By: Lili Levinowitz. Center for Music and Young Children Director of Research; Rowan University Professor of Music Education.
One of the joys I have as a Music Together teacher is watching the children I teach grow as music makers - from infancy through their preschool years - into basic music competence. Just as I love to watch my garden develop, I thrive on marking their music development on the path to singing in tune and moving to the rhythm. Many parents realize that reenrolling in Music Together classes is important to their child's emerging music intelligence. They are, however, faced with a sometimes overwhelming array of programming choices. Early childhood art, swim, gym, and preliteracy classes abound.
The impulse to introduce one's child to as many different disciplines as possible is a familiar one. As an educator, I am concerned that this can create a situation where many skills are sampled but few are truly developed. During the years from birth through age five, the brain is much more active than later on, making this a crucial time for "laying down the tracks" and "roughing in the circuitry" that will last a lifetime. The news from neuroscience clearly indicates that what doesn't get used during early childhood will be pared away by our efficient body/brain mechanisms.
Music development involves two systems with a crucial need for input during the years birth through kindergarten: the receptive and expressive systems. The receptive system primarily impacts music aptitude which is developing up until about age nine. During that time, music aptitude can fluctuate or atrophy from lack of quality stimulation. Furthermore, a child's expressive tools - the singing voice and moving body - are maturing at the same time as the "circuitry" is being laid down for these to receive the brain's signals efficiently. Thus, children learn to match what they perceive, evaluate what they sing or move to, and adjust to the changing music environment.
Continuing enrollment in Music Together ensures that your child receives the ongoing stimulation of rich, multicultural music as well as the opportunity for musical experimentation with voice and body. A single semester may open a window in your child's music development, but over time, a weekly routine of community music making in class with follow-through at home can provide a lifetime disposition for music making.
So, parents, please plan to enroll your children for all nine song collections. Deepen their music experience by repeating a collection they first learned or experienced as an infant or toddler. You and your teacher will share the ongoing pleasure of watching your child grow into basic music competence.