July 29, 2013

“We need a lot more music makers in the world” – Music Together at Lund

Posted in Employees, Residential, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:30 pm by Lund

There is something going on in the blue pod at the residential treatment center at Glen Road.   Voices, clapping, laughing and chatter all wind their way from behind the closed door and out into the hallway.  It is a Thursday morning and some of the residents and their children are participating in a Music Together class led by Joanna May.

On entering the room, you see Joanna in the middle of a circle of three moms, two staff members and seven children.  The adults are all singing and the children are joining in the way that feels best to them.  One little boy wanders away from the circle and his mom tries to call him back.  “It’s OK,” says Joanna.  “He’ll do what he wants to do.”  Everyone is smiling and the atmosphere in the room is friendly, joyful and as calm as can be expected with that many kids and the promise of musical instruments to soon be brought out.

Music Together is a internationally recognized musical education program for babies, toddlers and young children based on the principles that all children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat and participate with confidence in the music of their culture.   Music Together emphasizes the actual process of making music, not just passively receiving it from recorded sources.  The program relies on adults joining in and being positive role models for the children by actively making music.  As Joanna explains, “A Music Together class is really for both the parents and the children.  There are so many lessons and benefits embedded in each class, but the biggest one for the children may be that they’re given the chance to explore with all their senses, at their own pace, in their own way, in a setting that’s physically and emotionally safe, fun and stimulating. It’s really important, also, that their parent is with them, as a touchstone.”

Joanna brings out the triangles next and adapts the movements based on the how the children are responding.  One little girl covers her ears and Joanna encourages everyone to play softly.  Another boy is gripping the side of his triangle and Joanna invites everyone to do the same and to listen to how the sound is different.  When it is time to put the triangles away Joanna sings goodbye and thank you to them as the children all put them back into the basket.  “It’s a good tip for when it’s time to put toys away,” she tells the moms.

The triangle makes very different sounds when held in different positions and so there is a discernible effect on the instrument from the child's actions.

The triangle makes very different sounds when held in different positions and so there is a discernible effect on the instrument from the child’s actions.

For Joanna, this is one of the most important aspects of the class – providing the moms with tools that they can use to get through parenting challenges.   “One of the moms told me that her daughter started singing one of the Music Together songs while they were taking a walk with the stroller. They then started changing the words based on what they were seeing and doing on the walk. This same mom said she had made up a “Good Job” song that she would sing the first part of, and her kids could sing the response. This is really what the songs are intended for.  This mom had discovered a way of communicating and strengthening her bond with her very young children that was spontaneous, positive and was getting them through transitions in their day.”

Each activity in the class is short and changes before the children lose interest and each involves a different sort of movement or interaction.  The drums that come out after a mid-session dance break are very popular.  Everyone sits around them and the babies in bouncy chairs are pulled close so that they can participate too.  The group experiments with tapping, slapping, and banging the drums.  Joanna sings along with the rhythm.  The children join in completely unencumbered by the ‘way it is supposed to be done’ and many of them fall naturally in with the rhythm that the adults are creating.    Experimentation with different instruments and sounds is very important in the class and it also allows for the parents to experience different ways of interacting with their children.  Joanna says, “For the moms at Lund, they’re getting the chance in class to try out some really nice, maybe new, ways of playing and bonding with their children: rocking, dancing, singing to, tickling, call and response, making up silly rhymes, etc. Positive interactions build on themselves, and the more positive ways parents have of interacting with children, the better.”

Feeling the rhythm through fingers, hands and arms.

Feeling the rhythm through fingers, hands and arms.

At the end of the class, Marie Fetterhoff, Children’s Treatment Services Coordinator, is visibly moved by what she has seen. For her the success of the class is really in seeing the interactions change between the parents and the child.  The class is firmly based on being responsive to the children and really listening to them, which are both at the root of attunement between mother and child, something which is emphasized in parenting education in the program.  “It is so wonderful to see mothers and children experience attunement, sometimes for the first time, through the music and activities of Music Together,” says Marie.

It is clear to see while observing the class how much the children respond to music.  The class is full of joy.  “I really believe everyone deserves the chance to experience the simple pleasure of making music,” says Joanna.  “It’s been a privilege to bring this program to Lund, and to a population of families who might not otherwise have the opportunity. I just think we need a lot more music-makers in the world.”

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