Are you a musical family?
I hope that every single family has has taken a class at crescendo family music says YES – the small act of attending music classes with your child(ren) makes you one. You’ve already realized what an important gift music can be to your child, both from a pure enjoyment to an educational aspect.
I have always considered myself musical, and since the age of 5 a musician. I started taking piano lessons in kindergarten, then moved to flute in 6th grade and haven’t looked back since. My musical journey has taken me all over the States as part of high school and college bands, to bars and clubs when I sang and played in a rock and roll band, and even in Malaysia I took jazz flute lessons to keep up my playing. Now I play in the Houston Pride Band and teaching Music Together(R) has broadened my musical reach to dozens of families. There is nothing like hearing from a parent that their child is doing something musically that they’ve never done before since starting my classes, or seeing the pure joy on a child’s face when we echo something they’ve done in class.
My children are part of this music tradition now as well. They like to “teach” music class at home, often telling me and my husband to sit in a circle for music class as they strum on my ukulele singing the “Hello” song or another favorite tune. My son likes to conduct songs, and has ever since last June when he went to one of our HPB concerts and saw our musical director, Skip Martin, conducting. How fun to experience all of this first hand!
But you’re not a musician or singer you say? Doesn’t matter! Having fun with music with your kids still sets an important foundation in the development of their music aptitude. So raise your voices and wiggle to the beat with your little ones
And for those of you who don’t believe me, here’s the video of young Erik (22 mos) “conducting”):
If you’re a busy parent like me and my husband, then half the time you hear about something cool to take your kids to the day it’s happening (and therefore not going to happen for you!) or you hear about it on the radio and forget. So, here’s an opportunity to lock in some fun music time with your family before the events happen.
Houston Symphony Family Series – the last one of the season is April 20. These are AWESOME concerts and so kid friendly. Having played Jurrasic Park myself I know that the concert will be great. Not to mention that the whole reason I became a geologist is because I saw that movie and wanted to be a paleontologist!
April 20, 2013
Robert Franz, conductor
Get ready! The Symphony’s gonna bring you all the way back to pre-historic times. Join us as we explore dinosaurs, fossils and more. From the music of John William’s Jurassic Park and Morton Gould’s The Jogger and the Dinosaur, to a special look at the percussion family, this concert will be earth shaking.
Discovery Green is such an amazing addition to downtown. Besides just the fun aspect of being there with rotating art shows, the dog park, play ground, putting green, farmers market, exercise classes, movies, the water play fountains (spring-summer-fall), and the ice skating (winter), Discovery Green offers free concerts as well! Their Wednesday Blues and Burgers series starts April 3. Thursday night concerts also start up in April-May, and don’t miss the University of Houston Marching Band doing an interactive En Masse concert on April 20, 1pm. http://www.discoverygreen.com
Miller Outdoor Theater is a no-brainer for kid friendliness. I mean, FREE events and if the kids get bored they can run around, or you can go feed the ducks at the Hermann Park reflecting pool, or they can just fall asleep on a blanket and you can continue to enjoy the show. There are Children’s Performances which are usually in the day during the week (great for parents who don’t work or want to take a day off). Those start in April. http://milleroutdoortheatre.com
Local community bands, orchestras, choruses. Many of these are free (or low cost) meaning if your kid(s) start freaking out you can leave without worrying. Or, if you have older kids interested in learning an instrument, what better way to get them engaged by taking them to a concert? I play flute in the Houston Pride Band, and we have a free concert on February 23 at 3pm. The Houston Heights Orchestra will announce their next concert soon, and will include Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Dukas. Opera in the Heights is finishing up Macbeth on February 10, with their next performance being Falstaff starting in April. RDo a Google search for “local choruses (or bands, orchestras) Houston” and you’ll find some great singers and players with that as well.
Houston Grand Opera. Maybe you’re not into opera. But maybe you are. Or maybe you have a kid who likes to sing and you want to show them some professional singers. You can go to one of the full operas, or maybe get started by checking out the HGO Studio, which has amazing young singers and better yet, recitals happening on a regular basis at Rienzi, with ones on Sundays at 5pm. http://www.houstongrandopera.org/studioperformances/
Mercury (aka Mercury Baroque before it changed its name) does family concerts during its season. They just did one on 2/2, but sign up for their newsletter and you can be ahead of the game next time: http://mercuryhouston.org/mercury-family-concerts/
And of course, don’t forget local restaurants, bars, coffee shops, grocery stores that are kid-friendly and also have music. Spring is near, and is usually a beautiful time to be out in Houston. St. Patrick’s Day (if you go early) is a great way to expose your kids to Celtic, Scottish, and Irish music. Late mornings-early afternoons and you have the music die-hards (rather than the drinking) and the kids can sing and jig all they want. Mucky Duck is a great place for this. Jax Grill has Cajun music (and an area to dance). Keep your eyes open for other places that offer music nights (or afternoons) as well. Waldo’s Coffee House, Happy Fatz, Hickory Hollow (country, bluegrass), Last Concert Cafe (mix – also serves TexMex food), Central Market (do your grocery shopping, grab some lunch, and sit on the patio and listen to rock, blues, country, mix… on the weekends),
A couple weeks ago during one of my classes I did only 10 songs out of a 12 song lesson plan I had created for the week. Everyone had a great time so I wasn’t too worried about developing the songs “too” much, but it got me interested in the whole repeat, repeat, and repeat again philosophy withing early childhood music education. Simply put, repeating things turns short term learning into long term learning and understanding. Makes sense, right? I think back to when I was in middle school and learning how to play the flute. I would practice for a minimum of 30 minutes a day (usually more) and of course part of that was practicing things like scales, arpaggios, and the like. Repeating these things over and over made it so imprinted in my brain that today I when I play a scale – it just “happens” and my fingers play without me having to think about it.
So this is why we do it in our classes. And we don’t just do the same movements or use the same instruments or props every time we sing a song. We mix it up with scarves, with and without the music, different types of instruments, small and large movements. So have fun, repeat, and watch your children develop a deeper understanding and love of music.
Earlier this week NPR had a post about intense emotional reactions to music and how it sometimes might feel so intense that you’re on some sort of drug. Well, it turns out this isn’t too far off given that when listening to music our brains produce different levels of dopamine which is the chemical responsible for reward and pleasure, as well as serotonin and norepinephrine (stimulant). Read on here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/01/16/169551061/who-needs-drugs-when-you-ve-got-musical-ecstasy.
Makes sense to me, actually. There have been so many times that I have felt almost giddy with delight when a song comes on, or I leave a concert (rock or other) on a “high” for days reliving certain moments that shook me to my core. I remember the first time I heard R.E.M. play “Fall On Me” live. Wow. It’s my favorite R.E.M. song and I felt like someone had just handed me an amazing gift when I heard it in person. Another example of this amazing emotional surge with music was from a tiny African restaurant in Lisbon. Charlie and I stumbled in one night and listened to a guitar player sing and play, but then the front door was locked and the woman who owned the restaurant started singing fado. This was the real deal. I had NO idea what words she was singing, but I found myself crying with the soul and musical beauty that flowed from her lungs. I couldn’t recreate that moment if I wanted to, but it is forever etched in my brain for as long as I live. I left that dinner wanting more.
Children’s music also can give us that same kind of euphoria, especially given a special time or place. One of the songs in our Winter Drum Collection just makes me so happy for hours after I sing it. It’s “Everybody Loves Saturday Night” and it is just pure joy. Have a listen for yourself and enjoy! http://www.musictogether.com/mp3/everybodylovessaturdaynight.mp3
Ah, the start of a new year. There is something refreshing to being able to start over every 365 days. A clean slate. I started the morning by searching around for songs with theme of New Year’s. One of my favorite bands of all time is U2 and of course ”New Year’s Day” is on that list. I got reacqainted with some others I hadn’t thought about in awhile and also introduced to some others I hadn’t heard before (i.e.: ”Flowers In December” by Mazzy Star). Our Winter session starts on Saturday and I am excited to start our Drums collection with a 2nd class added to our Center. I look forward to making music with many people in 2013 and hope the same goes for all of you.
Fall is here and so is the great weather. Take this opportunity to introduce your children to the many wonderful and even free arts happenings around town. There are some great options for music in particular:
- Thursday evening concerts at Discovery Green. These start at 6:30pm, most street parking is free downtown after 6pm. It’s outside (meaning totally kid friendly) and also has other play options should the kiddos get a little restless, like a playground, artwork, splash pad (if warm enough). Food is also available for purchase, but you can also bring your own!
- Miller Outdoor Theater. There is quite a lot going on at the Miller Outdoor Theater this month. Many of the performances are in the evening and like Discovery Green, it’s outside, in a park, making it kid friendly.
- Restaurants. That’s right, restaurants! Some restaurants have a stage and can give your kids some great exposure to music while getting a bite to eat at the same time. For example, Jax Grill on Shepherd has zydeco bands and a lot of room on the patio to move around and you don’t have to worry about kids making (too much of) a mess. You may not be dining 5-stars, but it’s something different to do with the kids and hear some music at the same time. There are a lot more out there – just take your pick. Don’t want to go for dinner? Consider having an appetizer and drinks just to give the kids a taste of whatever they have playing.
- Festivals. Fall is festival season in Houston. Take advantage of having kids to hear music during the day. Beat some of the crowds by being there early. The Houston Chronicle had a recent publication of Fall Festivals. Many of these will have music components to them showcasing specific countries or cultures.
We had a wonderful class today, and I thought one of the most rewarding moments was singing ”Apples and Cherries” as a round. There is such a richness of sound when people sing in rounds – the harmonies that are created and the for me it seems like people really feel like they’re making some special music together, more so than when we just sing a song’s melody.
I did some research on rounds and here are some interesting thoughts:
- Children hone in on their parents’ voices more than anyone else’s – they are hard-wired to do so. So think about when you are singing with others with voices layered on top of other voices. They work hard to listen for you – they are voice tracking. I found many research articles on the importance of voice tracking in neurological development of children, especially relating to complex sound input. There are clear benefits for improved listening skills and development of spatial and temporal relationships. I’ll take that!
- Rounds are a great example of musical conversations. There is this back and forth of words and harmonies, and you can almost picture a child sitting in the middle of a circle of adults singing a round looking back and forth to each group when they start singing. It takes a lot of concentration to sing a round, to not get distracted by the other parts being sung.
So the next time you’re singing a song with your family, think about singing it as a round. There are some songs people know really well as rounds that can get you started. Try ”Row Row Row Your Boat” or ”Frere Jacques”. Or pick a favorite Music Together® tune and starting singing!
As we started the Fall semester and our Fiddle collection, I started thinking about some of my most special memories around music. It is amazing how hearing a song can transport you back to a very particular place and time. For instance, whenever I hear Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” I remember a time when I was about 10 and my mom and I were sitting in our van in our driveway listening to the song. I thought she was a big dork for liking S&G. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. It grew into some of my favorite music of all time, and every time I hear a S&G song I am instantly sitting again in our van listening to their melodious sounds with my mom.
Funny enough I came across an interesting article about a study that proved this music-memory connection that was done in 2009. It never ceases to amaze me the power of music!
So with all of that said, what are you going to do this week to create those music-memory connections with your child(ren)?
It’s hard to believe that it’s mid-August and Summer is almost over! We had a GREAT Summer 1 Collection session this year and we look forward to having everyone back (and new faces as well) for our Fiddle Collection starting September 15.
Check out our Summer 2012 Newsletter for happenings from Music Together and updates on the Fall Session.
If I hadn’t witnessed this first hand, then I don’t think I would have believed it. This started Saturday morning – I got home from teaching our first class of the Summer session on my daughter, Katherine, insisted on playing with some shakers. Fair enough – who wouldn’t want to shake out some tunes? Next thing I know she is going around the living room singing “Biddy Biddy” (one of the songs in our Summer session) and making up verses. They varied from “bark like a dog….”, to “mommy….”, “daddy…”, “Erik….”, “nose….”, “mouth…..”, “Zooey (the cat)….” I couldn’t help but just stare at what I saw happening. Here she was taking everything she had experienced in previous music classes and watching me practice the song (along with watching a teaching DVD) and putting it into action.
Fast forward to last night – Kat (who will be 3 in August) pointed to my ukulele and indicated she wanted to play it. After getting it in her hands, she told me, Charlie, and Erik to sit in a circle for music class. She started with singing the “Hello” song while strumming the uke, then on to “Biddy Biddy” which we had been listening to her sing almost non-stop since the day before, and then finished it up with the “Goodbye” song. She led us the entire time and even did a Tonal Pattern exercise. Again – completely amazed by this. Who knows, maybe we have a future music director on our hands?
Whatever happens, it made me thrilled to see her playing out the role of a Music Together teacher right there in our home. She has so much fun with the music and that is the kind of joy I have when I teach as well. I makes me love the program even more watching her do that.