The Sound of Silence

MomChildSilenceWe are rounding the bend and entering our final month of the wonderful Flute Collection. Families are bonding and the children are singing their hearts out. We had a blast dancing to the “Time Warp”, “Ghost Busters”, “Monster Mash”, and much more for Halloween. (I got to dance the “Time Warp” ten times in one week. I’m good until next year I think.)

During one of my classes (the week of Halloween) the energy was high and we were ready to party. We had a lot of extra family members in class and it was such a joy. But because the numbers were many and we were in holiday mode there was a lot of chatting during and between songs

If you’ve been taking Music Together with your child for a while (or even for a semester) you have probably heard that we like our classes to be as much of a “musical sanctuary” as possible. That means that from the moment you enter class until the moment you leave – whatever needs to be said should be sung!

Children in Music Together are learning music in the same way they are learning language: total immersion. We joyfully saturate them in the music for 45 minutes once a week (not counting the joyful noise making occurring at home.)

During this Halloween class after one of our upbeat songs I went into the Tonal Patterns for class. Tonal Patterns are the little bits of notes we sing after we finish our song. These Tonal Patterns provide “building blocks” to help the children organize the song in their brains – after the song is over. It’s like a Follow the Leader singing game. You also hear them on your CD.

But it didn’t work in this class. Why? 

Deanna DeCampos, Director of Eastside Westside Music Together in New York City puts it this way. “…language development takes such a prominent role in a child’s early years… a child ‘tunes in’ to her mother’s voice, [so] we can infer that, if a child’s mom is talking to her neighbor in class rather than singing, that child is going to  tune in to the talking and not the music.  Now, if the mom is SINGING, she’s both modeling music making behavior and providing her child with the most beautiful aural stimulus possible – her singing voice. Music making utilizes many areas of the brain, including the language center.  When mom talks in class, the child gets the double whammy of tuning in to mom’s voice AND trying to discern the language sounds that he’s hearing. Music?  Not a priority in the little guy’s brain.”

Essentially, last week when we went into the Tonal Patterns while the chattering continued, we were asking the children to use the area of the brain that focuses on language development. (This is why Songs without Words are so easy for the young child to learn – no concentration on language needed. Just music!)

So I asked everyone to be very silent. Then we tried again. We sang a little more of the song and then seamlessly (silently) moved into the Tonal Patterns. What happened then? We heard in the silences between each Tonal Pattern a smattering of tots attempting to replicate the notes: “buh, BA, Baaa;” something that didn’t happen while there had been a lot of talking after the song. I could see the smiles of recognition and even surprise on some grown-up faces. Such a gift.

We chat, gab, and yak all day. There’s time enough for that. Now let’s sing… and then listen…who knows what might happen next.

Fleur Phillips
Music Together Teacher

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4 Responses to “The Sound of Silence”


  1. 1 Lisa November 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you! What a good reminder. Without being silent, we can’t really listen or hear — music, our children, our hearts. It reminds me of Desiderata: “Go placidly amidst the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.” The peace we find in music, prayer, and listening! Thank you!

  2. 3 Shelley Szucs June 23, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Ms. Fluer, your why we’re coming back to Heartsong! We tried another place that does Music Together but the class was in no way a comparison to how you conduct the class. Your dedication & energy to giving the parents & children the best possible experience is the benchmark!


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The Joy of Family Music

Heartsong Music teaches Music Together®, the internationally recognized early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through grade two and the adults who love them.

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