The Blues: Music and Mood

The Blues – one of the first American musical genres – has been with us now for well over a century. It finds its roots in the music of Africa, what ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik calls the “cradle of the blues.” Early music made by African slaves used a great deal of call and response form; this is present in early iterations of the blues, Here is an example of call and response from Kenya.

Continue reading “The Blues: Music and Mood”

Cello in the Trenches

Cello in the trenches

I’ve talked about the unlikely places that music has made an appearance – in concentration camps, in the fields of pre-Civil War plantations, and prisoner of war camps. We, as a species, always find a way to make music. Soldiers at the front during World War I were no different. In the mud and the muck of front line trenches, doughboys made music. They sang and played, and when they didn’t have actual instruments available to them, they made them out of whatever materials they could get their hands on.

Continue reading “Cello in the Trenches”

Building Community Through Music

Building community

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I travel quite a lot as a conductor. I guest conduct choral festivals in various locations as a part of my musical life. Last month, I found myself working with the New Jersey Treble All-State Choir, an ensemble made up of high school sopranos and altos. These types of festivals are always exciting for me. There’s something special about conducting a group that will only exist for a very short period of time. After the performance is over, that ensemble will never exist again. For this choir, people come from high schools all over New Jersey to make music with strangers. One of the things I always focus on is building a community in the ensemble, even for the brief time they are together – because an ensemble that has a sense of community about it will always make more meaningful music. This is directly related to the emotional and social benefits found in a Kindermusik class[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Connections

To be bold, building that sense of community is actually more important to me than the music; particularly at first. The ensemble won’t trust me just because I was selected by a committee and have fancy letters after my name. I work hard to prove to them that I am there for them as people first, musicians second. I do my best to connect to each person – all 150 or them – in some meaningful way, even if it’s only for a second. This often takes the form of standing at the door and greeting each person with a handshake and asking their name. I might walk through the rows of singers and do the same.

As we move from piece to piece, I often ask the musicians to turn to their neighbor behind or in front of them (this will prevent students from the same school as the default interaction as they often sit next to each other) and share something about themselves that makes them proud or that makes them smile. This breaks down walls and starts to build simple, but powerful connections between the singers. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Purpose

I admit, I talk a lot in rehearsal. I certainly talk less now than I did when I was younger, but I do still talk quite a bit. We talk about the text of the music and what it means for us and our audience. We talk about composer’s intent. We talk about what our job as musicians is…what our purpose is. Put plainly, I tell the students that it’s our job to change lives for the better. It’s our job to make people feel something. To give the audience a shared experience. That is difficult to do without a unified sense of the music we make. I ask questions. I encourage mistakes…bold mistakes…mistakes to be celebrated. I tell them that the person who makes no mistakes makes nothing. I do my level-headed best to create an environment of possibility in which we can learn from a mistake and not be embarrassed by it.

When the rehearsal starts, the very first thing we do is sing. That’s our practical task at hand. Our purpose is to enrich each other’s lives with the shared experience of music, thereby enriching the lives of our audience. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][blockquote cite=”Unknown”]”The person who makes no mistakes makes nothing.”[/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Community
Choral singers holding hands…building on that sense of family and community.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Music’s Magic

I talk about this a great deal on this blog. There certainly is a ton of science that tells us, as best it can, why music affects us the way it does. We talk about that, too; it’s important to know that information. But, as silly as it might be, I fully embrace Albus Dumbledore’s take on music, so beautifully stated in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!”

It is magic. A roomful of singers who have never made music together smile at the wonder of it all. They feel the connection, almost instantly. Kindred spirits from different communities, ethnic backgrounds, faith experiences, and socio-economic groups coming together to sing, one of the purest forms of musical expression. Each singer finds their place rather quickly as we understand our common goal…to change lives.

We work hard for three and a half hours. I sweat like crazy (I’m quite active in rehearsal). We practice extravagant gratitude. I ask them to thank each other and thank our collaborative pianist. I ask them to thank their choral directors at their high school. I ask them to thank their parents and guardians. I ask them to feel proud of their work. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

End Game

When we are done after this initial meeting, this first rehearsal, a new family has been created. A new community full of connections and shared purpose and magic has been born. Hopefully, they are looking forward to the next rehearsal, this opportunity to be together as that community to change lives, even each other’s lives.

One of the most important aspects of the Kindermusik experience is making music with other kiddos. The social/emotional benefits of this activity can’t be overstated. As kids see others engaged in an activity that brings themselves joy, the spark of connection lights a fire within. Emotional sensitivity for others is increased. The very idea of cooperative society blossoms in a Kindermusik class.

Our educators approach what they do in the same way I approach all my rehearsals…with love. It’s an honor to change a life with music. And every day we wake up knowing that’s what we get to do, we friends, that is a good day. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Minneapolis Memories: Kindermusik Educators Take Over The City of Lakes

Close to 200 Kindermusik Educators from across the globe gathered together at the mind-blowing Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota July 27-29 for three, fun-filled days of learning, connection, friendship, and, of course, shopping!

Wednesday evening Maestros were treated to a memorable reception at The Hard Rock Café joined by President and CEO, Scott Kinsey.

State Representative Drew Christensen - former Kindermusik kid!
State Representative Drew Christensen – former Kindermusik kid!

Thursday morning special guest, former Kindermusik kid, and the youngest candidate to ever be elected to Minnesota’s House of Representatives, Drew Christensen, opened the conference sharing how his Kindermusik experience attributed to his successful political career.

We were then introduced to Occupational Therapist, Paige Hays, who skillfully led us through The Brain Architecture Game, developed through a partnership of the Center on the Developing Child and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Look for an interview with Paige later this month!

Educators
Paige Hays

A conference highlight was meeting Stephanie Johnson, educator, therapist, and author of Baby Bare: A Bottom Up Approach to Growing Strong Brains and Bodies. Her informative presentation explored the body’s role in early learning. Educators took away valuable insights to share with families.

Other conference highlights include: hearing from special guest and marketing guru, Kari Switala on the importance of storytelling in marketing, class demonstrations led by Robyn Pearce and Helen Peterson, and watching Kindermusik legend, Carol Penney, and Maestro Louise MacDonald’s powerful presentation on Intergenerational Learning.

Conference is about connection!
Conference is about connection!

Outside the conference, Minneapolis offered a relaxing retreat to Minnehaha Falls with breathtaking waterfalls.

We can’t wait until next year’s conference in the Big Easy – New Orleans! Hope to see many of you once again – and perhaps some new faces as well!

Music as Medicine: Good for Mental Health

music as medicine

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]You might know the classic song from Mary Poppins with the line, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”  Well, we’d like to propose that music can be wonderful medicine, especially when it comes to enhancing our mental health.  Let’s explore a few of the many reasons why music is so good for our minds and hearts.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLkp_Dx6VdI”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music Increases Dopamine Levels

Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that affects our emotions, behavior, attention, learning, feelings of pleasure and pain, and even our movements.  Research studies have demonstrated that listening to music can increase dopamine levels significantly, providing a documented link between the enjoyment of music and our overall well-being.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music Provides an Outlet for Self-expression

The famous quote by Hans Christian Andersen says it best, “Where words fail, music speaks.” Music can help even young children understand how they feel and give them a way to express those feelings, even at a young age.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music makes us smile!
Music makes us smile!

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music Can Help us Relax

In our fast-paced, busy lives, we all need to deliberately make time to just relax and do nothing.  This is especially true for young children and precisely why our Kindermusik classes include listening and quiet time activities with beautiful, gentle music.

Music Can Enhance our Ability to Focus

Sometimes tired or distracted minds just need a little boost, and the right kind of music can do just that.  Classical music and music with no lyrics playing softly in the background does wonders for increasing attention span and improving the brain’s processing efficiency.

Music Connects us with Others

Especially when you share a musical experience with others, like a Kindermusik class, music brings people together and creates opportunities for meaningful social interaction.  In Kindermusik, we purposely include Meet-and-Greet dances and Circle Songs to build a strong sense of friendship and belonging.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][blockquote cite=”Ludwig van Beethoven”]“Music is the mediator between the life of the senses and the life of the spirit.” [/blockquote][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music Motivates Us

When you’re feeling tired or unmotivated, or you have a child who has trouble getting going, turn on some lively, happy music so that you can help but feel energized! For young children, a routine of using music to get up and going or to make a car ride go faster can make all the difference.

The bottom line?  Music is great medicine! Music has the power to soothe, to inspire, to energize, and so much more, contributing significantly to the health of our mental and emotional well-being, both as children and as adults. The well-known classical composer Ludwig Beethoven put it beautifully, “Music is the mediator between the life of the senses and the life of the spirit.”   [/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, has been a happy advocate for the benefits of music for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Sing Like a Pirate!

Sing like a Pirate

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ahoy, mateys! Did ye know? Tomorrah is National Talk Like a Pirate Day! Huzzah! Hoist the main sail! Batten down the hatches! WHERE’S MY PARROT?! It’s fun to talk like a pirate…ye just need an extry big bucket of RRRRRRRRRRRs!

Here in Kindermusik land, we be doin’ a bit more than just talk like a pirate! We sing like pirates! How do we do that? Well…ye came to the right place!

Arrrrrrrrgh![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Happy Birthday in Pirate

Our first test…know someone with a birthday tomorrow? Why not sing the traditional Happy Birthday song in Pirate instead of boring old land lover language? Let’s give it a go. It’s pretty simple…

Happy Birthday to ye,
Happy Birthday to ye,
Happy Birthday dear Blue Beard!
Happy Birthday to ye!

Easy as an albatross pie! Let’s try another one…[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]sing like a pirate[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Mary Had a Little Lamb? No…She Had a Ship…and a Parrot!

The pirate version of Mary Had a Little Lamb has Mary out on the high seas looking for treasure! Here be a link for some accompaniment music for ye!

Mary had a little ship,
Little ship, little ship!
Mary had a little ship
And sailed the seven seas!
And Everywhere that Mary went,
Mary went, Mary went!
Everywhere that Mary went
Her sails would catch the breeze!

She found some treasure on the beach,
On the beach, on the beach!
She found some treasure on the beach
And split it with her crew!
Her parrot asked her
“Where’s my gold? Where’s my gold?”
Her parrot asked her “Where’s my gold?
A bird deserves gold, too!”

Did ye ever hear tell of a parrot demanding gold? Well, this be a pirate parrot. Always best to do what a pirate parrot asks of ye!

Try makin’ up yer own verses![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Traditional Sea Shanties

What be a Sea Shanty, ye ask? Well, I’ll tell ye – but listen up, mateys! Capt’n Dr. Boyle doesn’t like repeatin’ his-self. I’m busy tryin’ to talk a parrot out of his gold.

A Sea Shanty is a work song – used to get a group of people to complete a task that requires cooperation – or in pirate speak, a song to make us move as one, like a school of fish swimmin’ in the sea….ARRRRRRRRRRGH!

Here’s a classic – Haul Away, Joe![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBigLvMyKzU&index=1&list=PLC161314B67D41FE1″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There be some great songs about pirates, and Ward, the Pirate is probably one of the finest ye’ll hear. Take a listen to Ralph Vaughn Williams’ setting of the story of Capt’n Ward. Here be the words of the song! Ye can listen to a recordin’ below…

Come all you gallant seamen bold,
All you that march to drum,
Let’s go and look for Captain Ward,
Far on the sea he roams;
He is the biggest robber
That ever you did hear,
There’s not been such a robber found
For above this hundred year.

A ship was sailing from the east
And going to the west,
Loaded with silks and satins
And velvets of the best,
But meeting there with Captain Ward,
It proved a bad meeting;
He robbèd them of all their wealth
And bid them tell their king.

O then the king provided a ship of noble fame,
She’s call’d the “Royal Rainbow,”
If you would know her name;
She was as well provided for
As any ship could be,
Full thirteen hundred men on board
To bear her company.

‘Twas eight o’ clock in the morning
When they began to fight,
And so they did continue there
Till nine o’ clock at night.
“Fight on, fight on,” says Captain Ward,
“This sport well pleases me,
For if you fight this month or more,
Your master I will be.”

O then the gallant “Rainbow”
She fired, she fired in vain,
Till six and thirty of her men
All on the deck were slain.
“Go home, go home,” says Captain Ward,
“And tell your king from me,
If he reigns king on all the land,
Ward will reign king on sea!”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeZh_xnwZyo”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Rupert the Wrong Word Pirate
Rupert the Wrong Word Pirate

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]So there ye be! Enjoy the day and have fun singing like a pirate. If ye want to talk like a pirate, just be sure it’s not like our friend, Rupert. He get’s the words wrong all the time. Ye can learn about his tale in the book, Rupert the Wrong Word Pirate.

Sail on, me hearties! Sail on![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

How Music Affects your Mood and your Mind

Music and mood

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]With over 30 years of observing children and adults in the Kindermusik classroom, we know from experience that music has a huge effect on the emotions. Science and research continue to affirm what we also suspect, and that is that music can significantly impact cognition as well – in the early years and later in life as we age.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]And so we find articles like Music & the Brain: The Fascinating Ways Music Affects Your Mood and Mind to be very intriguing and incredibly confirming of the wonderful benefits of being enrolled in a music program like Kindermusik.  The author of the article, Barry Goldstein, points out four ways that consistent participation in a “…musical program can target and enhance certain brain functions.”  Here’s a quick summary of those four benefits that Goldstein identifies.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Emotion

Music actually affects the brain emotionally because of the way specific brain circuits are wired to respond to music. The closeness and bonding times that come through singing and dancing together actually release the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” And when listening to music touches us emotionally, it’s because there’s a neurotransmitter produced in the brain, called dopamine, that helps feel the pleasure and connection of music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

music and mood
This little guy has found joy in music making.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Memory

Even when the mind is debilitated by the effects of Alzheimer’s, it can still be awakened when the patient hears music from his younger years to which he had an emotional connection. One of the most beautiful illustrations of this is an elderly man named Henry who was featured in the movie Alive Inside. Watch this and see if it doesn’t move you to tears! The music we love creates memories that stay with us for all of our lives.

Check out this charming older couple making music together.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI-l0tK8Ok0″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Learning and Neuroplasticity

Did you know that the brain can literally reorganize itself by forming new neural connections?  And that the formation of new neural connections can be significantly affected by music?  We see this documented in extreme cases of brain damage when music is one of the stimuli used to cause the brain to rewire itself.  For example, music therapy and singing were instrumental in helping former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords learn how to speak again.  If music has this kind of powerful effect on a brain that’s suffered trauma, just think of what effects music can have on a healthy brain![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Gabrielle Giffords used music therapy as part of her recovery process.
Gabrielle Giffords used music therapy as part of her recovery process.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Attention

Unlike any other medium, music has the unique capability o capture our full attention, and as a result, can “activate, sustain, and improve our attention.”  In a culture that’s full of distractions, the ability to focus our busy minds and allow our brains and our hearts to connect, we can find true balance and deep-seated joy.  This wonderful phenomenon can occur for both adults and children alike.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]All of this research and brain “stuff” can be a little dry; we admit it. But it also underscores the amazing and powerful effects of music, no matter what age or what stage of development the mind and emotions are in. Understanding a little of the science behind the powerful effects of music on our minds and emotions makes it all the more meaningful when experience music together in our Kindermusik classes. It reinforces again the immeasurable and lifelong value of early childhood music classes – something the children adore and memories that we as adults can hold in our hearts long after those precious years of childhood are left behind.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case whose Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, has given her a heart full of songs and musical memories that she knows she’ll enjoy for the rest of her life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Music Listening With Your Kids: Find the Center

Music Listening

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]One afternoon, I walked into the living room and my very active 3-year-old daughter was just laying on the couch with a blanket. “What are you doing? Are you OK?” I asked her. “Yes mama, I’m just listening to the music,” she replied. And she stayed there for a good 20 minutes. Mind you, this is the child who barely sat down for more than 30 seconds at a time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Listening to music is something of a lost art. Taking the time to just LISTEN with your child can help you to reconnect after a long day and teaches them that listening to music can be the main activity and not just background noise. Babies and young children especially benefit from mindfully listening to music. We forget that they are also exposed to stressors during their day and that relaxation is a LEARNED skill that we need to teach. It doesn’t have to be very long, try listening to 1 or 2 songs, especially if your child is very young and on the move! The idea isn’t to get them to “sit down and listen,” but to create an environment where they are able to enjoy the music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music Listening[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

A Few Tips for Mindful Music Listening

  • Start the music and then put your phone and all other technology away and out of sight.
  • Make eye contact with your child and smile.
  • If your child needs movement, try rocking with them on your legs.
  • Add some intentional touch such as rubbing their back or ears, or massaging their feet.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Quietly talk about the music. What instruments are being used? Is it a man or a woman singing? Is the music fast or slow? Does it sound happy or sad? If there are words, what language are they speaking? Even babies and toddlers benefit from you labeling these sounds for them, and children in preschool and beyond will enjoy having a conversation about the music they are hearing.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Make music listening a special part of your daily rituals, whether it’s when you come home from work, or before bedtime. Your entire family will benefit from a few minutes of mindful music listening![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Jessica Solares | Bucktown Music
The Solares family at their Chicago studio, Bucktown Music

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Jessica Solares and her husband Luis own Bucktown Music in Chicago, IL, which is recognized by Kindermusik International as one of the top studios in the world. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Elmhurst College and has been a licensed Kindermusik educator since 2008. She joined the Kindermusik University teacher training team in 2016 and is proudly sharing her expertise with the newest generation of Kindermusik educators![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Children’s Book Review: Music Is…

Children's Book Review

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]With its bright, colorful cover, Music Is…, wonderful board book, grabs your attention even before you even open it and read it. In many ways, it is a simple book with very few words on each page, but it is a wonderful teaching book – the perfect at-home library complement to the concepts children are learning and the musical styles they are being exposed to in Kindermusik class.

Each two-page spread is a contrast, which is perfect because young children learn best in contrasts. So just like Kindermusik introduces contrasting musical concepts and styles in class, Music Is… introduces contrasting concepts, moods, and styles, one concept per page, making it easy for young children to begin to grasp and for older children and adults to enjoy.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music is lo-fi and high-fi[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It teaches concepts such as…

music is quiet
music is LOUD

music is sad
music is happy

music is lo-fi
music is hi-fi
a capella
instrumental
acoustic
electric

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The really lovely thing is that as the book is teaching music concepts, it is also developing a basic music vocabulary for parents and children alike.  As the story unfolds, it is delightful to see children of all ethnic backgrounds making music and also playing with music.  There are instruments and music makers on every page.

It’s an entertaining read-aloud for younger children and an engaging conversation starter for older children.  For the sake of the non-musical adult, there’s even a basic glossary of musical terms on the very last page.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music is one music is many[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The simple story line is enhanced by whimsical and interesting illustrations that explain what music is and explore how music makes us feel. It’s the kind of fun, feel-good story book you don’t mind reading over and over again…which is a good thing since it’s sure to become a family favorite![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]At the end, the author brings it all together in this profoundly beautiful conclusion:

music is old
music is new
music is for everyone
music is for you

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music Is… by author Brandon Stosuy and illustrator Amy Martin can be found at your favorite local book seller or online in both physical and digital formats.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, has been a happy advocate for the benefits of music for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]