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“The music in and of itself is worth it,” says Stone Ridge resident Susan Hoffman, staff writer and editor of Music Together’s national newsletter PlayAlong. “So much is learned through music: rhythm, meter, melody, tonality. There’s lots of information in the simplest song or chant. We teach body awareness. We stimulate emotional intelligence. Music is a uniquely coordinating experience, connecting eye, ear, voice, brain, heart, and the kinesthetic self. It is the essence of being human. We are on a mission to change the world, one song at a time.”
With Music Together classes now offered in over 14 countries and across the US, they seem to be well on their way. Guilmartin and Levinowitz continue to collaborate, offering original music for instruction that is pitched in the right range for children’s voices (slightly higher than adults), in a full assortment of tonalities and meters. Instrumental play-alongs, rhythmic chants, and songs with thought-provoking lyrics make Music Together classrooms around the world reverberate with wonder and feeling.
Callie Hershey’s daughter, Reina, is now three years old. She prefers to hold back at first in class, blossoming when the instruments come out. A four-year-old girl in Miranda Hadyn’s Catskill Mountain Music Together class is emboldened enough to offer a unique rhythm pattern to her peers, who echo it back to her, inspiring her younger sister to attempt such leadership. She is less capable than her older sibling, but she laughs off her frustrated effort. She has watched what can be done, and is confident that she is heading in the same direction.
So it is that children react in a variety of ways within the classroom. Outside the classroom, they show the impact of the Music Together experience through how they express themselves and relate to others. Lucas has been taking class since he was three months old. His mother, Christine, reports of her 10-month-old, “We can be in the grocery store and if he is upset, I can sing a song from class and he starts to smile and calms right down. He loves to rock back and forth when he hears music, and loves to play his maracas. I have to say he always shakes them with a beat, too!” Lily has learned how to walk and how to dance at the same time. Four-year-old Elizabeth, introduced to Music Together at six months, was able to comfort a little girl who began to cry after her mother dropped her off for a play date. Elizabeth sang her “They Always Come Back,” Music Together’s song about separation anxiety.
Parents frequently report that they have rediscovered the delight of creating music. They thought they were tone-deaf or inept dancers, and have been able to release this self-judgment and have fun with their children. Whole families are transformed, and, with them, the teachers. Before finding the program, Kelleigh McKenzie was a singer and songwriter plagued by a mysterious ailment that numbed her hands and prevented her from playing guitar. A friend told her that she didn’t need to play to teach Music Together classes, and she decided to investigate. Eight years later, McKenzie reports that working with children has changed her life. She has come full circle. The feeling in her hands has been restored, and she is back on stage.
As Jurs states, “Music makes everything we do better.” Like the people of Ghana, those involved in Music Together—administrators, teachers, parents, and children—have made music a way of life. It is not performance, it is play, and it enriches all they do.
Guilmartin writes, “In this new millennium we will see a return to balance created by the reawakening, rediscovery, and creation of aesthetics, philosophies, traditions, and rituals that support participation. Stimulated by the music-making of their parents and caregivers, children will be able to develop the basic music competence that is their birthright. Guided by skilled and joyful early childhood music practitioners, the musically active family will be at the heart of this renaissance.”