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Spring Reminds Children of Music

The Covid-19 epidemic, and subsequent stay at home orders, are testing our resolve and family dynamics. However, there is a place where almost anyone can find refuge from the monotony by simply stepping outside. Just on the heels of Easter, yesterday was National Gardening Day, marking a beautiful time when we are reminded of the gifts of Spring. During this trying time, many parents can attest to restless children complaining of boredom or being glued to a game screen, zombielike in their glazed stare. As Spring weather warms the earth, and nature starts to raise it head from Winter, there are many things that can both keep children busy as well as remind them of the music of nature:

  • Time for planting! If you have a garden each year, it’s time to start working the soil in preparation for Spring planting in the Northern Hemisphere. Waiting anxiously for the last frost, many gardeners and farmers across the world are preparing the ground and growing seedlings in anticipation. Gardening is a great way to teach children about the harmony of nature. Whether you have a green thumb or are just a beginner, plant something with your child to teach them how the soil, sun, and rain work together to help things grow. While working soil, whether it’s in a garden, raised bed, or flower box, children learn how just as in music, a blend of different parts can combine into something greater.  Starting seedlings inside demonstrates how nurturing can allow things to grow. For younger children, something as simple as grass seed planted in eggshells can be a fun indoor activity. Ask them to paint faces on the eggs, and see their joy as their egg people grow green hair! Even our urban neighbors can think of creative ways to plant a beautiful, fragrant, and tasty herb garden in a window box or flower pot.
  • Music to the ears – Spring is a time when many things are happening in nature at once, a beautiful symphony of sights, sounds, and smells. It is a great time to teach children to sit still and listen. Find a place in your backyard, garden, or nearby woods, ask a child to sit down and close their eyes, and simply listen. Their surroundings will seem to erupt in sounds. In the Spring, birdsong fills the air as all varieties and color of our winged vocalists call for mates to find nesting places. Together, try to identify the distinct songs that each species in your area produces. Ask children to listen for the breeze as it rustles through the newly sprouting leaves on the trees, or the gurgle and babble of a nearby creek. While indoors, listening to a rain shower can teach calm and even how seemingly scary thunderstorms bring important life-giving rain to nature.  All the while, this is a great opportunity to discuss just as music is made of different components, nature works together in harmony to create and sustain life.

 At a time when society is asked to practice social distancing, the outdoors provides a great open space for parents to enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of Spring with their children. Whether sitting still and simply listening, singing about the wonders of Spring, or finding an early childhood music program that embraces nature, the outdoors presents a great opportunity to connect our kids with nature.

A Family that Sings Together is Stronger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We just recently launched a new website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leveraging Unpaid Advertising to Grow your Early Childhood Music Program

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

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

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

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.

The Science of Music: Creativity Wish List – How Music Inspires Children Love Nature

The Neuroscience of Music series has explored way in which early childhood music education can help to develop skills from a Wish List that parents have shared regarding Behavior, School Skills, and Creativity. This fourth and final installment of the Creativity Wish List explores ways that music influences children to love nature.

As our environment changes in dramatic and unprecedented ways, many parents wish to instill in their children an appreciation for the delicate balance between our activity and its impact on nature. They wish to encourage a respect for nature that can be carried on to the next generation.  Nationally recognized Neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter points out that a nature-based early childhood music curriculum is an ideal way to provide inspiration for the wonders of nature through music, and “it offers a wonderful foundation for helping children take their place at the forefront of tomorrow’s environmental problem solvers.”

Musikgarten Founder, Dr. Lorna Heyge explains that through simply interacting with nature in simple ways such as feeling the warmth of the sun or the cool wind, children are turning sensory experiences into cognition. Complex concepts made simple through nature, such as the life cycle of a dandelion, are providing children access to vital pathways to learning. Here are some ways that parents and early childhood music educators can inspire their children to love nature:

How music can inspire infants and toddlers to love nature

  • Start by building trust in infants so that they become open to fresh experiences when their interest is high. Singing to them is a great way to do this. With parents, it is a trial and error process where they learn how their child best receives new stimuli, whether it is delight through surprises, bouncing and repeated movement songs, or soothing lullabies with gentle motions. Because children have different unique temperament, there is no one correct approach.
  • Taking cues about their comfort level gradually expose your infant or toddler to simple sounds in nature such as birds singing, the rustling of leaves in the wind, or the feel of sand on their hands at the beach. If the stimulus becomes overwhelming for them, a soothing song will often calm them down and help to ensure that it was not remembered as a traumatic experience.

Using music to inspire a love of nature in preschoolers and beginning school age children

  • With 3 and 4 year old children you can begin to place an element of time to their awareness of nature. For example, families can and often sing about the seasons, reflecting how nature changes along with those seasons and giving them a feel for how the way nature is organized. In addition to the songs you are singing about nature, think about visual and tactile elements to introduce, such as leaves, rocks, and even snowflakes.

Take opportunities to expose them to nature such as trail walks, going to the beach, or simply having a picnic at the park. This not only gives them the opportunity to enjoy nature at their own pace, but also has a great calming effect on parents. Learning to be mindful in nature is a gift that will last children a lifetime while making them better stewards of the environment when they grow older.

This final installment of the Neuroscience of Music series is fitting because of the profound inspiration that nature has had on Musikgarten and its curriculum. As summed up by Audrey Sillick, co-author of Musikgarten and whose vision of the role of nature in the lives of children that inspired Musikgarten , “There is no more meaningful time than early childhood to develop relationships with the living world of plants and animals – as well as to inspire the young human’s spontaneous response to music, dance, and the arts. This is true for the best of all reasons – it is who we are.” Dr. Heyge confirms the sentiment with the declaration that “Musikgarten has made an unparalleled commitment to instilling a love of nature in children.”

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: How to Prepare Children to Enjoy Practicing

The series The Neuroscience of Music*  shows parents and music teachers ways in which early childhood music education can help impact the development of children. This second set of the Wish List series focuses more specifically on a parent’s School Skills Wish List. The topic of the third installment of this set is how to get children to enjoy practicing.

From infancy to about the age of 6, children have a unique window of opportunity to learn how to, and enjoy practicing things. Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator, explains that during these few years, a child’s enjoyment of repetition is strong. Parents can help them to practice naturally by providing fun activities that they can eventually master. However, this satisfaction must come from within in order to develop a lifelong habit, warns Coulter, so parents must resist praise, blame or pressure during these activities.

Below are ways that parents and early childhood music educators can use music to help children learn to develop self-discipline to succeed at school, work, athletics, and the arts.

How to introduce the idea of practicing to infants and toddlers

  • In learning basic coordination and language, infants must practice and learn the nuances of their senses in a pleasing way. They are wired to mirror everything they see, and this is highly rewarding to them. Parents and early childhood music teachers can help with imitation games with clapping and pointing to things with exaggerated facial expressions, and they will naturally follow and copy.
  • In the earliest stages of infancy to toddlerhood, parents can perform simple songs and movement games to teach motor skills and instill a familiarity. After a few weeks of repetition, leave a particular game for a few weeks and come back to it. This allows the infant or toddler time to anchor the movements and memory in their system. When the game is brought back, the predictability that goes with recognition and the control that goes with increased physical mastery are very powerful incentives for practicing.

How to teach preschoolers to begin focusing on how to practice

  • Research suggests that poor learners don’t know how to handle the failures of new learning, and so tend to abandon challenges right away for fear of failure. On the other hand, those that excel in tasks and challenges tend to have a passion for practice and truly enjoy the experience – much like the capacity of children’s minds in the first stages of life.
  • Share enjoyable music activities with your preschooler before introducing an instrument. By first instilling a love of music in children before asking them to focus on an instrument helps to ensure that they will enjoy practicing due to its relationship to something they already love.
  • The teaching practice of spiraling, or a pattern of dropping an activity for a period and then spiraling back to it, allows new skills to seat more deeply than constant practice. Childhood music programs  will use this practice along with the process of scaffolding to allow children to learn on their own and provide help at the appropriate times. This approach to creating the basis for more advanced learning is important for advancement in musical skills, mathematics, science and foreign language learning.

Music can be an important tool for preparing infants and toddlers for a lifetime of learning enjoyment. Games that encourage mimicking help to develop a love for practicing from the earliest stages of infancy. By leaving and returning back to activities, children will learn to think and accept new concepts on their own while having pleasure in practicing. This will not only serve them well in music, but also in academics.

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: How Music Teaches Children to Sit Still and Listen

Continuing with the series The Neuroscience of Music*  we are sharing ways in which early childhood music education can help impact the development of children. This second set of the Wish List series focuses more specifically on School Skills Wish List and the second topic in this set explores how to encourage children to sit still and listen

In a world increasingly swamped with visual and noise stimulation, how many times do parents find themselves frustrated and saying to children “Can you just sit down and listen?” The physiological makeup of our ears might provide some insight, explains Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator. The ears actually contain two channels – with one devoted to listening and the other for balance and movement. Young ears must learn to combine these two channels, first by establishing good movement skills and second by developing language skills. As the child grows older, they begin to develop speech and by the time they are four to five years, they can carry on a conversation, tell a short story, and begin to follow directions.

Parents and teachers can help develop a child’s listening skills through music and other exercises and games.  Below are a few ways.

Training the two channels of the ears separately in infants and toddlers

  • Use music games and dancing to create an even more pleasurable experience for the infant, combining familiar music or songs and movement together.
  • To help develop the listening channel of the ears, develop games with tones and simple sounds that the infant or toddler will grow to anticipate. For example, tap a series of three beats on a table top or a small drum head. Then, tap only twice to see their reaction and laughter when the third beat is skipped!

Shift focus when working with preschoolers and beginning school age children

  • When speaking with children at the preschool age, slow down your speech so that the child can process what you are saying at a slower rate. Use descriptions of things and words that they can picture in their minds. This will help them to be able to sit still and listen more easily, which will be advantageous when they begin school.

Training the preschool child to be still and listen involves understanding the difference between the two auditory channels in the ears. By first approaching the movement/balance channel and the listening channel separately, and then combining the two in musical games, the child learns to separate movement from sound at the appropriate times. This valuable understanding will help them learn to sit still and listen at home and in school.

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

How to Retain and Gain New Music Students During the Summer

As the school year winds down and families begin to make their summer plans, regular weekly schedules from the school year are sometimes overlooked or forgotten. This experience can be especially true for music teachers, as lessons are often considered part of school curriculum. Brain drain or “the summer slide” is often credited with a fall in cognitive activities for students over the summer.

With the potential for the attendance of regular weekly lessons or classes to fall in the Summer, studio owners should be proactive to not only maintain a steady income over those months, but also look at it as an opportunity to increase income. So, how do teachers retain music students, and even add to their class rolls during the summer?

Here are a few ideas that can help throughout the Summer Vacation:

  • Try Billing by the Semester or Year – Billing parents monthly, or by the class, is typical for music teachers and programs. But the approach often creates mental gaps in between those programs, providing parents and students an opportunity to “take a break” and miss some time, especially over the Summer. While it takes a bit more planning, semester or even full year billing can not only create a more stable cash flow for music teachers and studios, it can also provide a structured “pathway” for parents and students to continue lessons.
  • Gain New Students with Summer Advertising and Promotions – While Summer vacations and competing camps may cause a dip in current student music studio attendance, it is actually a time when many parents are looking to sign their students up. Consider an investment in advertising during the Spring and Summer using Summer themed programs. This does not have to be expensive, either! An ad in a newsletter at your local pool, Word of Mouth (WOM) using referral cards with current students, or offering a Summer Enrollment Special to get parents over the finish line. Summer themes stand out in advertising!
  • Offer an Alternative to Screen Usage – According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, children between the ages of two and five spend an average of 2.2 hours on screens every day. That number is undoubtedly higher during summer months, as parents again struggle with how to keep their children engaged in other activities while they are at work. Work out messaging to address this hot topic for parents. Emphasize that music lessons provide an extremely beneficial alternative to screens in all of your marketing and dialogue with parents, especially during the Summer.
  • Consider Free Group Classes with Organizations to Gain More Students – In addition to camps and music studios, many other organizations offer children’s programs during the summer. Public Libraries offer Summer programs and many churches offer Vacation Bible School or similar programs. While many teachers resist giving away any instruction for free, these programs are looking for daily activities to fill their days, and music instruction is a very popular subject. Partnering with these organizations offers exposure to a large group of potential new students once the free program is over. Approach them with a structured plan that takes some of the planning burden off of them. Keep in mind that having a good option for both secular and sacred music programs allows more flexibility with these partnerships.

While the Summer months may be a time when current music student enrollment tends to fall due to family vacations and camps, music studio teachers should also consider it an opportunity to gain new students and income through offering specialized curricula, themed programs, and alternatives to screen usage.