Tag Archives: Musikgarten

Music Literacy and the Musikgarten Method – Part 2

Early childhood music education lays the foundation for a lifelong appreciation and engagement with music. In our first installment of this two-part series, we explored music literacy in the second stage of child development and how singing helps children learn to play piano. We continue to expound on the Musikgarten Method with the importance of incorporating structured approaches to piano learning and integrating dynamic methods like listening and movement. Both structured piano learning and the integration of listening and movement activities highlight the importance of a comprehensive music education for young children and help them to develop a range of cognitive, physical, and emotional skills.

Early Childhood Music Builds a Strong Foundation in Piano Learning

Building a strong foundation in piano learning is crucial for long-term success. Key teaching elements include:

  • Proper Posture – ensure an upright back and relaxed shoulders. The chair height should allow feet to rest flat, with forearms parallel to the floor​.
  • Hand Position – maintain naturally curved fingers and a relaxed wrist​.
  • Finger Technique – practice finger independence and strength through specific exercises​.
  • Practice Routine: Initially teaching away from the keyboard to focus on body alignment and integrate familiar songs with consistent teacher feedback.

Combining these elements helps to develop ideal playing posture and supports a lifelong love for piano.

The Listening and Movement Connection of Early Childhood Music Education

Incorporating music and movement into early childhood education significantly enhances children’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. Activities that combine listening and movement are particularly beneficial as they create a holistic learning experience. Here are some key points:

  • Cognitive Development: Engaging in music and movement helps children develop language and mathematical skills. Repetitive actions and patterns in songs enhance memory and cognitive abilities.
  • Physical Benefits: Movement activities improve both gross and fine motor skills, coordination, and overall physical health. They help children develop muscle strength, balance, and motor control.
  • Social and Emotional Growth: Music and movement activities promote social interaction, teamwork, and self-expression. Children learn to communicate and express emotions through these activities, fostering a sense of belonging and emotional well-being​.

Early childhood music educators often include daily music and movement sessions, use songs during transitions, and encourage activities like dance and sing-alongs. This approach not only supports academic learning but also nurtures children’s overall development, making it an essential component of early childhood education​.

Early childhood music education, through structured piano learning and the integration of listening and movement activities, provides a comprehensive approach to developing various essential skills in young children. These methods not only enhance cognitive, physical, and emotional development but also foster a lifelong love and appreciation for music. By investing in these foundational practices, educators and parents can ensure children grow into well-rounded individuals with a deep connection to the arts.

Music Literacy and the Musikgarten Method

Literacy is often incorrectly defined as simply the ability to read and write. Merriam-Webster  expands on a distinction that is essential for understanding childhood music literacy. This dual definition highlights both the fundamental skills of reading and writing as well as a broader understanding or competence in a particular area of knowledge. The next two articles in this blog series are an abridged version of four Musikgarten articles from January 2021  that focus on piano and instrument instruction using the Musikgarten Method.

The Second Stage of Childhood Development

Many children’s music programs emphasize the early stages of development but often fail to continue progress in the second stage necessary for music literacy. Jean Piaget’s theory of developmental stages includes the Concrete Operational stage, where children, ages 7 to 11, become more aware of external events. While Piaget’s age ranges vary, this article focuses on children aged 6 to 9. At this stage, children are ready for new challenges, showing refined motor skills needed for playing instruments. They begin to seek understanding beyond mere recognition, exploring symbols and patterns, which fosters improvisation and cooperative learning.

Children Love to be Part of a Group

At the second stage of childhood development, children become more self-aware and eager to join peer groups. These groups help children learn rules, push limits, and test ideas, which are essential for developing social skills. Group settings are crucial for learning as they provide diverse perspectives. This approach is equally beneficial in music programs, where making music with peers enhances cooperative learning and concentration.

Music Literacy through Children’s Group Keyboard Lessons

Keyboard lessons offer cognitive challenges and the group dynamics that children crave. Music literacy does not simply mean reading notes, but includes understanding and composing music. The Musikgarten process starts with aural learning while transitioning into music notation. This method helps children appreciate music’s tonality, meter, and style, refining their listening skills.

Learning Piano Through Familiar Songs and Vocal Quality

Singing helps children build a repertoire of familiar songs, enhancing their desire to play those songs on the keyboard. Singing fosters beat confidence, understanding of meter, and tonality. Effective music teachers focus on vocal quality to develop children’s sensitivity to musical keys, tones, and pitches. They sing clearly, with proper intonation and posture while modeling expressive musicianship. In turn, familiar songs help children translate singing into playing, as seen in the Montessori self-learning approach. This foundation aids in understanding beat, meter, and patterns, making it easier for children to play songs in various keys.

Integrating music into early childhood education offers numerous benefits. Studies show that music education enhances cognitive development, improves social skills, and fosters a lifelong appreciation for music. Children who engage in music from an early age often perform better academically and have higher self-esteem. This makes the structured approach to music literacy through group lessons and familiar songs even more valuable, as it builds a strong foundation for both musical and personal growth.

Interested in knowing more about Musikgarten’s Music Makers: at the Keyboard material? Click this link to attend a Free information session.

Marketing to Millennials for Summer Music Programs

This time of year before summer break rolls around is the time when many parents are panicking about finding wholesome activities for their children. Sedentary behavior such as sitting in front of a screen all summer can set them up for health problems down the road.

While there are many camps situated with physical activities, there are fewer that help to keep the brain stimulated. Summer music classes and programs that incorporate music and movement provide both. Getting the word out to parents can be a daunting task, but to reach them most effectively, reach them where they are and tell them what they want to hear. In 2024, you are most likely marketing to millennials. Here are some tips to help you reach them and with the right message.

How to Reach Millennials Both Online and Off

  1. Create an online destination – Millennials are digital natives, so having a strong online presence is key. Whether it’s a web site for your music studio, a social media presence, or both, online is where millennials look for summertime activities.
  • Focus on Experiences, not Material Things – Most Millennials report that they are looking more at experiences for their children, not tangible items. When marketing to these parents, talk about what their kids will do and learn in your summer music program.
  • Consider Online Advertising – Even as Millennial parents spend a great deal of time online, reaching those outside of your social community can be challenging. While referral incentive programs can help, putting a small budget into advertising can pay off rather quickly. Companies such as Facebook and Google often offer a certain amount of free advertising to get you started, and Facebook Marketplace is free locally!

It can sometimes feel challenging to market to millennials. But like any other target audience, they have preferences and certain tendencies that provide good marketing opportunities. Crafting a message that feels like its talking to them personally while getting it in front of them where they are comfortable will go a long way in marketing your early childhood summer music program. 

A Remembrance – Audrey Sillick – 1921-2014

Audrey Sillick was born in 1921, and was 92 years of age upon her death.  She had been ill for some time, but was able to live in her apartment in Toronto throughout the last years.  Friends accompanied and assisted her in the last days.

Audrey was born in England, and spent her childhood and youth in England, India and Switzerland.  Audrey’s years in India influenced her life greatly – learning to play by herself, outside in the wonderful world of nature; studying at a fine teacher’s college and meeting Maria Montessori during her time in India; spending countless hours observing, especially of the world of animals and children.

Audrey Sillick

After moving to Canada and spending years in the United States, Audrey joined the Montessori movement, becoming founder and director of the Toronto Montessori Teacher Training Institute in 1971.  Her particular areas of expertise concerned the role of movement in learning, the process of language acquisition and the understanding of the child in nature.  Audrey influenced innumerable Montessorians through the Institute, but also through speaking and teaching engagements throughout the Montessori Community. This included Renilda Montessori, granddaughter of Maria, who taught with Audrey and Lorna at the TMI.

Audrey’s teachings are central to Musikgarten, indeed her work has influenced countless early childhood music teachers and Montessori teachers. I met Audrey in the early 1980s. Having moved to Toronto after my recent marriage, I soon was asked to teach at the Toronto Montessori School and was sent to hear Audrey’s lectures at the Teacher Training Institute there, to become better acquainted with my new environment.

What a life-changing event that turned out to be!  Audrey’s lectures were fascinating, although at first, the approach was such a new world for me, I could hardly take notes fast enough!  From the beginning of our acquaintance Audrey’s message became a stronger and stronger component of my work in early childhood music.

For the authors, teacher trainers, and teachers in the Musikgarten community, our work is unthinkable without her.  She was the central influence that has made Musikgarten such a balanced curriculum.  Through Audrey we learned about the child, we learned about nature, we learned to observe, to include movement in all of our teaching … we learned to tell stories, to reintroduce poetry to young children …. We learned! 

Audrey believed in what she called ‘subversive’ education.  With that she meant was that you have the greatest influence, when you observe where your learner stands, and offer an environment of small steps to help the learner move forward.  I often tell the story of this ‘subversive’ effect on me.  In the 1980s I knew that what I learned from her was important –so I wrote it down and included the ‘Audrey speech’ in all of my workshops.  After a few years, while teaching in Panang in Malaysia, my husband was in the room for one of my speeches.  Afterwards he said to me, you are no longer talking about what Audrey says, it has so influenced you, the knowledge has become yours to also impart.  Audrey’s influence was slow and sure!

What are my favorite memories of Audrey?

  • That very first speech I invited her to give for the very first international meeting of early childhood music teachers which I held in 1984 in Toronto – the forerunner of the ECMMA! 
  • Working on our first publication in the late 1980s.  As Audrey always told the story, I stopped by her house one afternoon shortly after she had retired, and asked her to guide me ’a little’  That positive answer turned into a working gig = shared authorship –  which we enjoyed for over 20 years!  For the first publication we worked on a very early, very cranky computer!  But had much more fun training the blue jays to come to our window to get their supply of peanuts!
  • Celebrating Audrey’s 80th birthday together with the Musikgarten Teacher Trainers in Sedona, Arizona! 
  • Audrey’s young-child-in-a-snow-suit story, through which she had us laughing and crying at the New Jersey Convention in 1988.
  • Sitting on our deck in Greensboro, deciding what kind of sandwich we would each take along on our pretend picnic? And this was going to be in our new Musikgarten curriculum?

Audrey treasured the natural world and went to great lengths to help preserve it.  Audrey’s legacy is contained in the many teachers she trained, mentored, and through the Musikgarten curriculum.

Lorna Heyge, Musikgarten

Learning to Love Music as a Family – A Parent’s Guide

Music has the remarkable ability to enrich our lives, touch our emotions, and provide a source of joy and inspiration. But, how do you learn to love music as a family. For parents, introducing their children to the world of music at an early age can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Not only does it foster cognitive growth and other developmental benefits, it also instills a lifelong appreciation for the arts. Here are just a few practical ways parents can actively participate in nurturing a love for music in their children, creating a foundation for a lifetime of musical enjoyment.

How Parents Can Encourage the Love of Music in their Kids

  1. Start Early with Musical Exposure – Begin by exposing your child to a variety of musical genres from a young age. Play different styles of music in the house, whether it’s classical, jazz, folk, gospel, or pop. This exposure helps children develop a broad musical palette and openness to diverse sounds.
  • Enroll in Music Classes – Many communities offer music classes for young children. These classes should incorporate singing, movement, drumming and the opportunity to play simple, age appropriate instruments. Parent participation in these classes is important for modeling and reinforcing the love of music.
Musikgarten Class - Children Taking Turns
Musikgarten Toddler Class
  • Provide Access to Instruments – Offer your child the opportunity to explore different musical instruments. Consider starting with simple, child-friendly instruments like maracas, sticks, or bells. Encourage creativity through musical play with your child, let them experiment with creating their own rhythms and melodies. This not only boosts creativity but also helps in developing a sense of musical expression.
  • Attend Live Performances – Take your child to live music performances, whether it’s a local school concert, a community band, or age-appropriate shows. Experiencing music in a live setting can be magical and captivating, sparking a deeper interest in the art form.
  • Become a Musical Advocate – Support music in your local school(s) and music organizations in your area, and have your child participate in volunteer events. Help music teachers with volunteer support and donations to help cover items not included in school budgets.

Nurturing a love for music in your child is a gift that lasts a lifetime. By incorporating music into their daily lives, providing hands-on experiences with instruments, and exposing them to a diverse range of musical styles, parents can cultivate a deep appreciation for the art form. Remember, the key is to participate to make the journey enjoyable and encourage your child to explore the vast and beautiful world of music.

How Music Helps to Achieve New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the new year, and with it comes all the reflection and hopes of a better year ahead. Many of us have set goals for 2024, whether they be physical, mental, financial, relationship, or work related. Unfortunately, statistics show an estimated 80% of new years resolutions are broken within the first few weeks. However, there is hope. There are many resources that provide helpful methods for staying within that elusive twenty percentile. Music has been shown, in several ways, as one such method to help achieve goals. For example, Improved fitness (48%) and improved mental health (36%) both ranked in the top five most common new year’s resolutions. Both of these goals have a heavy physiological element to them, and music has been shown to help.

Music Helps Kick Addiction

Addiction is when you have a strong physical or psychological urge or need to do something or use something. Goals regarding improved mental or physical health are often associated with some kind of addiction. The association between addiction and adverse physical and mental well-being is well documented. Whether the goal is it to stop drinking as a coping mechanism, give up sweets or excessive eating, cutting down screen time, or to quit smoking, the addiction typically influences the physical or mental ailment. Music has been shown to help with addiction in several ways, therefore helping to achieve physiological goals.

Music Soothes the Savage Beast

Music therapy and music-based interventions have been used for some time to treat all kinds of compulsive and addictive behavior. Music therapy treatments include music listening, songwriting, music assisted meditation/mediation, and active music making. Simply listening to music helps to open the mind to learn new useful insights through therapy. Furthermore, music has been shown to increase one’s tolerance for frustration, improve interpersonal communication and self-esteem. All of these benefits of music therapy help to calm those who may be having physical and mental withdrawals from impulsive actions or addictive behavior. The act of learning or practicing music also provides another benefit for those who are trying to reach new life goals.

Learning Music Helps to Keep and Redirect Focus

We are all familiar with the adage “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” When we are striving to achieve new goals or keep resolutions, especially when it involves avoiding addictive behavior, it is often helpful to have something new on which to focus. This helps to keep our minds (and hands) away from the unwanted behavior we are trying to change. Learning a musical instrument is beneficial in many forms, including improved cognitive function, mindfulness, and discipline. Many addictions are physical as well as mental, often having tactile associations. Learning a musical instrument provides new tactile sensation and occupation. For example, the hand to mouth fixation of smoking or drinking can be purposefully interrupted and replaced by learning to play a keyboard. Finally, learning a musical instrument creates new pleasure associations that can replace addictive behaviors, while providing achievement that can be easily realized.

Music can be a catalyst to help those who have set new goals and resolutions for the new year. It provides a tangible and measurable example in which to see results and realize potential. It helps to calm and create an open mind, while providing a form of replacement for undesired behaviors. Learning music at an early age, such as engaging in early childhood music programs, prepares children to achieve their goals later in life. 

Goal Setting for Teachers in the Childhood Music Classroom

The annual turning of the calendar generates reflection of the year past as well as expectation for the year ahead. Whether we wish to or not, during this time we often go through a mental exercise of regrets and aspirations. When looking to improve our personal as well as professional lives in the new year, purposeful, formal, and written goal setting has been proven to be more effective in changing or improving behaviors.

A helpful way to accomplish this is by following the SMART goal acronym, reminding us that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. For the early childhood music teacher, as with any educator, there are goals that will make the classroom more effective. But when that teacher is also the owner of a children’s music studio, there are also goals that regard the business. Each set of goals affects the other and combine to make a successful studio.

Goal Setting for Teachers (of any kind)

For educators, it’s important to always be learning and improving teaching practices. The tasks involved in this endeavor can be quite overwhelming. These simple recommendations may help to reach those goals without losing your mind in the process.

  • Get feedback from your students, parents, supervisors, and/or peers – Often times, what we perceive as needing improvement is unwarranted, while some other areas may not have even occurred to us.
  • Write your SMART goals and remind yourself every day – With the initial chaos that a new teaching period often brings, it’s easy to lose focus on things outside the classroom. Posting goals somewhere to be seen often helps keep you focused.

Goal Setting for the Children’s Music Studio (or any small business)

Managing a classroom is challenging enough without having to run and maintain a successful early childhood music studio. However, it’s important to put on your business owner’s hat and set goals for the studio as well.

  • Go through the same reflection and feedback process – While improvements to the classroom often coincide with business goals, other considerations such as cost or communication outside of the classroom should be considered.
  • Consider the functional areas of the business – As with any size organization, there are major functional areas that also affect small businesses – Management, Production/Operations, Finance/Accounting, and Marketing/Sales. There is a great deal of resources available to help understand and improve these areas.
  • Set growth goals and the marketing tactics to achieve them – Most business owners want to grow, but sustainable growth is paramount to success. Sell it first, then build it is an established business axiom. One shouldn’t hire new teachers without the students, or expand classroom space without the need.
  • Start small and build gradually – Many organizations try to go “too big, too fast,” which is why many small businesses fail within the first few years. Take a tip from the tortoise, slow and steady wins the race.

The new year brings new opportunities and hope for a brighter future. Focusing on fewer, yet specific, goals for the classroom and the early childhood music studio will help to ensure long term success.

Instilling a Sense of Giving in Children

Charitable giving plummeted 10.5% since 2021. While this decline was across the board with corporations and foundations, giving by individuals fell by an even steeper amount of 13.4%, adjusting for inflation. It’s important to note that Americans gave generously during the pandemic, with record-setting giving between 2019 and 2020, so non-profits and charitable organizations can only hope this recent decline is temporary. After all, Americans have a great history of charitable donations, and one which has been passed down from generation to generation. In this season of giving, it’s important to model and teach children about the importance of giving back to others.

Tips for Raising Generous Children

From early childhood children tend to be self-involved, making sure that their immediate needs are met by the caregivers surrounding them. But as they grow older, its important that those caregivers play an important role in helping kids develop generosity by encouragement and example. Here are some guiding principles in helping children develop a lifetime of charitable giving:

  • Encourage empathy – Helping children to imaging how others feel is the starting point of generosity. Parents should seek out opportunities to encourage empathy, from everyday situations such as a sibling squabble, or in more structured giving such as participating in a food or clothing drive.
  • Set an example – Kids look to parents and other caregivers for clues on how to behave. While encouragement is extremely important, modeling generous behavior such as visiting sick relatives, volunteering at a charitable organization, or even pitching in with household chores, shows children first-hand that you really mean what you say.
  • Select a Charity – Let your children experience first-hand what it feels like to give time to a cause. Encourage them help to select a charity that the entire family can participate in, ideally one benefitting children of their own ages. When kids give to those they closely relate with, their empathy grows even stronger.

Teaching Children Generosity in the Music Classroom

Children’s music programs offer a unique opportunity for kids to learn about giving and generosity. With encouragement and guidance from the early childhood music teacher, they can learn the gift of giving in the following ways:

Musikgarten Class - Children Taking Turns
Children taking turns in a Musikgarten class.

Teaching generosity to children is a gift that they will practice their entire lives, and which others will surely benefit. Through explaining empathy, modeling by example, and providing children opportunities to give to others, caregivers can ensure that their child will be a more thoughtful and generous member of society.

Have Schools Been Teaching Music All Wrong?

Even before the pandemic, music educators in schools had been lamenting about the budget cuts in the arts and how children’s music programs have suffered or even in some cases, disappeared. But the exodus and decline of music students in public education cannot be solely laid at the feet of budget cuts. For example, a seven-year study in Texas found an 80% drop out rate for band students, with the greatest attrition being between the first and second year of instruction.

Budget cuts notwithstanding, developing a love and knowledge of making music in children may have a larger systemic issue. Perhaps our approach to teaching music in schools is contributing to this decline. Have schools been teaching music all wrong?

Teaching Music to the test and not the student

In a series of New York Times articles, Grammy-award winning musician Sammy Miller argues that as with many other institutional education programs with standardized achievement testing, the same often applies to music programs.

Whether by choice or necessity, educators today often “teach to the test” so that achievement goals attached to funding can be reached. While the form of the achievement goal may be a bit different than in traditional classes, music instructors are often teaching to the Holiday Concert or Recital, where parents and administrators will see results. It is often said that music is a language, but many music programs are not teaching it that way. Much like language, music development should include listening, speaking (singing), reading, and writing. Emphasizing rigid reading and rote memorization misses the most important goal of a music program – to instill a lifelong love of music.

Teaching music like a language

It is not until pre-school age that many children are exposed to written language, although their vocabulary is already as many as a thousand words and phrases.

So how did they acquire this skill without formal instruction? By hearing language from their caregivers and siblings, repeating what they hear, and stumbling through ways to verbally (and physically) communicate. As their language develops, they begin to experience the joy of communication. It is not seen as a chore of rote memorization, but a feeling of community and connectiveness. Some early childhood music programs understand that teaching through musical communication establishes a foundation and understanding of the building blocks of music knowledge.

Many great pop music artists know that the secret of good music is simplicity in its foundation, with most chart-topping songs being a series of a few simple notes put together in a new and creative way. Approaching early childhood music education the same way we approach teaching language is a joyful way to instill a lifelong love and understanding of music.

What Makes a Good Early Childhood Music Program?

The very title of this topic may seem provocative, as many childhood music educators and researchers have varying opinions on what makes a truly great children’s music instruction. There are various established and differing music teaching methods such as The Suzuki Method and The Orff Approach, or The Kodaly and Dalcroze methods. While some of these methods are more focused on the learning of an instrument, they all tend to share a core set of teaching principles. This is not a competitive comparison of any program versus another, but an analysis of the shared beliefs upon which most all music teachers and educators agree.

Core Principles of Children’s Music Education

Here are several basic, yet important tenants to teaching early childhood music education that can be found in nearly all successful children’s music programs:

Focus on the Child – This may seem blatantly obvious, but it is important to emphasize for all childhood educators not to lose the “forest from the trees,” by making the teaching method the center of attention instead of the child themselves. Focusing on the child requires a respect of each student and their individual learning journey. This important approach also touches on “Follow the Child,” one of the central principles of the celebrated Montessori teaching method. 

Music and MovementResearch suggests that encouraging movement at an early age helps to improve all kinds of cognitive as well as physical development. The area of the brain associated with motor control, the cerebellum, is also largely responsible for our learning process. The connection of both music and movement release endorphins in the brain, which helps to maintain interest and energy in a subject. Finally, movement helps children with beat perception and the development of rhythm, timing, and the motor control that will assist in music comprehension and learning an instrument.

Parental/Caregiver Involvement in Children’s Music Education – One principle shared by nearly all successful early childhood music programs is the importance of parental participation. This is often graphically represented as a triangular relationship between child, teacher, and parent. As one would suspect, the importance of parental involvement is not only beneficial to music learning, but all kinds of learning and early childhood development. Research has shown that, just as with traditional academics, parental involvement is particularly beneficial in early children’s music programs through observation and mimicry, helping to develop a better understanding of cultural ties to music, musical concepts, group social interaction, and motor skills development through the use of musical instruments.

Musikgarten Class
Parents during a Musikgarten class.

The most successful children’s music programs share several core principles that can be applied to nearly all early childhood learning. A Focus on the Child ensures that the approach respects the individuality and pace of learning that each child possesses. Music Combined with Movement helps with not only the mechanics of rhythm and timing of music, but also with cognitive aspects that encourage learning. Finally, Parental/Caregiver Involvement creates a triangular bond between teacher, child and parent which reinforces mimicry and a lifetime love of learning. All of these core principles combined with a carefully designed curriculum and supporting materials, are key to success for early childhood learning programs.