Category Archives: Early Childhood Music

Balancing Digital Media for Children at Home

With summer in full swing, and the pandemic still influencing parents work arrangements and social activities, we find ourselves asking the familiar question “How much screen time at home is adequate for my child?” Children’s music studio owners and teachers often get this question from their parents with the added caveat, does virtual educational time count as screen time?

To better answer this question, lets first understand what “screen time” actually means. Medline Plus defines screen time as a term for sedentary activities performed in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Note that the operative word here is sedentary, meaning children are being inactive physically while sitting down. Keyboard, mouse, remote, or game controller use are not considered physical activity in this definition.

So then, how much screen time should be allowed to children per day? For years, The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended no screen time for children under the age of 2 years, and no more than two hours per day for children and teenagers. But recently, the AAP have adjusted their guidelines to acknowledge the role that technology plays in our daily lives, as well as the new reality of Covid-19. So rather than provide definitive recommendations on time children should be allowed on screens, the new guidelines emphasize the active role parents play in allowing screen time in moderation, and how to navigate the balance.

With the onslaught of Covid-19, parents are transitioning into work from home (and back again) while trying to figure out childcare responsibilities. Similarly, schools are trying to juggle social distancing and remote learning. As a result, a good portion of childrens education has transitioned to online and virtual delivery. Understanding this necessity and its additional challenges, the AAP and other health care organizations have offered parents some flexibility and more general guidelines for managing screen time for children at home:

  • Take an active role in what your child is doing on screens – Sit down with your child and review what they are currently doing online, using it as an opportunity to have discussions about what is acceptable in both the household and society as a whole. It’s also a good idea to supervise while your child is engaged in screen time, even if it is only an occasional glimpse over their shoulder.
  • Establish a healthy and balanced “Play Diet” for kids – Know and explain the difference between physical, social, creative, and unstructured play. A healthy play diet consists of a balance of these activities, and parents should learn how to expect, promote, and maintain it during long periods inside at home. Again, this requires attention and involvement from the parent, but once a balance is established, children will begin to manage it on their own.

Parents understand the negative risks that too much sedentary screen time can have on their children, including obesity, loss of social skills, irregular sleep patterns, and behavioral problems. With the transition of home life that so many families are experiencing through the Covid-19 crises, parents are taxed with how to deal with it responsibly in this new reality. While the official time limits for screen time have been loosened by health care professionals during this time, parents can follow a few guidelines to ensure that their children can continue to develop in a healthy and balanced environment.

Utilizing Downtime to Nurture your Children’s Music Studio

As many businesses across the world have temporarily (and in unfortunate cases permanently), shuttered their doors amid the coronavirus crisis, there are some signs of light at the end of the tunnel for states begin lifting stay at home orders. However, for non-critical children’s services such as children’s music programs, the wait is likely to be longer. Even when all businesses are given the nod to re-open under guidelines, we can bet that parents will remain apprehensive to take any risks with communal programs. There are things that children’s music studio owners and teachers can be doing now to take advantage of the downtime and prepare for the uncertain future.

Strengthen Your Technology and Teach Virtually – Whether for good or bad, no one disputes that education in the United States will never be the same. Through baptism of fire, educators from all areas are having to embrace technology and provide an online representation of their former curriculum. This is no exception for music teachers, and while there are arguments to be made about what is lost through virtual music teaching, there is simply no other current alternative. Now is a good opportunity to explore the various technology available for providing virtual services. We have seen some amazing “at-home” concerts produced by amateur and professional musicians alike, many even playing together while in separate cities. As these become more commonplace, parents will grow ever more comfortable with the format of virtual teaching for their children. Proving this option may smooth the transition to a time when they are comfortable with in person group settings again.

Keep Communicating with Parents – It is extremely important to keep in contact with your parents and students during this time. An old business adage tells us that it costs at least five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Make good use of your client email list, providing weekly updates to parents. Be sure to think of something of value to deliver each and every time you reach out. Parents are desperate for something to keep their children calm and entertained during this time. If you are not offering virtual classes, provide some resources for them to remain musical! As we all know, music has many psychological benefits for stress and anxiety and they are sure to appreciate the help. If you don’t have a complete email list, consider a short phone call to the parents and children to see how they are doing and provide some much-needed encouragement. Teachers are leaders, and good leaders provide encouragement in times of trouble. Finally, make sure your communication is confident and forward thinking, ensuring that the value that your studio provides is continuing and will be there once this is over.

Plan Well for the Next Phase – In the highly acclaimed managerial book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the first two identified habits are being proactive and beginning with the end in mind. Together, these combine into one trait that all effective managers possess – goal setting. During this downtime and downturn, it is important to look ahead and have a goal in mind for when the smoke finally clears. Then, work your way backwards understanding and setting tasks in order to reach those goals. If you have already set goals for 2020, this is the time to revise those goals and adjust to the “new normal”. Follow the SMART goals guidelines, and be sure to include marketing as part of your new goal setting. Share with parents your goals for their children’s musical growth, which provides an opportunity to promote class materials and enrollment for the next class, whether it is virtual or in person in the future.

Smart business owners and teachers understand that agility, communication, positivity and goal setting are all imperative for long-term success. Children’s music studio owners are both teachers and businesspeople, and as such, are looked to for leadership from their customers and students. By taking advantage of this unfortunate downturn in our economy, savvy business people will come out of it stronger and better prepared for the eventual recovery, whatever that may look like.

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!

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.

Five Ways to Gain New Music Studio Students with the New School Year

Summer is coming to a close, and with it comes the new school year. Parents are beginning to plan class schedules and lists of needed school supplies and clothes. This is a time where the mind changes focus from the more laid-back summer activities to a more structured schedule that includes school and other activities. While parents’ minds are focused on setting up the school year calendar and children’s schedules, it’s a great time to gain new students for your children’s music studio. Here are a few tips and methods to beef up your rolls for the new school year:   

  1. Make sure your online listings are up to date – While we may not all be part of the online generation or comfortable with technology, you can bet that your target audience is! First and foremost, make sure your Google Listing is up to date. Parents use Google for even the simplest information, such as phone number or driving directions. Make it easy for them to find your children’s music studio! It’s also a good idea to perform a Google Search on your own business to see if any other listings need updating. Many online directories create listings without notifying you, so it’s important that their information is also correct.
  • Social media is where parents find recommendations and support – Older generations of parents relied heavily on books and advice from their own parents or grandparents. Today’s generation tends to rely heavily on social media. While you don’t have to be a social media guru to be effective, having a presence is imperative for reaching today’s young parents. Instead of spending too much time trying to be on all social media, pick a few popular ones and spend more time on them to promote your children’s music classes.

  • Make good use of your current parent network – As school preparation begins to crank up, parents are spending more time online. Now is a great chance to speak with and/or email your current parent client list to ask them for reviews and referrals. Google reviews are highly regarded by your target audience, so ask your current parents to provide a simple review. To get referrals from parents, consider offering a discount or free class to encourage them to provide names of their peers that might also be interested in music classes for their children.
  •  Network with your local schools and parent organizations – With the school year beginning, there are numerous opportunities to network with parents, such as open houses, PTA meetings, booster clubs, etc. Consider creating a business card with a special offer on the back to provide incentive for parents to try out your music studio. For Kindergarten and Pre-K, approach some of the day care providers and schools and offer to do a free music lesson for the children. This is a great way to gain new students by getting parents and school administrators excited about your children’s music program!
  • Consider a mailing to prospective parents – While direct mail seems very “old school,” if done correctly, it still remains an effective way to get your name out there and gain new prospects. List brokers can provide affordable lists of local prospects in your area based on all kinds of demographic information such as geographic area, number of children in household (and approximate ages), home value, etc. To make your mail campaign more effective, provide a theme and incentive (coupon or voucher), such as Back to School Music Class Special! Keep in mind that consumers typically respond better to dollar amounts vs. percentage when pricing is not known. To save even more on your mailing, explore the different options provided by the USPO to get the best Return on Investment. Finally, keep in mind that sometimes direct mail programs require several mailings to the same recipients to be effective. Be patient and budget accordingly. 

Using all or any of these methods will help you prepare your children’s music studio for new students in the new school year. Take advantage of the change in focus that affects parents this time of year to become a part of their regular new school year schedule.