their child at home, how to make your own instruments, other non-musical activities they could do with their child to help ease the cabin-fever, and so much more.  You will be the most wonderful gem in your families’ lives by making the effort to engage with them to continue your instruction in the most positive manner. 

Editor’s Note: As often is the case, adoption of technology for technology’s sake seems to present more difficulties than advantages in our society. While virtual attendance to events is often a good idea in certain situations, physical social interaction with both instructor and peers cannot be overemphasized when teaching children’s music. As our lives become more and more influenced and molded by technology, our hopes are that virtual music lessons continue to be more the exception than the rule.

Virtual Music Classes: One Parent’s (and Music Teacher’s) Cautionary Tale, Part 1

We are continuing our series highlighting the knowledge and advice of children’s music industry professionals and participants. Below is an actual account provided by a children’s music studio teacher, but also the parent of a two year old child. This is part 1 of a 2 part series.

Rebecca Simonfalvi Cauthron is a certified Musikgarten teacher providing instruction at East Dallas Children’s Music. She has been teaching the Musikgarten curriculum for twenty-two years, becoming trained and certified in every level of instruction in the program. As a result, Rebecca has been honored with the coveted Musikgarten Achievement Award. She has a Bachelor’s in Flute Performance from the University of Texas and a Masters in the Art of Teaching with a focus in Early Childhood Music and Flute from Texas Woman’s University. She is adjunct flute professor at Mountain View College and has taught flute for 25 years. She is also the mother of a two-year-old son.  

My family was quarantined for a week with HFM, but I wanted my son to have the experience of attending his music class, so we tried a virtual approach.  It didn’t fail, but I had to work very hard to make it engaging, fun, productive, and positive for my two year old.  So many things happened that required my twenty years of knowledge and study in the early childhood field, that I strongly believe that parents without that background could end up unintentionally negatively affecting their child’s experience upon their return to music class, especially after several weeks in a row. 

Is it better than nothing for one week or even a few weeks?

The parents would be better off watching the class and then engaging their child with the activities spread throughout the week to “keep them up-to-pace” with the class.  A virtual music class is not a replacement temporarily or permanently for the what the original intention of Musikgarten was founded upon.  We are not just educating the child in music, we are growing a child with roots cemented in engagement, comfort, love, the bravery of separation, the joy in the return, and surrounding them with feeling of the tambour of a room full of voices singing together.  You cannot feel all of that through a screen; those feelings create our musical experiences that engage, nurture, and grow the child. 

Social connectivity is the essence of musical bonding; without it, we lose the togetherness, which is too often overlooked for the sake of learning.  The idealism of a parent’s virtual experience is a fanciful rendering of an adult who might remember how Mr. Roger’s captured their heart every week as they learned and felt they were a part of his community. Expectations viewed through this idealistic filter will have negative effects on the outcome of a virtual music class. 

The reality is that early childhood music teachers are engaging, effective, and revered by the children because we value eye contact, personalized directional singing, visiting different parts of the room with our friends, moving away from the grown-up to put away instruments or hug the helper doll, etc. 

Without the teacher and other students present in the room, the virtual music experience becomes a time for the parent to be distracted by one idea:  To keep the child actively participating while looking at a class on a screen. 

Speaking from experience, it is stressful and not nearly as engaging for the young child as it is for the adult.  A parent might argue that their child watches hour long movies with no problem, surely a thirty minute class that they have experienced would be appealing and easy; but it is not and here is why: 

You can’t have a camera in the corner of your class and have it feel immersive.  Scene changes, jump cuts, etc. provide a narrative by cutting to only scenes that matter to aid the story. Most people don’t understand how much work goes into composing an engaging and meaningful scene. You can’t edit a live feed.  The only way a virtual class can work is if it composed to be a virtual class, meaning playing to the camera as if it were the child and having every movement planned with appropriate camera angles, cuts, and viewpoint changes. The audio feed should also be considered, as many times audio from live streaming are not able to isolate the sounds that are important to replicating a face-to-face experience.  If you have one locale for the microphone, but your voice is coming from many different parts of the room and music is being played from a speaker elsewhere, there are dynamic inconsistencies that are exacerbated by the noise cancelling feature on many devices as well as the reality that most recordings are done with multiple microphones that amplify each individual source and then are edited together to give an accurate representation of a live environment.  (Thank you David Cauthron, CTO, sound and lighting engineer for your expertise!)

The reason why Mr. Rogers was so effective at enchanting the child for an hour with a nowadays relatively slow program pace, was not only the camera and audio detailing, but:

Key to the success of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, was Roger’s iron insistence upon meeting the highest standards without qualification. Former producer Margaret Whitmer observes, “Our show wasn’t a director’s dream.  Fred had a lot of rules about showing the whole body, not just hands.  When actors or puppets were reading something, Fred wanted the kids to see the words, even if viewers literally couldn’t read them. The camera moves left to right, because you read left to right.  All those little tiny details were really important to Fred.”

-The Good Neighbor, The Life and Works of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King (2018)

Most teachers are not equipped with the technology, equipment, personnel, and know-how to create what we imagine in our heads and want our virtual class to be.  Many of us have extremely high standards for the “production” of our live classroom which, for all of the reasons listed above, is impossible to replicate on a stream.

Editor’s Note: With the internet and Wi-fi devices so prevalent in today’s society, it seems logical that many programs that were conducted in person would be just as effective being provided online. But as the experience above explains, this is not always the case with virtual music classes. Childhood music curriculum is often based on social connectivity and personal interaction, both with the teacher as well as other students. Even with the best technology and the most attentive and well prepared parent, physical group interaction simply makes the in-person music class much more immersive. Whether it is eye contact and facial expressions, the resonance of singing with others, or the fun of collaborative movement, the physical children’s music classroom experience is extremely hard to replicate online.

Stay tuned for the next installment to hear a step by step recap of the experience!

Industry Interview – Jeff Spickard, President – Musikgarten: Online Tools for Children’s Music Studio Teachers

In this blog, we try to provide children’s music studio owners and teachers with valuable information that can help you become more successful in your business. As part of our 2020 blogging topics, we will be conducting interviews with several professionals in the children’s music industry, from leaders to teachers. Our first interview is with Jeff Spickard, president of Musikgarten, a leading early childhood music curriculum provider. We will cover how the company has enhanced the way it communicates and delivers its products to early childhood music teachers all across the globe.

Q. For those who don’t already know about Musikgarten, can you briefly describe your organization?

That is a bit of an open ended question and like most companies there are many facets to our organization. The cliff notes version is Musikgarten is the best of early childhood music education, offering teachers the best training and materials possible to help them use music to teach the whole child. To quote our philosophy, we believe:

That all children are musical,
music meets the needs of children,
music benefits the whole child,
music must be introduced early and involve the family,
and that adults should observe and follow the child.

We use the best quality resources and follow a carefully sequenced approach to music literacy.

Q. Musikgarten has been providing children’s music curriculum to teachers across the globe for over twenty five years. Technology has drastically changed over that time. How has Musikgarten adapted to the changes in technology?   

That’s an interesting question because unlike some of our competitors, Musikgarten still provides our teachers with printed materials such as teachers guides and class activity cards for our curriculum. While this may seem old-fashioned to outside observers, we find that even our youngest teachers appreciate the ability to hold physical materials in their hands. Plus these are materials they can keep for a lifetime, no matter where their journey takes them. Where we do embrace technology to better serve our teachers is providing a digital music download, along with hard copy discs, training via real time webinars, and teacher support via videos, recorded coaching sessions and live webinar coaching sessions. We still believe that in-person ways are best in relaying information, but we also understand the convenience and cost effectiveness of relaying information digitally.  

Q. What is this most recent project that Musikgarten has launched that we are going to talk about today?

We just recently launched a new website.

Q. Why did you feel the need to create a new web presence for Musikgarten at this time?

For a couple of reasons. For one thing we felt like we needed to update the look of the site to function better with today’s browsers and mobile devices. In a way, it’s a rebranding of our web presence. As web based technologies such as screen sizes and resolutions change, it becomes necessary for organizations to make changes like this every 4-6 years. So it was just time for a change.

Secondly, we also wanted to move the website to, or have it built to better serve our teachers and parents with new functionality and delivery methods.  Now we have a site that gives us a great foundation to continue to build onto. This will give us a lot of flexibility to serve our teachers. The old site had really outlived this idea and any addition to it would be “clunky’ both for the user and for the company to keep up to date akin to slapping a band-aid on it.

Q. Who all is the new website intended to serve?

It really has three areas that serve those with different needs – Potential parents who are interested in giving their child the wonderful benefits of early music, potential teachers who want to take training, use the materials, and offer classes, and our existing Licensed Musikgarten teachers by giving them a robust log in section with help materials, great online ordering system, and hopefully items that make it a little easier to run their business and develop as teachers.

Q. How does the web site serve those different customers and/or markets at the same time?

For parents it gives them the basic info they need about Musikgarten’s philosophy and classes to lead them to make a decision to find a class in their area all in a colorful, inviting way.

In the same way, it gives the potential teacher all the basic information they need about Musikgarten’s philosophy to lead them to take the next step in information gathering at no cost – our in-person webinar, Meet Musikgarten. This session allows them to listen to and ask questions from an actual teacher trainer who is also an experienced teacher and business owner. And while we have had webinar training prior to this website launch, it makes the registration process much more streamlined and user friendly.

For our current Licensed Musikgarten teachers we are able to offer them a special login section. This allows them to take advantage of the many perks of being a Musikgarten Licensee and place orders safely while calculating all their license discounts.

Q. What’s new on the new site that was not on your old site?

Of course there is new photography and images, but one of the biggest additions is an e-commerce ordering/cart system for the public and a customized version in the teacher log in area that has Licensee pricing, items only Licensees can purchase, and calculates all Licensee discounts.

Q. Why did you decide to make these upgrades or additions to the new site?

We did this in the teacher area for better convenience and service to the customer. But we have also added more business building items, from photography to memes and recorded coaching sessions on getting your business started or social media, plus items to help advance them as teachers like class videos from Dr. Lorna Heyge and our teacher trainers, and coaching sessions that focus on teaching topics.

Sales to the public are something we have always conducted. We have always had a list price on our materials for sales at conventions, training workshops, general inquiries and even physically mailing price lists to our entire mailing list. Incorporating these resources into the website is simply a more convenient, and incidentally less costly, way of delivery to our customers.

Q. How does the new site and its functionality help Musikgarten to better fulfill its overall mission and goals?

We believe in what we do and the materials we offer. We hope with the new site, fresh look, and more exposure, Musikgarten will remind parents and teachers of the importance of our philosophy of always putting the needs of the child first.

Early childhood music education conducted the Musikgarten way is fun and exciting, but also needed today. When music and movement are a natural, joyous part of childhood, kids benefit greatly in many areas of life.  Language development, self-expression, memory skills, concentration, social interaction, fine motor skills, listening, problem solving, teamwork, goal setting, and coordination are all impacted by early music and movement education.  On top of that, as a child learns to play music, other areas of development—creativity, family bonding, self-esteem, confidence, emotional development—are also positively impacted.

Parents and teachers, or rather adults in general, need to be reminded that children need and thrive under certain circumstances, circumstances that our current society may not be providing. Our classes provide this space for children and their families. So it’s a funny kind of balance we are managing in our organization, while we are trying to responsibly provide the most up to date technology to our parents and teachers, at the same time we are reminding them of the importance to “un-plug” from the world of interruptions, listen to the music and just be with your child.

Q. What would you advise a newcomer to the site to do in order to get a good idea of what Musikgarten has to offer? Is that different for different types of site visitors?

I always like to start with who an organization is first, so I really recommend the About Us section of the site and specifically the Our Philosophy and Benefits of Music and Movement pages.

From there it depends on the type of visitor. If you are a parent, I really recommend the Find a Class page. See if someone in your area teaches and then join a class. I have two kids, 6 years old and 8 years old. They have taken Musikgarten classes since birth and I can personally testify to the benefits of Musikgarten classes. Watching their musical progress is a joy, but seeing them grow emotionally and socially is just as powerful. They sing in tune and joyfully make music a part of their everyday, whether they are playing a game, dancing, or just being silly. On top of all of this, they love their family, they love being in nature, are open to learning, and have empathy for the people around them. These are things that will carry them forward no matter where their journey takes them.

If you are a teacher, go through the Become a Teacher section. We offer both in-person and webinar training to fit everyone’s schedule. Register for a Meet Musikgarten session or if you have more questions please use the Contact form or call us 800-216-6864.

We want to thank Jeff Spickard for this interview, and stay tuned for more insight from industry professionals on how to be more successful as a children’s music studio teacher and owner.

Leveraging Unpaid Advertising to Grow your Early Childhood Music Program

Establishing a successful business can be costly, especially when you have a “brick and mortar” children’s music studio. With gross sales to rent ratio being as high as 20% in some markets, not to mention utilities and other necessary overhead, savvy studio owners take advantage of ways to market their business without spending. A good deal of marketing can be done at little expense other than good old fashioned “elbow grease.” It’s important to note that while your labor may seem free, there is an opportunity cost to any effort you personally put towards marketing your business. For example, time spent going out and visiting local pre-schools is time not spent teaching at the studio. However, if you can use some of your “downtime” to spend on the following unpaid marketing efforts, you can quickly gain return on your investment.

  • Social Media – Love it or hate it, social media has become a huge part of our lives. Young parents, and especially mothers, use social media for advice and support from their peers. With young mothers being a primary target audience of children’s music studios, this opportunity is hard to ignore. While an entire series of articles can be spent on social media alone, keep in mind that these various platforms can occupy a great deal of your time. Think about participating in just a few, and do them well.
  • Network and Post – Considering that the vast majority of your music students are going to come from your surrounding community, personally reach out and network with organizations that have common ground with your program such as Daycare Centers, Children’s Museums, Preschools, Libraries, Community Arts Programs, Mothers Groups, Churches, etc. Consider offering to teach a free class, where you can provide information on your business once parents have realized the value you provide to their children. If these organizations are not interested in a free class, ask if you can post a tear sheet or brochure on their premise that includes the special offer. 
  • Press Releases – While at first glance children’s music classes may not seem “newsworthy,” a well written press release can get attention with many media outlets. When preparing a press release, it’s important to write it from an “angle” that does not come across advertorial. For example, instead of Local Music Studio Offers Free Introductory Class, try something like How Early Childhood Music Programs Better Prepare Children for School.  Just by being the author of the press release, you can develop yourself as an expert on the subject, which in turn creates opportunities for your studio. In addition to the “angle,” there are other important elements of any good press release, such as subject line, brevity, contact information, boilerplate, etc.
  • One-on-one Marketing – Whenever and wherever you are, you should be prepared to explain and promote your business. While bringing up your children’s music program at a funeral would not be the best choice, you never know what kind of conversation may come up in almost any situation. Keep in mind that small talk almost always ends up with the question “so, what do you do?.” This is your opportunity to have your 30-second pitch ready, in a nonchalant way, to explain how your business delivers value to parents and children. You’d be surprised how many people will follow up with another question that allows you to expound and ask your own questions. Your sales pitch becomes more of a conversation than an advertisement for your studio. Always have a business card on hand if it seems like they are interested, and consider offering/mentioning a free introductory class on the back of the card as incentive.

Many of the most successful business entrepreneurs are very good at self-promotion. Not only is it a good way to establish you as an expert in your field, but also help develop rapport and trust with your audience while simultaneously building your brand. By always thinking about opportunities to mention or promote your early childhood music program, you will be making the most of your “elbow grease” during business downtime.

What Web Site Format is the Best for your Early Childhood Music Studio?

Small business owners understand that having a web presence is imperative in today’s market, both to provide a means of simple contact information and grant legitimacy to your business. Often times, the very first thing an interested prospect will do is Google your business to get as much information as possible to help with their purchase decision. This is especially true for Millennials.

 While there are way too many topics on organizational web presence to cover in one blog post, one that children’s music studio owners have constantly asked about is “What is the best kind of web site format for my business?” The options available can be daunting. When it comes to deciding on which format to go with for your music studio business, there are three major factors to consider – Budget, desired functionality, and autonomy/ownership. Typically, as desired functionality and autonomy increase, so does the necessary budget.

  • Social Media Profile or Page – There has become a trend of companies using one or several social media profiles in place of a web site. These pages are quick and free, making it perhaps the lowest cost option for businesses. It can also be a good way to build brand loyalty with customers. There are some downsides, however. For one, social media profiles offer limited page layout design, and have rules concerning content. Social media by nature also allows input from your audience in comments, likes, etc. This can be problematic if one disgruntled customer wants to badmouth your company on your own profile page. Lastly, smaller businesses, such as children’s music studios, can be eclipsed by the deep pockets of larger organizations that spend thousands to place numerous ads on your profile page.
  • Licensed Company Web Templates – Many organizations provide their dealers or franchise partners with a predesigned, web site template that is already branded with the corporate color palette, fonts, logos, etc. These often come at a small per month expense, including hosting, and are relatively easy to set up. Most also include Content Management Systems (CMSs), which provide password access to a Wysiwyg editor (simple toolbar of icons like in Word) so that content can be added and edited with copy, pictures, links, etc. Some of these sites also provide some functionality that are specific for the industry, such as children’s music class sign up forms and calendars. Also constrained by the template design, ultimate ownership of these sites belongs to the corporate entity that provides the license.
  • “Free” Web Site Builders – Web site builders have become very popular with start-ups and small businesses. GoDaddy, Wix, and Squarespace are popular providers of this format. While still considered “templated” web sites because the overall structure of the site is already provided, they tend to offer many options for different “look and feel” templates, depending on your particular tastes. Site builders also offer a large variety of Plugins, or modules that can be added for certain functionality such as online chat, class scheduling, or ecommerce. While they may come across or marketed as “free,” however, there are very often hidden costs to these sites such as hosting and domain fees, ad-free versions, and other upgrades such as email service and increased functionality. Finally, if you become unhappy with the provider of your site builder and want to take your business elsewhere, you have to leave your web site behind.
  • Open Source Templated Web Sites – Open source refers to a coding language that is available to anyone out there that wants to program a web site. There are several open source templated site platforms out there that are very popular, with WordPress being the most well-known. Offering virtually tens of thousands of pre-made site templates that can be bought at a relatively low price than custom programmed sites, they also offer a large amount of Plugins for all kinds of functionality. Being open source, these templates can be highly customized, tend to work well on mobile devices, and offer robust Content Management Systems (CMSs). Building these sites is not as easy as it sounds, as you must learn each template’s CMS with particular quirks. But because they are so popular, there are a lot of resources and programmers available for building and maintaining them at an additional cost. Having full ownership of these sites, you will be able to host and move them just about anywhere you like. However, also because they are so popular, open source templated sites are popular targets for hackers, so constant security patches must be installed.
  • Total Customized, Hard Coded Web Site – If highly customized design and functionality is what your organization needs, a hard-coded custom designed site offers the most flexibility to “stick build” a web site. These sites, depending on how much customization is desired, can run from the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars for small to medium businesses. For industries that have very unique offerings that require unique functionality, this may be your only option. For example, a fabric company that wants to offer online customization of its fabrics, as well as showing inventory in real time might need a customized solution. Custom web sites also offer scalability of and security, which comes at a price.

While the multitudes of web site format options out there might make your head spin, for small businesses such as children’s music studio owners, it is often best to start by determining what kind of budget you have for your web site. It is often good to start small when launching a web presence. Weigh that budget against how important functionality and autonomy/ownership is to your business needs. Something as simple as a social media profile may not be enough to tell your entire story. Also keep in mind that on average, web sites need to be updated or redesigned about every 5 to 7 years in order to stay in step with trends in technology. So, starting small is a good way to learn about web technology without breaking the bank.

The Evidence of How Early Childhood Music Education Helps Students in School

Most parents will tell you about how music is engrained in many of the activities, games, and educational entertainment of early childhood. We may remember the songs of Sesame Street or School House Rock that helped us learn to count, form words, or learn history. Younger parents will remember playing Baby Mozart for their children in the crib, or how music was used in popular educational cartoons such as Sid the Science Kid. For a very long time, educators and parents have understood the value of exposure to music in the earlies stages of life, but an ever increasing amount of research supports that teaching children about music at an early age will give them an advantage as students:

  • A large-scale longitudinal study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that structured music lessons significantly enhance children’s language-based reasoning, planning, short term memory and other cognitive abilities. Children as young as 2.5 years old were assessed for academic performance as well as various cognitive skills. It found that children who had received music lessons suggested that cognitive skills developed during music lessons influence their abilities in completely unrelated subjects, leading to improved academic performance overall.
  • Moving in sync to music with others helps toddlers form stronger social bonds, according to a study performed by McMaster University. The study found that toddlers, some of which were as young as 14 months old, were more likely to help an adult pick up a dropped object if they had previously bounced together in time with music as compared to those whose movement was off tempo. This exercise was designed to help infants be better in tune with emotions through sharing songs and music.
  • Music improves baby brain responses to music and speech, according to scientists at University of Washington’s Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS), a series of musical play sessions with 9-month old babies showed an improvement in brain processing of new speech sounds. It is the first such study to suggest that recognizing rhythmic patterns in music can also help babies to detect rhythmic patterns in speech, concluding that engaging in musical experiences at an early age can have a more global effect on cognitive skills.
  • Just listening is not enough. While music has been known to soothe infants and help to create a bond between caregiver and child, a study from Northwestern University revealed that simply listening to music at an older age does not have the same cognitive benefits as being actively engaged in a music class. Researchers found that children who regularly attended, as well as participated in music classes showed larger improvements in how the brain processes reading and speech than less involved children. The role of music and movement in children’s learning and growth is well documented.

The scientific evidence of the benefits of early childhood music classes is continuing to support the consensus that even from the earlies stages of life, exposure and participation in music positively influence cognitive development in children, particularly in the areas of social, speech and reading skills. As a result, these children are better prepared and perform consistently higher in school than their peers.

Tips for Retaining Students in Your Childhood Music Studio

Owners and operators of children’s music studios will tell you that gaining new students is the most challenging part of their business. But often music teachers also struggle with how to retain those students once they take their first class. Any good businessperson will tell you that it costs up to five times more to acquire a new customer than to gain the same revenue from an existing one. But owners of children’s music studios often struggle with how to move an infant into the next stage of toddler classes, or toddlers into the next stage of pre-schooler classes. Of course, parents are the key, but exactly how do you get them to agree, or even better to desire, to keep moving through the program. In addition to running an effective and beneficial childhood music program, here are a few tips to help you move parents along to the next music class:

  • Begin each program with a Parent Orientation Class – The first class of any music program should set up proper expectations before classes begin, such as class policies, participation expectations, and class materials needed. Since new parents can be entering each new program or curricula, orientation should be performed in the first class of each program. This gives parents a frame of reference for all other parent education efforts throughout the semester.
  • Provide a personal testimonial about why you chose your particular curriculum – Professional marketers will laud the effectiveness of a good testimonial. Part of this stems from the psychology of positive affirmation. Consumers, and especially mothers, want to know that they have made the right decision for their child. By telling your own story of carefully selecting the children’s music curriculum they will participate in provides assurances that they have made a good purchase decision. Parents also provide a wonderful testimonial for other parents, so do not be afraid to ask for your more seasoned parents to provide kudos, either verbally or written.
  • Make Off the Cuff and Did you know? parent education remarks Creating anticipation is a cornerstone of good creative marketing, as is the reinforcement of a belief or message. By making “off the cuff” positive comments about what parents can expect when children move into the next curriculum level, an emotion of anticipation is created. One way to do this is with “Did you know?” statements, such as “Did you know that this pattern “ba-ba ba” (or du-de du) is the same as that yellow notation game up there on the wall? It’s the first pattern your child will read in music notation in the [Next Class Name] class!” It is often helpful to write down and memorize Did you know? statements for each class so that you can naturally mention them “Off the Cuff.” An average of two per class helps to reinforce the anticipation and affirm the value of your next program.
  • Use the end of your last class to sign up for the next – There is no better opportunity to market your next class than when you have a captive audience. At the end of your last class, provide an overview of the next class, along with the benefits the next class will provide to their child. Visual aids and class materials help to show these benefits. Announce that you have a sign-up sheet ready and ask who would like to sign up. To incentivize the parents, offer a special on the next class, such as discounted materials or class fees. Don’t be afraid to ask for the business, it is what is necessary to keep your studio going while providing valuable exposure to music to young minds.

While it is important for any business owner to think about retaining customers, it is also important to keep in mind that the first purpose of children’s music studios is to inspire a love of music in children. While these customer retention techniques are helpful in assuring the success of your business, remember that seeing their child having fun while learning music will encourage the parents to want to continue more than any marketing tactic ever could. So, be sure to spend the majority of each class simply having musical fun with the children and parents! 

How Music Helps Children Connect with Nature

Since the dawn of mankind, the sounds of the natural world have been an integral part of our culture. All the world is sound, or vibration. From bees humming to the sound of falling water, the same vibrations that make music surround us in nature. Aboriginal Australian tribes believe that humans actually sang the world into existence with Songlines as they walk the song lines crisscrossing land between natural spaces. Great composers often used nature as the backdrop for their works, such as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, or Johannes Brahms C Minor Symphony.  

It should be no surprise that exposure to music in early childhood helps kids make a connection with nature. Many traditional children’s songs such as Green Grass Grows All Around, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Teddy Bears Picnic, and Walking in the Green Grass sing of the natural world around us. We know how music has many benefits for the healthy development of a child from the earliest ages, but it can also help to create a connectedness to nature that will last their entire lives. Here are just a few ways that music helps kids connect to nature:  

  • It is often hard to express in words the emotions and feelings that being in nature evokes. Music helps express those feelings without words.
  • Experiencing music and nature helps kids learn mindfulness – how to be present and in the moment. This is why much Mindful Music used for relaxation, meditation, and personal healing is based on sounds in nature such as waves at the beach, a rain shower, or a babbling brook.
  • Like music, the sounds of nature help children to listen more carefully and intently. This helps sharpen communication skills and teaches perseverance.
  • Songs and music about the natural world help children to develop familiarity and empathy towards plants, animals, and elements in nature, encouraging them to spend more time in outdoors. This develops a sense of harmony and rhythm with nature, and thus a more caring attitude towards it.
  • There is a reason why outdoor concerts are so popular in all forms and genres of music. The scenery and smells provide additional stimuli to make the music experience even more enjoyable. Concerts are often scheduled at sunset to take advantage of the beautiful sky. Many religions have a dawn or sunrise ritual attuned to music or chanting to communicate new beginnings, new life, or hope.
  • The link between the pleasure that music brings and exposure to nature in early childhood helps to encourage a lifetime appreciation of the outdoors and environmental responsibility.  

It is well documented that exposing children to music at an early age helps their development in numerous ways. Science is also proving that time in nature provides kids with exercise, mindfulness, and the development of deeper social connections. It should not be surprising then, that the natural connection between music and the environment have been around since the dawn of mankind.