All posts by Musikgarten

Key Issues in Early Childhood Education: Approaches to Children’s Music Curriculum and Lessons

Over the past several weeks, we have been delving into several key discussion topics or issues that early childhood educators face in the classroom. Much of this content is based on the observations and writings of neuroscience educator Dr. Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D. The last installment explores how children’s music teachers can provide nourishment to children through soul, body, and mind, while feeding their developing and amazing frontal lobes. This next post will address the validity of two discussion issues related to children’s music curriculum and the role of lesson plans and content.

Discussion Topic One: The driving force behind music must be an elaborate curriculum with clear objectives and activities, for which content is the critical element.

Rudolf Steiner, Austrian scientist, thinker and founder of Waldorf Education, suggested in the early 1920s that parenting was quickly evolving from natural instinct to a more formal and conscious understanding. With all of the subsequent literature and available instruction available to parents today, it is plain to see that this prediction came to pass. This same evolution can be seen in the development of education, where carefully developed curricula with well-planned objectives and timelines of activities offer benefits to music educators and students alike.

However, it is important to understand that children are the critical element in the classroom, not the lesson plan. It is up to teachers to adapt and shift focus as needed based on each moment with students to provide the nourishment of mind, body, and spirit. Content and form represent only ten percent of the learning experience, whereas the “magic of the moment” represents ninety.

Discussion Issue Two: It is important to cover all the lesson plans in a timely manner or children will “fall behind.”

This is a longstanding conflict in the field of education – Do teachers educate or instruct? Do children unfold, or do they acquire knowledge? The root for the word educate is educare, and mean “to draw forth,” whereas the root word for instruct is instruere, meaning “to pile upon. While educating children, especially in music, there is a building process where we are adding knowledge and skills on top of one another. So, within reason we do tend to “pile upon them” rules and ways as they enculturate and prepare themselves to be new members of our culture.

However, if we are focused too completely on the time lines of learning particular content, children can quickly be overwhelmed. Staying attuned with what students are hungry for and offering them nutritionally sound material helps music teachers understand the next developmentally appropriate steps in the learning process. As early childhood music teachers, we want to leave children more inspired than exhausted.

As educators, we are often asked to place and emphasis on organization and metrics in the classroom. This is often done not for the purpose of the students or for education itself, but for outside stakeholders to have something to measure. We will tackle that discussion issue in our next and final installment. Many children’s music teachers already understand the lessons learned from the two issues discussed above. While well-designed curriculum and lesson plans have their benefits in children’s music education, teachers should stay attuned to the natural progression of each student and inspire them with nutritional offerings that feed mind, body, and spirit.

This series of articles are based on the article DEFENDING the MAGIC: CURRENT ISSUES in EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, which appeared in Early Childhood Connections and written by Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D. For more information on Dr. Coulter and her insights into early childhood music education, visit https://embraceyourbrain.com/   

Issues in Early Childhood Education:

Understanding Music Nourishment in Children

In our recent blog, we began a series to explore some key issues facing teachers of childhood music education. This installment will continue the series by first shining light on some false assumptions often made about how children’s music teachers can measure whether their students are getting musical nourishment from their class. These falsehoods include statements such as Music is about performing, and You can’t tell what a child is taking in, or You can only measure what the child produces or puts out. The observations and conclusions concerning these assumptions are based on an article by renowned neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D.

When considering nourishment for the human body, we do not need to measure food as it comes out to understand what went in. It seems silly then, that a child’s music nourishment can only be measured through performance. Dr. Coulter suggests that teaching music nourishes children in three ways: Their souls are nourished by the music itself, their bodies are nourished by the graceful movement, and their minds are nourished by the rhythm.

  1. Music feeds the soul of Children – It is important to choose the right kind of music to feed children’s souls. Music that lives in a culture has been loved for generations and makes one want to sing it over and over. Such music provides an opportunity to invite the soul to rise up and lift hearts, and music educators should embody those feelings when offering them to their students.
  • Music nourishes children’s bodies – Inviting children to move, but not just any movement, is important to nourishing their bodies. It is well known that rhythmic movement through music can help with anxiety and learning in children. When showing movement to children, music teachers should resist the urge to divide it into a series of frozen poses, which kills the graceful flow of the movement and creates a self-consciousness that may cause the child to lose their innocent wholeness.
  • Music feeds the minds of children – To nourish the minds of children, music educators need to offer rhythm, whether it’s through the steady beat of movement or syncopated beat of words. This pulse that gives life to the music is vital nourishment for a child’s brain, inspiring their hearts while stimulating growth of the frontal lobes.

The amazing gifts music offers children’s frontal lobes

We know that the frontal lobe in children’s brains is undergoing its main growth spurt between the ages of two and six, and does not surge again until almost 20 years of age. The frontal lobe thrives on rhythm and establishes a kind of “executive headquarters” for children who have been given a measure of rhythmicity, grace, and motor flow during that important growth period. The importance of this stage of nourishment is highlighted by just a few of the other amazing things the frontal lobe allows children to do:

  • Work with patterns and designs
  • Handle complexity and tap into higher order thinking skills
  • Plan ahead
  • Think about the consequences of actions before doing them
  • Developing “inner speech”
  • Develop impulse control
  • Have empathy for others
  • Maintain alertness
  • Sustain concentration
  • Develop a sense of initiative
  • Handle confusion and chaos without panicking
  • Work cooperatively in groups.

It’s easy to see how important development of the frontal cortex is during early childhood, and children’s music teachers can provide important nourishment to soul, body, and mind by lifting the hearts of children though modeling the love of music themselves.  

This series of articles are based on the article DEFENDING the MAGIC: CURRENT ISSUES in EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, which appeared in Early Childhood Connections and written by Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D. For more information on Dr. Coulter and her insights into early childhood music education, visit https://embraceyourbrain.com/    

Issues in Early Childhood Education

Most teachers, especially teachers of children, will attest that they did not get into education for the money. In an Association of Teachers and Lecturers survey, 80 percent of educators said that they teach because they enjoy working with children, while 75 percent said they were motivated by a desire to make a difference for children. The combination of these two factors can be credibly linked to the amount of passion a teacher has for their job. Nationally recognized neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D., notes that this passion is amazingly frequent among children’s music teachers. Teachers with passion inspire students to seek and experience new ideas. Therefore, it’s a motivating factor that is necessary for high quality learning and teaching. Over the next several weeks, Dr. Coulter’s writings will guide us through some key issues these early childhood music teachers face, while exploring ways to meet these concerns.

Whatever Children Can Learn, They Should Learn – and the Earlier the Better

A young child’s way of learning is one of absorbing what is around them in an unpretentious and almost unconscious way. As such, they are so busy observing the world around them that they do not yet notice caregivers and teachers observing them. As this point, it does not occur to their wonderful beginner’s mind to begin observing themselves. It’s important for children’s music teachers to keep things this way for as long as possible, for as they become self-conscious, children’s minds give way to reasoning and shift to a more impressionable approach to learning

The earlier stage of innocence is where passion for teaching music to children plays a most important role. At this point, they are still deeply impressionable, absorbing the educator themselves as much as what is being offered. Therefore, strive to offer children only the most inspired musical experiences that you really love, so that their early learning minds sense that joy and enthusiasm. Watch what they are inspired by, paying close attention to their responses. If there are things that do not inspire them, trust their taste. Young children are instinctively drawn to what they need next in development. This will give the observant music teacher clues as what to teach next and what to postpone. At this point, your passion is what you want to inspire in children, because it will expose their minds to that same excitement and a long-term love for music. 

Children in a Musikgarten Toddler Class
Children in a Musikgarten Toddler Class.

Most Children do not have to be Taught How to Pay Attention

It’s a fallacy that most children have short attention spans and therefore need to be taught to learn from a music lesson. If provided fundamentally nourishing information in a passionate way, there is an amazing quality and duration of attention children can give in early childhood music classes. Rather than trying to teach children to listen, music teachers should offer something welcoming and playful that engages their interest and sustains their attention. If offered activities and objects in a nourishing environment, children exhibit surprisingly long attentions spans. In fact, music therapy is often used with children that exhibit developmental disabilities such as ADHD or Autism to grasp and hold their attention. Passion again has a key role to play in teaching at this point.

Over the next several weeks, we will continue to explore several other key issues that early childhood music educators and studio owners face when instructing children. To effectively address all of these issues, passion is perhaps the most important tool a teacher can have to inspire young minds to also love music. A young child’s mind is constantly open to new and exciting concepts without bias, instinctively picking up on a music teacher’s enthusiasm and excitement. When music is provided in a fundamentally inspiring and nourishing way, children have a great capacity to pay attention for long periods of time and absorb information.

This series of articles are based on the article DEFENDING the MAGIC: CURRENT ISSUES in EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, which appeared in Early Childhood Connections and written by Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D. For more information on Dr. Coulter and her insights into early childhood music education, visit https://embraceyourbrain.com/    

Music and Fine Arts Education More Important Than Ever

It is no surprise to anyone involved in fine arts education over the last several decades that arts classes have been gutted in public schools all across America. Since the recession of 2008, 80% of the nations schools were faced with budget cuts. That, along with No Child Left Behind and Common Core State Standards, pushed education administrators to prioritize math and science over other subjects such as music, drama, and art. Although the economy eventually recovered, these programs still have not. More recently, a robust economy showed some of the best state tax revenues in decades, administrators were looking at bringing back some support for these programs.

Enter Covid-19. The estimated impact of the pandemic on America’s creative economy is well documented. Quarantined from school, many children had no other access to music instruction or the fine arts. These cuts to the arts in public education has created a greater need for other organizations, such as early childhood music studios, to step up and fill the gap. Owners and educators of fine arts studios understand the many and crucial benefits that the arts provide to people of all ages, especially children.        

The Benefits of Music and Fine Arts Education for Children

Over the years, this blog has served to remind children’s music educators what they already know about the benefits of music instruction at the earliest ages. But in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, fine arts education is more important than ever:

Children in a Musikgarten Music Makers: at Home class.
  • Music Class builds Self-Esteem in Children – Participation in music helps children to feel smart and accomplished. Singing and dancing together aids music students in understanding that an ensemble is more powerful than its parts, with everyone contributing their singular efforts to create something bigger. Helping them to understand that their part is important to the success of the entire sound create a sense of worth and value.
  • Music Exercises the Brain and Improves Learning in Children – Participating in music, as well as learning a new instrument such as piano, changes the brain and improves learning. Like exercise does for the body, music does for the brain – improving understanding of language and written communication. While teachers have been trying their best to keep children engaged over screens during the pandemic, music can serve to help keep their brains tuned up for learning and prepare to return to the classroom.

Including musical training, drama, and art into a school’s curriculum has been recommended by educational researchers again and again, but many school systems show no inclination to reintroduce these classes any time soon. Therefore, it falls upon outside fine arts education organizations to provide these all-important opportunities. For children’s mental health and preparedness in the aftermath of a pandemic, fine arts instruction is more important than ever.

Layers of Experiences Help Children Learn Piano

Over the last several months, we have been exploring the various reasons for how early childhood music education better prepares children to learn any musical instrument, with a focus primarily on piano. Beginning piano teachers understand how early childhood music education and the developmental influences of BODY, MIND, SPIRIT and FAMILY, provide a firm foundation for children to achieve greater success at the keyboard. In this final installment, those influences are blended into a layering of experiences that are taught from a musical point of view. These layers, stemming from children’s developmental stages, spiral and interact with each other to provide the foundation for sustained musical development.

The Developmental Layers of Childhood Music Education

  • Listening Comes Second – Music is an aural art, and we come to it for the sheer enjoyment of listening, singing, and dancing. As early childhood music studios are filled with musical sound, hearing music in various forms and from different sources adds a second layer of musical foundation. As children listen to more music, they are intrigued to continue and explore it further as they learn to discriminate sounds and build a vocabulary of musical patterns and styles that will help in learning piano.
  •  Singing Comes Third – Cultures across the world have communicated through music, which offers a sense of community and identity. We desire to communicate and express the joy of our own voice through a repertoire of common songs, learning melodies and the structure of musical patterns that will translate to understanding musical instruments.
  • Playing Simple Percussion Instruments Helps with Piano – Our hands serve as expressive extensions of who we are, and in turn, musical instruments are an extension of the hands. Playing simple percussion instruments such as drums, rattles, rhythm sticks, or maracas, increase our joy of making music and refining our movements while teaching us about beat, meter, and phrase. As we do this with others, we begin to have musical dialogue with partners or groups.
  • Musical Literacy is Emerging All Along the Way – As we first learn to move and listen, speak our music through song, and extend music making into instruments, we are making sense of the specific rhythm and tonal patterns we hear and practice. At some point we will want to understand how to write and read those patterns, which may come before or after sitting down to learn the piano.

Introducing Piano to Children’s Musical Development

Once these layers of musical foundation have been established, the piano teacher is able to add the next layer of complexity, offering a way for children to express their joy and knowledge of music through an intricate, yet subtle instrument. The most successful Early childhood music programs prepare teachers to think in these developmental terms, carefully considering how to introduce musical concepts. Realizing that they must first work with ear and body before eye and brain, piano teachers are working to establish musical communication that leads to musical thought. Group work helps to ensure that classes remain playful and lively while teaching the “whole” child in ways that are developmentally appropriate.

Early children’s music programs help children to fall in love with music, have a mind full of musical thoughts, and establish body control needed to master an instrument such as keyboard. This firm foundation allows beginning piano teachers to take children to the next exciting level of musical development!

This commentary is based on the article The Well-Prepared Beginner: Prepared in Body, Mind, Spirit, and Family by Lorna Heyge, Ph. D. Dr. Heyge is a pioneer in childhood music instruction, as well as a piano teacher of many years.

How Early Childhood Music Classes Prepare Children to Learn Piano

Part 3 – Through SPIRIT and THE FAMILY

Many early childhood music programs take a very concentrated approach to teaching piano keyboard, focusing mainly on technique and notation. While these methods are competent in teaching piano skills, many do not take a holistic approach to teaching “the whole child” a true love of music and the instrument. The first two installments on How Early Childhood Music Classes Prepare Children to Learn Piano have focused on the Body and Mind. But taking educating the whole child a step further, more encompassing teaching programs also focus on the important aspects of SPIRIT and FAMILY.

How SPIRIT Influences Children’s Understanding of Piano Instruction

From the earliest ages across almost every culture, music has been practiced as an expression of the soul. Good music instructors understand this, and wish to cultivate a comfort level in their piano students so that they may better express their deepest musical thoughts.

Through music and other arts, children gain a sense of meaning and belonging as they experience beauty, joy, wonder, and order. Music has the power to influence a child’s inner world holistically by helping to bridge body, mind, and spirit in one place. Children gain joy and a sense of belonging when they sing and dance with peers and family. When adults join in the music making, a bond develops that extends this understanding to new dimensions and allows the musical spirit to thrive.

The most successful childhood music programs not only lay a solid foundation of basic skills and technique, but more importantly allows children’s love of music to deepen. Through singing and dancing and musical games, children have opportunities to laugh and play together. And as they repeat the same songs and games over and over again with both peers and adults, they grow to love them even more. Just as most of us enjoy singing familiar holiday carols and songs, children delight in repeating the songs they know. Teaching that sense of belonging in both peer and mixed age groups provides strong encouragement of further exploration on a musical instrument such as the piano keyboard.

FAMILY Support Encourages Children’s Success in Learning Piano

Parents and teachers alike understand that a supportive family is very important to children to succeed. Many young parents today who grew up with more passive electronic entertainment such as television and computer games often do not have a base of familiar childhood music that provides a greater sense of belonging to family and peer groups. Early childhood music programs that involve caregiver participation in class not only provide a means of belonging for the child, but for the adults as well. And as music is rekindled in their spirits, these adults can share and influence music in their children’s lives.

Families that share music, whether through singing and dancing together, going to concerts, or simply listening to music together reinforce the importance of music in children’s lives. When provided with such a supportive environment, they are further encouraged to explore creativity through musical stimulation. By participation in childhood music classes and helping with practice routines at home, parents reinforces the appreciation of the process, effort, and discipline needed to learn a musical instrument such as piano. Active family involvement in music making creates a foundation for successful learning in the future.

While technique, listening, and notation reading are extremely important in the process for learning any new musical instrument, other factors also influence how successful a child will be. Learning to love music and an instrument are inspired by a sense of belonging to the music in a holistic way. Nurturing the musical spirit and having a supportive family are highly important in how the child will apply technique to musical creativity on an instrument.

This commentary is based on the article The Well-Prepared Beginner: Prepared in Body, Mind, Spirit, and Family by Lorna Heyge, Ph. D. Dr. Heyge is a pioneer in childhood music instruction, as well as a piano teacher of many years.

Back to the Children Music Classroom Post Pandemic

As with about everything else, we are all very tired of topics being written on the Covid-19 pandemic, and are ready to move forward to normalcy. As we cautiously move back to in-person school settings, there are several things that children’s music teachers and other educators say have changed in their classrooms. The CDC has provided its Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools, but in private educational settings  such as early childhood music education, policy is often left up to the school administrators, music studio owners, or even classroom teachers. With parents’ opinions and levels of anxiety about a return to the classroom differing, most educators cannot control parents’ decisions on whether to send their children back into the classroom. What they can control, however, is their own classroom policy to clearly communicate to parents how they intend to move forward. Here are some helpful tips for putting together your own post pandemic classroom policy:

Teachers Tips for Returning to In-person Music Teaching   

  • Publish and Post a Written Policy – Whether parents prefer to take every precaution, or feel that they are unnecessary, most will certainly want to know how your classroom will be managed. Distributing and posting your policy on the matter will give them the information they need to decide, and they will thank you for it.
  • Clearly Define Your Mask Policy – Parents are making decisions on whether their children will continue to wear masks in public settings, and you don’t want to surprise them one way or the other. If you are not requiring masks outright, consider a mask optional policy. While it may muffle singing a bit, it puts the ultimate decision clearly in the hands of the parents.
  • Social Distancing – Children’s music classrooms are a very communal experience, often with activities such as circle time and close contact such as hand holding. Teachers should consider whether they are going to practice social distancing in their classroom, and clearly communicate the rules to both parents and students alike.
  • Vaccination Policy – In many early children’s music classes, especially with infants, the parents are often attending and personally involved. Therefore, a vaccination policy is important to communicate to parents whether you require adults to be vaccinated in your classroom or not.
  • Classroom Hygiene Procedures – Whether it’s Covid, the flu, or even a cold, it’s safe to assume that most all parents do not wish for their child to get sick. Not only does it mean suffering for their child, but also time that might have to be spent away from work, or potential to infect other family members. Clearly explaining your classroom cleaning process for parents, as well as offering sanitizing products around entrances and bathrooms help to offer greater peace of mind.
  • Sick Policy – We are all accustomed now to the question “have you felt sick or had a fever in the last two weeks?” Teachers understand how quickly a sickness can spread around a classroom of children, whether a simple cold or something worse. Clearly state your policy for participation if a child or parent is currently sick. With all of our newfound experience in remote learning technology, some teachers may even offer remote participation as an alternative for sick parents or children.

Children’s music studio owners and teachers understand that clearly communicating with your parents and students is important for the long-term success of your business. Whether its marketing or curricula, keeping parents in the know serves everyone. Clear communication is no different for returning to in-person learning. While you ultimately get to make your own decisions on the policies of your music studio, parents ultimately decide on what they deem in their children’s best interests. In the end, most all parents will appreciate you providing the information to make their own decisions about returning to the music classroom.

How Early Childhood Music Classes Prepare Children to Learn Piano

Part 2 – Through THE MIND

Children’s piano instructors understand that a strong foundation in music from the earliest ages will help improve student’s progress and understanding of the keyboard later in childhood. We began by exploring how movement and the body influence this early instrumental preparation. As we continue to delve into how various areas of influence in early music education grooms children for the piano, or any musical instrument, we reveal how it prepares the MIND. 

Early Childhood Music Education Prepares the Mind for Piano Lessons

Is there a purpose to learning an instrument or reading music if a child has not first absorbed musical thoughts? For a very long time, expressive body movement was not linked to higher brain function in formal education. Until as recently as 1995, researchers and educators limited the health benefits of movement and exercise solely to the body rather than the brain. Now it is clear that movement is not separate from higher brain function or development, and that expressive movement combines body functioning with affective areas of the brain such as imagination. These neural connections can be seen in language, literacy, and dominance of ear.

  • Learning Musical Language through Songs and Singing – It is easy to understand that children would not be asked to speak a language they have not heard, nor read a language they cannot speak. It stands to reason that there should be no exception for listening to and “speaking the language of music” before learning an instrument. Asking a child to read and sing or play a song on an instrument before they have ever heard it would not give it meaning of familiarity and affinity. This could be one reason why so many young piano students learn to play only “notes” instead of expressing musical ideas. The large repertoire of songs children have sung with friends and family as well as in the early childhood education classroom equips them with a musical language that will eventually allow them to better learn and play an instrument such as piano.
  • Childhood Music Education Provides Foundation in Music Literacy – Through moving and singing children gain a multitude of experience with rhythmic patterns and steady beat, as well as tonal patterns and home tone. Just as a child learning to read looks for familiar patterns in words and sentences, so do they seek rhythmic and tonal patterns in music. This familiarity with musical motifs enable children to better express musical ideas, as their literacy brings harmony to mind and spirit. The ability to better grasp the patterns and language of a musical instrument is also influenced by dominance of ear.
Listening and Singing melodic patterns during a Musikgarten class.
Listening and Singing melodic patterns during a Musikgarten class.
  •  Listening Skills and Dominant of Ear in Learning Piano – Children who have participated in early music education have learned to be led musically by their ears. Piano teachers discover that they have better listening skills and aural preparation, allowing the eye to more easily recognize what the ear already knows. As one of the first senses to develop in the womb, the ear is dominant in early childhood as children learn language and familiar sounds. Discriminatory listening skills develop as they attune to important sounds in the environment, such as a mothers voice. Early childhood education programs promote these aural insights by teaching children to focus tentatively on a sound source while imitating sounds vocally. Understanding slight distinctions in sound is a vital foundation for all learning.

The ear, arguably the most vital sensory channel to most children’s learning, is the linchpin for Listening, speaking/singing, and balanced/coordinated movement. It is no wonder that early childhood music education is so vitally important in learning an instrument such as piano since music links the ear, the voice, and the body.

This commentary is based on the article The Well-Prepared Beginner: Prepared in Body, Mind, Spirit, and Family by Lorna Heyge, Ph. D. Dr. Heyge is a pioneer in childhood music instruction, as well as a piano teacher of many years.

How Early Childhood Music and Movement Classes Prepare Children to Learn Piano

Part 1 – Through THE BODY

Children’s piano teachers often must “start from scratch” in teaching the child not just the keyboard, but all of the different facets of music. That is why many piano instructors will attest to how a child that has been involved with music education classes from an early age is often better equipped to learn piano, while doing so at a much greater pace. The benefits of introducing music to babies at the earliest stages of life are well known, and some of those same benefits can be applied to learning the piano. There are several reasons for this, which can be roughly broken down into the areas of Body, Mind, Spirit, and even Family/Community.

In the following months we will start to explore how participation in a children’s music curriculum, even at the earliest stages of infancy, help to set a strong foundation for learning any musical instrument later in life. The first facet of this strong musical foundation that will be examined regards the body.  

Dancing with scarves during a Musikgarten toddler class.
In Musikgarten classes movement is central to steady beat, language development, and expression.

How Body Awareness through Music Helps Children Prepare for Piano Lessons

During the first developmental period of birth through age six, children gain control and awareness of their bodies. As their rhythm and motor instrument, a well-coordinated body will provide the gross and fine motor skills a child will need to play the piano. A vital and natural part of this first stage of life, movement enables a child to communicate non-verbally  how they see the world.

Today, however, children are too often sitting – in front of the television, a computer screen, or in a car seat while busy parents run errands. This sedentary situation results in children having less control over their body movement at an early age. Music promotes movement, and purposeful movement through music responses help children with particular skills such as hopping or swinging, while also developing such musical skills as a sense of beat and meter.

  • Music and Movement Teaches Children a Steady Beat – Children experience their own internal pulse, which allows them to naturally recognize and adapt to the pulse of an external source. Infant movements such as rocking or bouncing is often in response to a beat, whether musical or otherwise. Through musical exposure and encouragement, these movements can be cultivated into the understanding of a steady beat.
  • Language & Movement Help Teach Musical Understanding – Impulse control is a vital ability that tells our body when and how to move. Musical games, like Walk and Stop which incorporate movement instructions, help children establish important connections between language and motor skill. Later in childhood, this developing self-control prepares children to enter instrumental lessons that require language-mediated movement.
  • Expressive Movement Supports Self-Awareness – Children delight in singing and dancing. When they are exposed to songs with purposeful movement and phrasing, they develop a sense of meter and how to feel the phrase through both music and movement. This relationship reinforces kinesthetic awareness and perception essential to self-awareness.
  • Simple Instruments Build Coordination and Concentration – Playing simple rhythm instruments, such as shakers, rhythm sticks, bells, or drums, serve as an excellent preparation for finger, hand, and arm coordination needed to play the piano. While whole-body control and coordination are gained through dancing and other locomotor activities, simple instrument playing supports upper-body control and finger dexterity. Learning body control, including quieting the body between beats, helps children’s ability to focus their listening and concentrate on the finger movements required in playing a musical instrument.

Learning body awareness and purposeful movement are important in the development of a child’s motor skills and coordination. Exposure to musical instruction at an early age, whether through purposeful movement or simple instruments, reinforce the steady beat, fine motor skills, and focused listening skills that will help them to approach keyboard instruction with a strong foundation.

This commentary is based on the article The Well-Prepared Beginner: Prepared in Body, Mind, Spirit, and Family by Lorna Heyge, Ph. D. Dr. Heyge is a pioneer in childhood music instruction, as well as a piano teacher of many years.

Marketing for Summer Music Camps and Classes

With the summer quickly approaching and Covid guidelines continuing to relax for in-person instruction, parents returning to work are going to be looking for opportunities for their children while school is out. Although the official first day of Summer is not until June 20th, children’s music studio owners and teachers can get the jump on filling their summer camp and class rosters early with some simple, yet effective marketing approaches they can start on right away:   

Marketing for Summer Music Camp and Class Registration

  • The Low Hanging Fruit of Existing Customers – While the old adage that “it takes five times the expense to gain a new customer than to retain an old one” varies from business to business, the effort and expense that it requires to find a new customer is considerable compared to one you currently retain. The key to taking advantage of the “low hanging fruit” that current students and families present is through consistent and frequent communication.
  • Customer Communication is the Key – Because you have provided services to existing customers in the past, you most likely have their preferred method for being reached. Furthermore, because customers voluntarily purchased from you in the past, they have in effect granted you permission to contact them again. Often called permission marketing, this concept is valuable in how your communication is recognized. It is familiar, and therefore cuts through the bombardment of marketing messages we all receive on a daily basis. Whether its by email, snail mail, text, or phone call, your communication has a much better chance of reaching a customer who recognizes you. 
  • Categorize Your Audience to Customize Messaging – The more a marketing message or offer can be customized to its particular audience, the more likely that audience is going to respond. This is most easily applied to current customers. Your correspondence with them should have a much different, more familiar feel than if you were reaching out to new prospects. Using information that you know about that audience provides a more personalized message. For example, using the name of the music student or their last completed music class lets recipients feel special. A message to a new potential customer may be more about educating them on your music studio or the benefits of early childhood music education. The more you can categorize your target audience into segments, the more you can customize the message or offer.
Musikgarten Summer Marketing
  • Offer Incentives for Music Camp Registrations – With so much already on their plates, and so many program options for parents during the summer, offering an attractive incentive is often what gets them over the finish line to make the purchase. Early bird registration is a good way to increase response early in the process, even if you don’t want to discount your price. Simply using language to show urgency such as “availability is limited and on a first come, first serve basis’” or “registration is beginning to fill up,” increases action. FOMO, or fear of missing out, is a powerful motivation. Incentives can also be used to get new music students through tactics such as referral or buddy programs. Value provided to existing customers for referring a new student, whether it’s through discounted pricing or a free camp T-shirt, will help to gain new registrations. Children love to enjoy music camp along with a friend!  
  • Reach Out in Different Ways – If there was a single, silver bullet that marketers could use to get loads of new customers, the cat would have been out of the bag a long time ago. The key with most marketing campaigns is to “rinse and repeat.” This means presenting the offer to a target audience multiple times so that they recognize and/or remember it. Frequency, or number of times a marketing message is presented to the same audience, is important for retention of the message and offer. In addition to repeating a message through the same marketing channels, another good way to gain more frequency is through cross-marketing, where the same message is presented to the same audience, but through different ways. For example, you may post a referral program on social media, and also send it out through an email blast. In addition to providing more frequency, one method may be more effective in reaching a particular prospect than another.  

Summertime presents great opportunities for children’s music studios to provide kids with a highly enjoyable and entertaining activity while giving parents a much-deserved break. Savvy studio owners and teachers know to start early by offering opportunities to register. Current or past customers are the low hanging fruit to reach out to first, because they are already familiar with your business. Social circles of those audiences can then be expanded through targeted incentives through messaging frequency within the same and across different marketing channels.