Posts Tagged 'the power of silence'

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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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


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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