Posts Tagged 'silence'

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

How many of you remember Julie Andrews in the opening scene of The Sound of Music when she is on top of the mountain singing that song? She seems to be experiencing the ultimate sense of freedom when she is twirling around and singing those words with her arms outstretched! She is totally alive with the sound of music and the beauty of her surroundings. Her spirit is so alive and the music is pouring out of her. That opening scene made a profound effect on me growing up.

As some of you know, I leave Austin every summer to go to Taos, New Mexico where we have a cabin in the mountains. When my last class ends in the spring session, I am on the road to my secret hideaway in the sky. At least I feel like it is in the sky because the altitude is 8600 feet! The other day a friend asked me, “What do you DO all summer?” My answer was, “I don’t have another minute left in the day!” But my real answer should have been that I don’t go there to DO things…..I go there NOT to do things! My day usually starts around 6:30 a.m. when I go for my morning walk. All I hear are the birds, the squirrels chattering at each other and the Canadian geese squawking on the fishing pond as I pass. If I’m lucky I may see an occasional cottontail scampering across the trail. If I’m not lucky I may see a mama bear with three cubs or a bobcat! It is so quiet that my footsteps are the loudest sound I hear! The silence gives me so much energy that I never want my walk to end. My thoughts are totally unencumbered and I feel a freedom to be able to let go and just enjoy being alive, free of worries and responsibilities.

Now I know this is an unrealistic situation for most of you young mothers who have so much on your plate. I am so lucky to have an extended period of time to relax and just “be quiet” so that music can resonate through me, but you are doing something similar by coming to music class one day a week to bond with your child and give them the gift of experiencing music with you. When you walk into class you are encouraged to forget the world outside and to try to reach down inside and find your inner child. You are your child’s best teacher and if your child sees you having fun living in the moment and opening up your heart to the power of music, they will want to do the same. So for one hour every week, I encourage you to put away your cell phones and try to think about nothing else other than being with your child. Open up your mind, body and spirit to the music around you. Just let go and enjoy yourself. I love my time in New Mexico but I cherish my time in Austin, too. My Music Together families are very special to me and I always look forward to returning home in September refreshed and “my well” full to pass on the gift of music to you. As the song says, “my heart wants to sing every song it hears.” So your challenge is to be quiet enough to hear it!

Edie Elkjer
Music Together Teacher

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How Silence Makes Us Musical

In a Music Together classroom – Anywhere, USA

Hello everybody, we’re so glad to see….
(silence…)
(……………..)
(Sixth month old vocalizes) eeeeeehhh…
(Two year old)  You!
(Grown-ups join in) Youuuuuuu!

If you’ve been in a music together class, you have probably experienced a scenario like this – the grown-ups leave space in a song and the children fill it in!

So many exciting things can happen when there is silence in the classroom and in our musical play. Whether it’s in between songs or within the song itself, silence is very important in facilitating your child’s musical absorption, audiation, and participation in class.

Purposeful Silence

When we pause for silence during songs, we are really allowing our children to take in and process what they’ve just experienced. Research has taught us that babies need three full seconds before they can process what they’ve heard and then even more to respond!  So to meet the musical needs of babies, we must make silence a part of their musical experience. This allows their brains to catch up – ours, too!

We also know how important contrast is to children’s learning. We often play with fast next to slow, loud next to soft, thereby giving greater meaning to both concepts. Likewise, we play with silence and music. In these instances, whether it is with singing, chanting, or instrument play, the music becomes more meaningful and the silence becomes filled with energy and anticipation!

                   Jack in the box, resting so still

                  Will you come out? 

                  (wait for it, wait for it……………….)

                  YES!  I will!

The purposeful silence within songs and chants also allows us to see if our children are able to audiate what comes next. Have we repeated the song/chant enough?  Can they hear the song in their head without us singing it? If the answer is yes, then we may hear a child sing out. If it’s a song like Trot Old Joe, a child may simply start pushing back on their grown-up because they know what to expect next –  a roll back on “Whoa!”. As teachers, we also like to leave space after we sing a tonal pattern and before you sing back. This space allows the children to receive the pattern and try to sing it themselves. These musical moments and expressions need purposeful silence to come out!

Silence is golden…

You have probably heard us say many times in class that your voice is your child’s favorite voice in the whole world, but did you also know that your child is attuned to your voice above all? This means that whether you are singing in class or talking to a neighbor in class, your voice is what your child is noticing most. At this young age, your child lacks the auditory filter to “tune you out” so we want to keep the talking to a minimum and the singing at a maximum!

There are golden opportunities for silence in every class when we are transitioning from one song to the next. When we are silent in between songs, we can help keep our children’s musical minds active. Even though the song activity is over for us grown-ups, it is far from done in your child’s mind. Your child is still absorbing the song and maybe audiating or “thinking” the song even after we’ve sung the last note. This is the time that we often hear children sing out! Giving your child a silent space to allow processing and self-expression is such a gift. So if you need to relay something to your child in class, try singing it to them! During our precious time together we want our children’s musical minds active and absorbing the whole time.

When you play with your child musically and add purposeful silences, you are supporting their musical development by giving them time to absorb, audiate and express themselves. Here are some ideas for at home and at play:

  • Sing a song that is familiar to them, maybe one from class. When you get to the end of a phrase or a verse, leave off the last word and see what happens! Your child may sing the ending or if they don’t, you can do it for them. You can try this with a chant, too!
  • Similar to the activity above, sing a song and this time leave out repetitive phrases from a song.

Flies in the buttermilk, shoo, fly, shoo

Flies in the buttermilk, (audiate)

Flies in the buttermilk (audiate)

Skip to my Lou, my darling.

See what happens!

  • Again, sing a song that is familiar to your child and make unexpected pauses or freezes in the song. Children love starts and stops in music as it provides contrasting experiences while filling the song with excitement and anticipation!

Remember when playing with your child that it is not about results, it’s about having fun and connecting musically. So sing, dance, and have fun!

Till we make music together again….

Michelle Jamail
Certification Level II, 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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