What is best in music is not to be found in the notes. ~ Gustav Mahler
I have always believed in musical beginnings that are gentle. A quiet lullaby, the sound of laughter, cold crunching ice beneath heavy footed toddlers, and the way the trees hum as they bend in the wind. These are all building blocks in the foundation of a child’s musicality.
I believe in gentle beginnings and have always cringed and slightly rebelled at the idea that children must start formal music lessons too young. How little room this seems to leave for bourgeoning creativity, imagination and intuitive music making.
There will be time, as a child grows and develops, to start lessons and classes, purchase instruments and attend concerts. But a deep love for music is often born before any of these formalities, as a child learns to hear music outside of the notes. As parents and as teachers we can encourage this early blossoming simply and easily by nurturing a child’s natural inclination towards music and creativity.
Let them Sing
Singing must be the easiest way to nurture music in young children. Children’s voices are lyrical even when they speak. They break into song at any given opportunity and beg to hear singing and to sing along. Let them sing. Let them sing off key, let them sing softly, let them bellow. Sing with them even if it feels silly.
Listen to singing and learn the words to songs together. Invent songs that narrate your days together. Nothing needs to rhyme or follow any structure. singing should only be fun and bring you pleasure together. Let children sing.
Let them Move
M usic is never stagnant. It ebbs and flows, morphing into different forms and shapes. It expands and retracts, rises and falls. Let a child move. Let them run freely without boundaries. let them skip, jump and roll through the grass. This will build natural rhythm. This will teach them the value of spacing and timing.
If a child is confident in the way their body moves this will translate into their music making. What is skipping, after all, but a steady beat kept with our feet. What is running but a natural accelerando and jumping a basic staccato. Let children move.
Let them Listen
We cannot produce music until we can imagine the way we want it to sound. We must be able to hear it before we play it. Children learn how to do this by learning how to listen. Beautiful sounds can be found in silence if we tune our ears to hear it. Give children space in their day to be silent. Notice, together, sounds around you.
Walk in nature and listen. Listen to birdsong, to wind and rain. Listen to the way a hollow branch sounds when it is struck with a stone. When your child eventually sits next to a music teacher and they are told to make Mozart’s notes sound like raindrops, they need to know what raindrops sound like. Let children listen.
Music is more than tunes practiced and played. Music comes from deep within us and speaks things from our hearts we cannot share in words. Young children can grow up loving music for these reasons when their natural musical selves are nurtured. I believe in gentle beginning because I believe that music is a part of all of us and when nurtured and cared for, can blossoms into something extraordinary.
About the author
Starr Meneely studied music at the University of Alaska and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance where she studied under Dr. Timothy Smith. She owned the Littlerose School of Music in Anchorage Alaska and also taught at the Alaska Fine Arts Academy. Her students have frequently and successfully performed, tested, and competed at local and national levels. She has had students perform at Westminster Cathedral as well as continue their musical studies professionally beyond high school. Starr has experience working with children in challenging situations where she coached young teens serving time in a Youth Detention Center as well as working with an Alaska charity, teaching music to homeless teens. She has written music theory guides for students, parenting articles and silly songs and has had an article about holistic musical education for children published in The Mother Magazine entitled Music Comes Softly. Her first book, a children’s picture book, will be published in November 2013 in the UK by Starflower Press, What a Lovely Sound! Starr lives in Surrey, UK with her husband and four children. She loves to hear from readers both big and small.
You can follow Starr here:
- Website – http://www.starrmeneely.com/
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/starrmeneelywriter
- Twitter – @starrthewriter
Also, be sure to check out the trailer for Starr’s new book!