All posts by Musikgarten

Teaching Children Thankfulness in the Music Classroom

The traditional season of thanks and giving is upon us. As we approach the holidays when children will have so many opportunities to show gratitude, educators can help them practice showing thanks in the classroom. This is no exception for childhood music educators, who have many opportunities to teach through songs and movement. Throughout history, scientists, scholars and spiritual leaders have deliberated about the positive benefits of gratitude. More recently, scientific research has validated those claims.  

The positive benefits of gratitude for children

For the individual child, the following are gained through practicing and showing gratitude:

  • Increases happiness and positive moods
  • Better physical health
  • Greater resiliency
  • Encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom

For groups of children, such as in the music classroom, the following benefits are gained:

  • Increased prosocial behaviors
  • Strengthened relationships
  • Taking care and ownership for one another
  • Increased participation in class

Teaching children thankfulness in the music classroom

There are several ways to teach children to be thankful and show gratitude in the music studio:

  • Select songs about thankfulness – Numerous children’s songs teach children about gratitude and Thanksgiving. Over the River and Through the Woods was originally written as a child’s poem about Thanksgiving, and has become a classic that has been sung by generations. Many faith-based songs teach children about their blessings and how to show thanks. Parents and children can learn these songs together in the classroom, and then take them home to sing with the rest of the family. Children will love showing their family members at holiday gatherings the songs they have learned about thanks.
  • Use interactive songs about gratitude – Many children’s songs about giving thanks involve participation and movement. Things I’m Thankful For by Hap Palmer provides a chance for each child to say what they are thankful for. Add a thanksgiving twist to classic group songs, such as If You’re Thankful and you Know It to get children moving while thinking about being thankful.
  • Teach thankfulness in classroom activities – At the beginning of circle time, it’s simple and quick to go around the circle and allow each child to say what they are thankful for. Shakers and other instruments can be passed around the circle in a cadence, with each child saying “thank you” to the one who passed them the instrument. Even everyday music classroom activities such as getting instruments or putting them away can be used to allow every other child to do this for a classmate, who then says thank you. The next time, roles are reversed.

Holiday gatherings of family and friends are a perfect way for children to learn and show thanks. Teachers of early childhood music can take the opportunity of the season of thanks and giving to teach gratitude through song, movement, and dance. The physical, mental, and spiritual health benefits for children, both individually as well as socially, will last them a lifetime.

A Brief History and Evolution of the Piano

In teaching young children piano, children’s music educators will find it helpful to explain the origins and history of the instrument they are playing. Knowing the  evolutionary story behind the piano helps children learn about cultural traditions and historical events. The history of the piano is interesting because it can be classified as both a stringed instrument as well as a percussion instrument, while even having an element of wind instruments. While its invention is most often attributed to one man, Bartolomeo Cristofori, the pianos evolution can be traced as far back as ancient Greece around 500 BC. The monochord, or kanon in Greek, consisted of one metal string was stretched over a hollow body of wood called a resonator.  While sometimes used for music, the monochord was more often used by scientists to study sound. Being long enough to divide into different sections and placed over the body in various ways, it was useful in that it demonstrated different chords in a visible way. The monochord was often used for tuning other instruments, even all the way through the 19th century, and also helped singers to learn pitch.

Not being satisfied with just one single string, inventors and scientists soon added more strings to create polychord instruments that contained two or more separate sounded strings. Over time, polychords started appearing both with a bridge (a device that supports the strings and transmits the vibration to another structural component) and without a bridge. With use of a bridge, several notes on a polychord could be played together in combination, whereas without a bridge, the notes were commonly played separately.

Over time the Polychords evolved through a series of instruments into the harpsichord and clavichord, both which used a keyboard to direct the plucking or striking of the strings. The history of instruments being played with keyboards originated from the pipe organ, where bursts of air are sent through different sized pipes to make sounds. So, it could be argued that the piano is actually a wind instrument as well!

When considering whether the strings of an instrument are plucked or struck, another ancestor of the piano deserves honorable mention. Still played today, the hammer Dulcimer is a bridgeless polychord instrument that uses small hammers to strike the strings. Originating in the East, the Dulcimer spread to Europe in the 11th century. Unlike the Harpsichord that was limited in volume and strength because the strings were plucked, the hammered clavichord allowed the player a greater level of range and expression. The clavichord became very popular during the Renaissance period of the 14th century, and used a brass rod called a tangent to strike the strings. It provided the ability for the strings to vibrate for as long as the keys were depressed. While an improvement, the clavichord still did not provide the level of volume that many players and composers desired.

Around the turn of the 18th century, Bartolomeo Cristofori, a gifted maker of keyboard instruments including the harpsichord, created the pianoforte, which in Italian means both loud and soft. Cristofori’s invention provided a mechanism that released the hammer from the string right after pressing the key, allowing the strings to vibrate longer and the player to strike them at different strengths. First considered a feminine instrument, the pianoforte was very expensive and primarily used by the wealthy. Women who played it were considered good prospects for marriage. However, these very progressive female pianists inspired many compositions by composers such as Hayden, Mozert and Beethhoven, all of whom played the pianoforte. As a sign of the times, men were the only concert pianists, but these composers started the piano down a path of global popularity.

Other than the addition of 34 strings and improved materials, Cristofori’s design of the pianoforte is not very different than today’s modern grand piano. Space requirements and technology have given rise to other modern versions such as the upright piano, but the fundamental elements remain the same.

While children’s piano teachers may consider this explanation of the evolution of the piano to be too far advanced to interest children, what will capture their attention and imagination is that a piano is inspired by of all three types of instruments at the same time – strings, percussion, and wind.  A keyboard originating from a wind instrument controls percussive hammers to strike a range of strings. Early childhood music educators can use this explanation to provide context to many of the concepts and techniques of playing the piano.

The Science Behind the Benefits of Childhood Piano Lessons

Piano teachers and children’s music educators don’t need to be reminded of how beneficial piano lessons are for childhood development. Many of the benefits can be easily seen in the classroom, from increased self-esteem to enhanced social skills. Researchers have long studied the effect of piano lessons on childhood development, finding many cognitive benefits that may not be so obvious to the occasional observer. Here are three of the science backed benefits of learning piano in childhood.

  1. The Mozart Effect on Spatial Reasoning – In a controversial 1993 study, a researcher named FH Rauscher claimed that after listening to two Mozart piano sonatas for 10 minutes, subjects exhibited improved spatial reasoning skills (such as paper folding and cutting procedures, or stacking blocks in a predetermined sequence).  This effect, dubbed the Mozart Effect, opened the door to a multitude of cognitive studies on various subjects including adult humans and rats. Many of these experiments showed the increased spatial reasoning for only a short duration. However, in 1999 the long-terms effects were studied in three to four year old pre-school children who were given keyboard music lessons for six months. When subjected to spatial temporal reasoning tests afterward, the children showed thirty percent better performance than children who had not had piano training.       
  • Music Lessons Increase IQ and Executive Function – In a research article published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, three researchers studied one hundred and forty-seven primary school children with an average age of 6.5 years. They were divided into three groups – one music intervention groups, one active visual arts group, and a no arts control group. The researchers found that in the musical intervention group, children not only performed better in visual spatial memory tasks, but also showed increased testing scores on inhibition, planning, and verbal intelligence. The researchers’ conclusion was that the study indicated a positive effect of long-term music education on cognitive abilities. Through magnetic resonance imaging and neuropsychological testing, another research project showed higher activation of areas of the brain typically associated with Executive Functioning, such as the prefrontal cortex, in child musicians. They attribute it to the extended attention, working memory, and inhibition of playing piano or singing. 
  • Piano Lessons Build and Enhance Language Skills – Two researchers from MITs McGovern Institute for Brain Research published a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that concluded that early exposure to piano practice enhances the processing of sounds in language. As kids ears become trained to distinguish between different tones from the hundreds of internal strings of a piano, they also get better at discriminating subtle differences between spoken words. For the study, seventy-four Mandarin-Speaking kindergarteners were divided into three groups – one that took 45-minute piano lessons every week, the second had reading instruction for the same duration, and the third had neither. After six months, the researchers found that children who took the piano lessons were specifically better at spoken words that differentiated by only one consonant than the other two groups. Consonants require a bit more precision to distinguish than vowels, especially in Mandarin speakers where the language relies heavily on differences in tone. The results of this study were so remarkable that the school in Beijing where the research was conducted continued to offer piano lessons to students after the experiment ended.

Teachers of early childhood music education have always understood the benefits that piano lessons provide to healthy child development. And through years of structured research and publication, scientists have shown substantial evidence that music education and piano lessons enhance spatial reasoning, executive function, IQ, and language skills in children.

Key Issues in Early Childhood Education: Part 3

Content and Measurement of Success in Early Childhood Education

This final installment in our continuing series of key discussion topics that early childhood educators face in the classroom has touched on several traditional assumptions that educators often make. Debunking many of those academic myths, we have focused instead on successfully nurturing children through inspired music education. Most of these conclusions and deliberations are posed and explored in an article published in Early Childhood Connections by renowned neuroscience educator Dr. Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D.  Our last blog topic considered the unnecessary urgency that some music educators place on curriculum and lesson plans.  This final post of the series will address the issue of content and measurement of success in early childhood music education.

The difference between children’s music instruction and education

In the academic world, there is much debate and passion about the difference between instruction and education. In these approaches, roles of teacher and student are reversed, where in instruction the place of the teacher is central whereas the student is central in education. These methods in academia are not mutually exclusive, however. Music instruction, for example, requires technical training such as the proper way to hold a violin or drum mallet. These skills establish an important foundation for future musicianship, creating both respect for the instruments, but also developing ergonomically sound movements and postures. Repetition of these, in turn, introduce children to a world of practice.  Children who have discovered the “practice effect” become much better equipped to deal with frustrations and failures in life without falling into a feeling of helplessness. Instructing these basic skills thus provides the music educator with a foundation of content that creates a fertile environment for children to inquire and explore musical concepts.

How do we measure the mastery of music instruction content?

There is a trend in education that puts emphasis on evaluation immediately after the lesson has been offered. Often referred to as summative evaluation, this is sometimes appropriate in the case that the lesson contained a range of facts or skills to be reinforced. However, the thinking of a child cannot be measured through a matter of facts or skills. So how and when should a children’s music teacher evaluate or measure success of musical thinking? It’s important for teachers to share ideas on these questions, but at the end of the day they must decide for themselves what they believe is worth teaching. Teachers often struggle with this concept, especially in early childhood education. Even early childhood education researchers continue to hunt for the most appropriate questions to ask in evaluating outcomes. Over time, educators should take time to understand what they really believe is worth teaching and learning in the early childhood music education field, and then continue to establish ways to measure these most important qualities.

General educators, and specifically children’s music teachers, are faced with several challenging issues that warrant continued exploration and discussion. Through this series of blog posts, we have endeavored to investigate some of those topics that we have found to appear time and time again. It is important for educators to contemplate and reflect on these issues as a way to reinvigorate and renew their commitment to teaching. As these important topics endure, so should the internal considerations and peer discussions by early childhood music educators. The gift of music to a child is something that warrants the devotion of those that are asked to inspire and educate.

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/    

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.