Monday, January 6, 2014

Beyond Do-Re-Mi: Early Music Learning Sets Children Up for Lifelong Success

Do any of you baby boomers remember the childhood song “Sarasponda?” I easily recall the melody and nonsensical words to this very day. "Ret-set-set!" the boys would shout. At my Catholic grade school I clearly remember Sister Mary Somebody teaching it as a round to our class. The names of the nuns aren't so clear anymore, but the notes in my brain are as sharp as an F major chord!

Music lessons during grade school made a big impression on my young life. At home, neither of my parents was remotely musical. However, my dad wanted a piano in the house. At some level I think he sensed that music was important and I started piano lessons at a young age. Most every kid in my neighborhood took lessons in some type of band instrument. I really did want to play the flute, but the piano stood in the living room beckoning me to play it.

Music lessons are about much more than just sending a child off to a lesson with an instrument.
I learned that last fall when Prelude Music offered a Music Together ® class at Fundamentally Toys. From babes in arms to children seven years of age on to adults, the class was incredibly fun. Babies were giggling. Moms were swaying. Toddlers were singing, imitating movements, keeping the beat, and playing simple instruments along with their parents. It was so popular, we asked Prelude to visit us again in January for another demonstration of Music Together.

The teachers at Prelude Music believe that all children are naturally musical. This is a universally accepted educational concept with one critical hitch: Learning needs to take place in a window from birth to about age six or seven. This is when the brain is developing and most receptive. The brain works hard to understand and participate in music.

It's not that one can't successfully learn music later. It's that the benefits of early music learning set children up for success in school and life. It's a path I was glad my parents put me on, even if they weren't sure as to why at the time. Learning music doesn't make children any smarter, but research does indicate that it provides self-esteem, confidence, focus, concentration, better memory retention, and even higher test scores.

The first moment parents hold newborns in their arms and naturally start to sway, rock, coo and sing to them, that action alone constitutes an important early music lesson. From there on parents and caregivers need to incorporate music into childrens' daily lives over the next few years. About age three is a good time to take children to group music classes, such as Music Together at Prelude Music. And age five might be the earliest to introduce children to musical instruments. But don't do it because you expect the next rock star or Beethoven.

Do it because music and rhythm are naturally nestled in our bodies, hearts and minds. Besides, any musical training will come back to bite you in the behind in a good way. While I never became a star pianist, I did go on to dance. My early musical training helped me feel the movement in my heart. The last thing I ever thought I would do in my life was to sing, but I could, and reading music was imminently helpful in singing with the church choir. So you never know where those first notes will go!

Want to learn or relive the song "Sarasponda?" Here's a link to the Liberty High School girls choir doing a much lovelier rendition of it than my grade school class.

Want more information on early music learning. Here are the links to a couple of excellent articles from "The Guardian" and "PBS Parents" on the benefits of early music learning:

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