Category Archives: music and movement

The Relationship Between Music and Islam

Continuing our exploration of music and its relationship with the major religions of the world, the following is a brief and imperfect discussion of Islamic civilization and musical influence. Our last blog post covered Hindu music and its nearly inseparable relationship to musical worship. One cannot discuss Islam and musical traditions without various conflicting opinions, and even contradictions in terms. Generic terms for ‘music’ or activity recognized as involving ‘music’ have never been applied orthodox practice of Sunni and Shi’a Islam. The view of scholars and theologians vary widely as whether music in Islam is strictly forbidden to generally forbidden but with varying restrictions that do not lead listeners into temptation

Music and the Quran

Part of the source of disagreement in the Muslim world about music and Islamic worship stems from the term ‘music’ and that the Quran does not explicitly refer to music itself. However, scholars on both sides of the argument have interpreted certain passages for and against tolerance. Those who contend that music is strictly forbidden in Islam point to phrases such as “And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks to mislead others from the path of Allah…”, whereas ‘idle talks’ has been translated as the amusement of speech or theatrics.

Others refer to Allah giving the prophet David the ‘gift of the Psalms’, poetic in structure and character, as evidence of allowing music as long as it did not lead to sinful acts. There are some Sunni movements of Islam, including the Salafi and Deobandi who strictly interpret the Quran and hadith (a record the words, actions, and silent approval of the prophet Muhammad as translated through chains of narrators), prohibit music in all forms as haram (forbidden).  

Some Exceptions for Music in Islam?

There is also wide variety of opinions over what expectations can be made to the prohibition of music for Muslims. Examples of what is allowed can range from vocals but not instruments, only certain instruments (such as a one-sided drum and tambourine) or vocals only if the audience is of the same gender. In the opinion of some scholars, including some Muslims, a number of Islamic rituals have at least some musical relevance. The first of these is the call of prayer by the mu’ethín, the caller to prayer, which they believe provides the choice of the right mu’ethín to be based on his musical voice and its emotional impact to worship.

The second cited example of a musical act is in reading the Quran where the musical voice gained popularity, especially with the development of ‘ilm al-qiráa , “science of the recitation”. Indeed some Shia and Sufi orders use instrumental accompaniment to music as part of their worship. Many Muslims believe that it is not music itself that must be forbidden by Islam, but that the subject matter of the music itself does not mention forbidden practices such as alcohol, sexual connotations, or presented in a sexually coercive manner. For many, judgement seems to be the key.

 Music and Islam in Modern Society

Despite the prohibition of music by some Islamic scholars, devotional/religious music as well as secular music is very well developed and popular. Secular and folk musical styles can be found in Arabic, Egyptian, Iranian, Turkish, Algerian, Moroccan, Maldivian, and others. Music is used in many public Islamic religious celebrations today across the globe, including Ta’zieh, Ashurah, Manzuma, and Thikiri. Secular music of all kinds also abounds in the Muslim world, including such familiar genres as rap, rock, jazz, and folk, and pop. In some places where strict Islamic interpretations are enforced, however, this music must be played and enjoyed behind closed doors and in secret.

The subject of music in Islamic civilization continues to be the subject of debate between scholars and theologians. Above all, the debate seems to stem around whether it is music itself that is forbidden through hadith or that it is the subject matter, intent, or delivery of music that deems it sinful and forbidden. We will conclude our series on the relationship between music and the five major religions of the world next with an exploration of Judaism.

The Relationship Between Music and Christianity Part 1

Throughout history, music has been inextricably linked to almost every religion across the globe. While the very definition and origin of music is hard to define, it is clear that music has been a part of the very earliest forms of worship. This is evident in each of the major religions of the world, with each having their own distinctions as well as similarities. Buddhist music has musical roots in both instruments and chanting, through flute-playing Japanese Zen Monks or Tibetan recitations of sacred texts. Although its inception does not date as far back as some of the other religions of the world, Christianity has also had ties to music since its origins. While an exhaustive chronicle of music in Christianity would fill volumes, there are some high points to mention.

Music and the Old Testament

An exploration of the relationship between music and Christianity would not be complete without starting with the Old Testament. The Bible early in the book of Genesis, describes a descendant of Cain, Jubal, as “the first of all who play the harp and flute.” When we reach the story of the Exodus Moses and all the people sing a song, the first written song mentioned in the Bible that mentions the use of tambourines and dancing to celebrate the victory at the Red Sea.

King Saul of Israel hired a young man named David to play music for him in this court. This David eventually became king of Israel, but also continued to express himself through song, writing more than 70 Psalms that are revered worship material in Judaism Throughout the Old Testament, temple worship included the use of choirs, ram horn blowers (often referred to as trumpets in the bible, but are actually the more rudimentary shofars), cymbals, tambourines, drums, and some strings instruments such as the lyre. Singing and musical instruments play an important role in Old Testament music, from Psalm 150 telling worshipers to “Praise Him” with the trumpet, harp, lyre and clashing cymbals to King David putting specific people in charge of worship music.

Music was integral to their worship.

Music and the New Testament

While as a boy, Jesus would have been exposed to the Jewish culture of his day including worship in daily life and at the festivals he attended. We do have a continuation of songs being written for worship and praise, much like the Old Testament, with Mary’s Song in the Gospel of Luke. Yet the only record of communal song in the Gospels is actually the last meeting of the disciples before the Crucifixion. Instruments are specifically mentioned in only a few places in the New Testament, such as flutes being played at Jairus’ daughter’s wake in Matthew, or trumpet that herald some end-time events including the rapture.

As Christians became persecuted after the death of Christ, they had to often worship in private, where loud instruments and praise music were not conducive to secrecy. But, this did not stop them from worshipping using music. In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul is arrested along with Silas, put in prison in Philippi, yet are still heard singing while imprisoned. Even with persecution many of the New Testament songs or hymns, such as the Benedictus, the Gloria, psalmody, and alleluias, endured and are still used in many Christian worship services today.

From praise music that was highly organized that incorporated singing, specific instrumentation and instructions for a large group to the simple act of two men singing while in prison, it is apparent that music plays an important role for worship throughout the Bible. Examples are too numerous to mention and would be hard to include in this format. In our next post we will explore the different types of worship music that have come about as Christianity spread.

Prehistoric Music and World Religion

Historians are often trying to answer the metaphorical question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Religious scholars are no exception in exploring when music and organized religion became forever linked. Over the next several months, we will explore this seemingly limitless topic. For the purposes of this series on religion and music, we will define religion as “a particular system of faith and worship.” Before we narrow the scope of this broad topic even more, however, we will try to define music and explore some of the earliest forms of music performed in a social context.  

What is Music?

Music is an art form often defined by a “combination of vocal or instrumental sounds for emotional expression.” It is further described through a cultural standard of rhythm and melody, although many different societies and cultures may have very different ideas of those characteristics. The two basic elements of music that define melody are pitch and rhythm in succession to form a sentence or clause called a melodic phrase. Most Western civilizations have also included harmony and tone color in the cultural standards of music, and claim that melody itself intrinsically includes the other three elements. As with all art forms, however, intention of the creator or the reception of those exposed may indeed be what defines it as music. Principles of good composition often apply, but when melody is mainly missing from a portion of a song or tune, more emphasis is often put on rhythm, chord progressions, and time signatures. Jazz musicians, along with rap artists, and other musicians know this very well.

Two West African men playing djembe.

Prehistoric Music and Worship

Prehistoric, or primitive music, often refers to that produced by preliterate cultures. Some Paleolithic archaeologists believed that Neanderthals used carving and piercing tools to construct crude musical instruments such as flutes, but recent discoveries have disputed that. However, the Aurignacian culture from the Swabian Alb region of Germany produced several flutes from vulture bones and mammoth ivory between 43,000 and 35,000 years ago. More advanced instruments, such as the seven holed flute and various stringed instruments appeared in India, and the largest collection of prehistoric musical instruments was found in China, dating back to 7000 and 6600 BCE. The discovery of prehistoric instruments does not necessarily establish the origins of music, as scientists hypothesize that Neanderthals may have made music by clapping their hands or slapping their bodies.

Prehistoric flutes.

The Big Problem with Music

At this point it should be stated that the use of the term music is problematic in prehistory because the concept of music is so different throughout history and across cultures. Many languages include other actions or contexts in words for music – such as dance or religion. Furthermore, some cultures have certain music that intends to imitate natural sounds, while others use it for more practical functions, such as luring animals in the hunt. Therefore, it can be argued that the very first instrument was the human voice itself, which can adeptly make a variation of sounds including clicking, humming, and whistling. The transition from Prehistoric Music to Ancient Music is attributed to when musical cultures and practices developed in the literal world.

The Oldest Known Song in History

As the relationship of music and melody become more complex and controversial, so do the historical records of the earliest songs. While many ancient musical styles have been preserved in oral traditions, the earliest forms of written music are relatively more recent. A 4000-year-old Sumerian clay tablet includes musical notation, instructions, and tunings for a hymn honoring the ruler Lipit-Ishtar. But for a historical song with a given title, most historians agree that Hurrian Hymn No. 6, an ode to the goddess Nikkai around the 14th century B.C., as the world’s earliest melody. However, the oldest surviving musical composition is a A.D. Greek tune known as the Seikilos Epitaph, found on an ancient gravesite in Turkey and including musical notation as well as a short set of lyrics. 

Music is art, and art is hard to define. While we debate the definitions of music and melody, tunes and songs, instruments and voice, what is agreed upon is that since written time, music has been a very important part of faith and worship. It has been engrained and used throughout time to express faith and teach parables and religious tenets. Over the next several months, we will explore how music became, and has remained, an important part of world religion. To narrow our scope throughout this endeavor even more, we will dedicate a separate discussion to each of the five major religions of the world – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.   

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.

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/    

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.

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.

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.