Archive for September, 2014

Music and Memory

Heartsong Music InstrumentsHave you ever heard a song or sound from a certain time or place in your life, and been instantly transported? When I was in the 5th grade CD players were brand new, and I was thrilled beyond measure to receive one for Christmas. With this new CD player came 3 CDs: an instrumental guitar sampler, “Rubber Soul” by The Beatles, and “The Best of The Mamas & the Papas.” The oldies station on the radio was my favorite, so my parents had chosen music they knew I would love. I played those CDs nearly to pieces! I had one of them playing whenever I was in my room, whether I was reading, playing with friends, studying or even sleeping. So it makes sense that recently when I heard the-oh-so familiar strains of “California Dreamin’ ” by The Mamas & the Papas, I experienced a startling rush of emotions. I felt like I was 11 again! I remembered how it felt to be sitting on my twin bed, listening to the voices of my parents and siblings. I felt safe and content. I could even smell the way my bedroom had smelled, particularly the scent of my books, my drawing pastels, and laundry detergent. The experience was a reminder of what a wonderful childhood I had, and it really struck me how intense these recollections were.

During class we always begin with the “Hello Song” and end with the “Goodbye, So Long, Farewell” song. Part of the reason we do this is because of the musical memory that we are building by singing these ritual songs. When we sing the “Hello Song” together, we are preparing to begin, we are getting excited and warming up our voices. Scientific research shows that our brains are hard-wired to connect music with memory. Even for those who are experiencing dementia or suffering from Alzheimer’s, music can bring up deep emotional recall. There are studies that show familiar music calming brain activity and enabling the listeners to focus on the present moment.

Singing the same songs to begin and end every class allows our children to experience a time of beginning and preparation with “Hello” and a natural ending with “Goodbye”. This is also why singing goodbye to instruments, scarves, and other classroom props is so powerful! The musical memory of those two notes, “good-bye”, are ingrained in the children’s brains. Try singing goodbye to things at home to indicate an end to playtime (good-bye toys!), people (good-bye grandma!) or even TV time (good-bye Nickelodeon!). You may find that it is easier for your child to give up their favorite toy, not only because you have transformed saying goodbye into an activity by singing, but also because you have tapped in to that musical memory of saying goodbye in a safe and fun way.

Happy music making!

Sally Nava
Music Together Teacher

Fun Ways to Beat the Heat with Music

Mom Singing with ChildSummer is over as everyone heads back to school, right? Wrong! Well, half of that is completely untrue for us Austinites. Even though our “fall” schedules tell us it’s over, the heat of summer is going nowhere fast. If you’re in need of some fun ways to beat the heat and survive the sticky, icky, moody late afternoons and weekends, let music be your guide!

I have two words for you: DANCE PARTY! This is a highly underrated, useful activity that can be done indoors, yet can be incredibly active, burning off energy, and elevating mood for grownups and kids alike. Parents, as we constantly say to you in class, the more fun you’re having, the more fun your little one will have. Get nostalgic with your song selection; have fun creating a special dance party playlist, bust out your favorite hip hop from high school, or the songs you danced to at your wedding, then push the coffee table out of the way, close the curtains, turn up the AC, and let loose! If you’re head-banging or tush-pushing around the living room, having a silly blast, there’s no way your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers won’t have a great time watching—and most likely will be inspired to join in, too!

Along similar lines is a jam session. We do this in class every week with our play-along ritual, but make no mistake; this can be just as active an experience as the dance party if you let it. Again, you’re the leader. While setting your kid in a pile of instruments, putting on their favorite music can be great, it is much more engaging if you’re actively involved too. Sometimes (when they let you), you be the DJ and play your music and go nuts on that bongo like you’re the drummer from Def Leppard. Some other ideas for jamming are: use kitchen wares or unexpected toys as instruments, get crafty and make your own instruments, be a parade and march around the whole house, or find a spot in front of a mirror and make silly, intense jam-faces. Like the dance party, this can last a good long while if you’re having fun too, and can use up some necessary end-of-the-day energy when the park is a no-go.

Another idea is: water play!! Of course this can be outdoors, in the pool or sprinkler, but you can make a fun water play station inside on those days you can’t bare to go out again. Perhaps you run an early or extra bath (in swimsuits?!?), maybe you bring chairs or stools to the kitchen or bathroom sink, or put towels or a blanket down on the floor and get out a big kitchen bowl or laundry tub and fill it with water! Most of our Music Together collections have at least one song about water, like “I Had a Little Frog” from the summer collection, or “Canoe Song” that we’ll be doing in the Fall Session. Rhythmically splash and sing along to these of course, but honestly, any song can be a water song! If “Ridin’ in the Car” is still a favorite—make it about a boat instead of a car. If one of the many train songs pops into your head—pick up all the water dwelling animal bath toys you have and train them around the water.

These ideas are fairly simple, and require nothing but tools you already have, mostly being: you. Remember this on these endless sweltering days and beat the heat with music!

Vanessa Heilman
Certification Level I, Music Together Teacher




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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