Kristine fell in love with early childhood music education while pursuing a DMA in flute performance at Michigan State University. This passion led her to additional training from the Gordon Institute of Music Learning and the subsequent production of a CD collection of lullabies for young children on her own record label, Locrydian Records. Currently, Kristine teaches music to the young and young-at-heart in her home in Washington, including her two-year old and six-month old baby.
Exposing even the youngest of children to a rich musical environment is very beneficial. The time of life when parents can make the biggest impact on a child's music potential (music aptitude) is immediately after birth. Even if your child in no longer an infant, music aptitude can still be developed until a child is nine years old. At that point, music aptitude stabilizes.
Much has been written about music aptitude. I like to think of it as a person’s ability to hear and give meaning to pitches, rhythms, chords, phrases and other musical elements. It isn’t one’s skills to perform them. Skills can be learned and practiced. Even if a person has a relatively low music aptitude, they can still be a wonderful music performer; however, they may not be able to discern if they are singing or playing in tune or in time with others.
Doing a search for “Early Childhood Music” on the internet provides parents with many options for local classes. So, how do you know which one to choose? It depends on what you want from a music class. From my observation, classes fall into one of three categories:
• Musical Preschools. Programs with lots of music with text, movement and “props” (hand-held objects) designed to teach children about the world around them using music as a medium. They will sometimes incorporate stories and children are accompanied by an adult.
• Musical Social Bonding. Classes with lots of fun music, movement and props designed to create a musical bonding time between parent/caregiver and child. The songs with texts appeal to the grownups and the classes give ideas to parents of how to play with their children while using music.
• Music Learning. Music and activities in these programs are focused on providing a rich music environment, increasing music aptitude and laying the foundation for future music learning. The music and rhythms will likely be varied and unusual. The movement will include lots of flowing motion and fewer props. Music and chants may not have text. Short music tonal and rhythm patterns will be woven into the curriculum. All children will be encouraged to sing or chant. These programs can still be a fun way to build a bond between parent and child; however, the lack of text and perhaps different sounding music, may make some grownups less comfortable.
The most important element in all three of these options is spending time singing to your children and interacting with them musically! Time spent singing together when children are young will increase their music aptitude and music enjoyment for the rest of their lives. So, pick a music class and have fun!