Archive for the 'Using Music to Ease Transitions' Category

Let’s All Do the Vulnerability Shuffle

Music Together with Fleur PhillipsNearly a month ago (has it been that long already?) I packed up my life and put it in a new-to-me car and set out for the Southwest, my long-lost home: Texas. Having been born in Houston, I grew up in Ft. Worth, went to Southern Methodist University then high-tailed it to NYC…then Los Angeles…then London…then back to LA. Then, not having had enough of the rat race and deafening 79th street subway stop, I returned to NYC. I’m glad I went back to New York because that is where I discovered, in the midst of a long spaghetti bowl of an acting career, Music Together. My journey to NYC the second time around was transformative.

But home called. So after fighting that call for a couple of years I decided to heed it. I drove myself across the country to my new city, Austin (where else?), to the open arms of Carey Youngblood and family at Heartsong Music where I would continue and hopefully enhance my journey as Early Childhood Music Educator. Though, I prefer the title Joyful Noise Maker.

I arrived on a Monday and was shot out of cannon beginning demos the next three days. It was good not to have time to think about the transition. Meeting so many bright new faces, remembering new names, and learning the day to day ins and outs in a new home kept my mind occupied to say the least.

But then came week three. The week I will call the “Oh, $%!*, what have I done” week. You know, the moment when the big change stares you head on in the mirror. The moment when all your little coping defenses leave you somewhere between now solidly knowing the location of Whole Foods and asking the same mom what her name is for the third time…in the same 45 minutes session.

This, my new friends, is where I entered what I call The Vulnerability Shuffle (TVS). And guess what hits and cracks open our hearts and minds more acutely, profoundly and head on than any word, billboard, or chocolate bar?

Music.

Yep. You know what I mean. Think about it. Think about that time you were feeling on edge, on shaky ground trying to contain your composure and then you heard that song on Pandora or Songza without warning.

Now what if in the middle of that Vulnerability Shuffle, you had to sing that song or any song… while being asked what sound a giraffe makes? And while you are thinking perhaps for the first time that you do not know what a giraffe sounds like, that you forgot to pay the utility bill, and that your dad always told you were tone-deaf, you remember you are in a room full of other human beings…who may or may not…you think… be judging you?

Perhaps at this moment you feel it would be easier to be flattened with the nearest steam roller. This depends, of course, on the shakiness of your particular and personal vulnerability but read on before your mind unravels!

The good news is that though you may feel this at times going into your Music Together class, your child probably isn’t feeling it (TVS) to that “adult” degree. But hang with me a minute because the TVS is still there in the air for different reasons for them.

You may have heard your teacher say this before: You are the most important person to your child. You are IT. You are THE THING, WHERE IT’S AT, THE MOTHERSHIP (pun intended). What you do, say, and sing means the world to her. He’s got his eye and awareness on you all the time. When you sing, she sings. When you dance, he dances. When you wiggle… you get the idea.

And when you shut down, whether in heart, mind, or wiggles… guess what? The little duckling follows Mama Duck to jump ship.

It takes a bucket load of courage and chutzpah to sing, wiggle, fly, strut, moo like a cow, and even show up to class. It may not be so hard in front of your kid on your own time, but, let’s face it; we are all in front of our peers.

That’s where this glorious Music Together Family swoops in to sweep those fears away. We aren’t peers anymore in that room.

Case in point: This morning I co-taught with our illustrious director, Carey Youngblood, at the Unity Church this morning. We decided that today Carey would teach and I’d get to play along with the family and observe her style. All teachers and directors are trained in the same way but the loveliness of this musical program is that it nurtures and encourages the educators to bring in and use their own style, creative ideas, and uniqueness to their own classes. We often “steal and share” from each other. So whereas we are all singing the “Hello Song” all over the world, in Texas while singing Hello to our noses and toeses, in New York we may be babbling and drumming on our guitars. In Italy I know for a fact they are using those jingle bells…yes, in the “Hello Song”.

However, being human, it can be very easy to get attached to your own way of doing things (kind of like life). Everyone has their own rituals and styles of movement and musicality. I found myself at once engrossed in the creativity of Carey’s style while at the same time The Vulnerability Shuffle began awaken within. I remembered my families in New York and how we did things. (Oh, the way we hold on in life to what we know and what is comfy and cozy.) I suddenly felt my New York co-workers and directors  s o  f a r  a w a y. Yet, I heard loud and clear, in middle of all this NOISE in my head, to let go. I welled up with tears and promptly escaped to the nearest bathroom stall. (a/k/a – the safe place to bawl yer eyes out.)

I returned puffy eyed after the “Goodbye, So Long Farewell” song was over feeling thoroughly humiliated. There was no hiding it. I slinked back in reeling from silent embarrassment with a secret futile hope that no one would notice my red nose.  I felt ridiculous, stupid, unprofessional, shuffling off to Vulnerable all the way. Yes! I did the thing I don’t want you to do. I ran!

Then a crazy thing happened. Carey gave me a long, warm hug. Actually, that part is not so crazy. If you know Carey, you probably know her hugs, too. But then the next wonderful thing happened: a mom hugged me. Then another mom hugged me. Then another.  Then one of the toddlers walked up and kissed me on the cheek.

I may have felt all those nutty things but the noise was silenced by the love and acceptance in the room.  You are who I am talking about.

And that, my friends, is why we are here together. Yeah, Yeah, all that research, too… whateves.  😉

Why am I vomiting this to You who barely know me?

Because You, for your own important and meaningful real reasons, may feel this way in class one day (if not already) as well. Your child, in varying stages of development, will have moments of vulnerability, too. They are our little human beans with thoughts, emotions and needs for their own comfy cozy ways of doing things. But I firmly believe this is our strength to come together in this midst of all this…this… stuff and sing ANYWAY!

Let go.

Our children do not know it’s scary to sing and dance in front of each other. Only we can model that kind of fear.

Let’s not.

“Now how ‘bout a hug for your mom or dad…”

And your teacher, too?

See you in the circle of love.

Fleur Phillips
Music Together Teacher

A Tune For Every Moment

I was shopping for a mattress pad at Target, exciting right? As I was standing there in the aisle, debating cotton, alternative down, water proof; I heard a little child sitting in her mom’s cart with some toy playing music keeping her occupied. The mom was doing her shopping and as she perused the aisle she clapped along with the beat of the music. When the music would stop, she continued to clap the beat. The child was so engaged and watched her mom as she played and danced around the Target aisle having fun and singing to her daughter while getting her shopping done. I wanted to go up to her and say, “way to go, keep making that music!” What a great example for all of us. Music can be a great tool, it can help you through a tough transition, it can put a child at ease, it can create bonding moments and foster emotional intelligence, it can make time together fun and engaging, it can encourage imagination, it can help with language development. I could go on. Just like the mom in Target, engaging her daughter musically, as she sat in the cart, we too can use music as a tool.

At Heartsong, we are arming you with a musical arsenal.  We want to give you the tools and the knowledge to create a rich musical environment at home, in the car, at Grandma’s, and even at Target. The average American family knows 3-5 songs to sing to their child. The ABC’s, Twinkle Twinkle, and Baa Baa Black Sheep all have the same melody, so that doesn’t leave us with much. In every class I ask my families to share musical experiences from the previous week. So many times I have heard, “whenever she gets upset in the car, all I have to do is turn on the CD and she calms down.” I also hear, “when we were on vacation, we were having a melt down, and I sang to him in the middle of the airport and it was the only thing that worked!” These moments show us how helpful it can be to have a song in your back pocket.

Even in class we will use our songs to transition from one song to the next, we sing Bye bye, or Bum bum as we put our sticks back into the basket. The children have grown accustomed to this ritual in class and know it means its time to put our instruments away. Sometimes we even sing a song about putting the play-along instruments back in the basket, substituting “clean up lyrics” to a song we already know. These methods can easily be used at home, not only to help make transitions smoother, but also as a great way to insert music as a part of your daily routine.

Every class we sing a lullaby, we quiet things down for a minute or two and we let the children hear our voices. So much bonding happens during a lullaby. In class we get a small peek sometimes into the special connection between parent and child. We want your child to hear your voice, even if they are across the room, your voice is your child’s most favorite voice. So, at home, when you are reading bedtime stories, add a song to the end of that ritual. It is an incredible gift to give that shares love and affection through music. Your voice can calm them and soothe them to sleep.

Music is FUN! Children are born musical, it is our job as grown-ups to support them in their musical growth. We can show them that we love music, and we can actively engage and make music fun! It is not only musical competence that we pass to them as we do our job as musical models, it is also the disposition towards music that we pass on. If your child doesn’t want to dance with you, don’t stop dancing, dance for them! Have a good time with music, if you hear your favorite song on the radio, sing out! It is not about what they do, it is about what YOU do. Their musical development is a complex process that takes years to complete. Why not give them every opportunity to share in a love for music that could last a lifetime? Don’t be afraid; sing, dance, make music fun!

We can give countless opportunities for imagination using music. If you are headed to the grocery store, you can sing the “Hello Song” to all the fruits and veggies you see in the produce department. You can make substitutions of words to almost any song or chant to include what you are doing that day. Children love to have their ideas validated: accept and include the dinosaur in the vegetable song, it doesn’t have to rhyme or even make sense. There are no rules, get creative!

Spontaneous musical moments can be easy, they can help you on a daily basis, and they can create a bond between you and your child. Use music to your advantage! Music can make a trip to Target more than just an errand. Keep a song in your back pocket, for a rainy day, or a long line at the grocery store. You never know when you might need it.

Sabine Heath
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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