Katie Henderson is the director of Music Connections Foundation in Bloomington, Illinois, where they have an award-winning Kindermusik program that is the highlight of their not-for-profit foundation. Music Connections became a Not for Profit Foundation in 2008 in order to broaden the impact of their Kindermusik program. To date, Music Connections has drastically increased their outreach to low-income families via individual Foundation Scholarships, as well as to families of children with special needs, adopted children, at-risk two year olds, autistic children, single parents, and to seniors. Partnerships with outside organizations have included Marc Center, SPICE, Heritage Manor, Westminster Village, Western Avenue Community Center, Evangelical Free Church, East White Oak Bible Church, Illinois State University’s Music Therapy Department, the Autism Society and CIDSO (Central Illinois Downs Syndrome Organization)The Basics
TC: You are one busy lady! What other hobbies do you have besides teaching Kindermusik and running the Foundation?
KH: I would say that my biggest hobby of late is keeping track of all my daughter, Grace, has going on, and enjoying all of her musical pursuits in this, her senior year of high school! Otherwise, I love to experience the beauty of nature in all forms – sunsets, mountains, oceans, flowers peaking through the ground – this brings me joy!
TC: What do your Kindermusik kids call you?
KH: Kindermusik kids call me “Mrs. Henderson”. I didn’t know other teachers, thus other options like using first names, when I began in 1994
Kindermusik and Katie
TC: If I could interview your Kindermusik families, how do you think they would describe you?
KH: Hm……How would they describe me? I guess I haven’t asked them lately! I hope they would say that I LOVE their child immeasurably – I do recall a parent once commenting that I treated every child like they were the most special one in the classroom – and that was a great compliment. I would also hope they would say that I am extremely passionate about what I do in my “job” as a Kindermusik educator.
TC: What do you love most about teaching Kindermusik?
KH: It’s hard to identify one favorite part of teaching! One aspect is definitely the chance to empower the grownups in their important jobs as parents, helping them to understand how they can easily impact their child’s optimal development and make parenting easier and joyful using music. Another has to be the love I receive from the children every single time I step into the classroom. Third, I would say that I love that this profession is forever challenging me to grow and change – and I love that ongoing journey!
TC: What are some of your favorite Kindermusik songs, and why?
KH: My favorite Kindermusik songs are typically associated with a favorite classroom moment, and many are Quiet Time or Rocking songs, as I am so often overcome with emotion watching parents take the time just to “be” with their kids during these class. Just a couple are: “The Water is Wide,” when I can remember first watching a parent with two kiddos (one little and one quite big) straddle their lap and cuddle, some twenty years ago; “You are My Sunshine,” with a cacophony of 10-12 different names being inserted in place of the word ‘sunshine’ – “You are my Gracie,” “You are my Nathan,” etc.
TC: How about a favorite Kindermusik dance?
KH: Favorite Dance – a hard choice for sure, as there are some great new dances in the new monthly units, but my “old brain” recalls when the Kindermusik Village curriculum was brand new and we had a VIDEOTAPE to teach us all the dances in Do-Si-Do! It seemed a huge undertaking to learn all of those at the time, but was such an enrichment to “Village” – I loved the “Virginia Reel” and “Tango Cha Cha” in that unit.
Success, Smiles, and Special Moments
TC: You have had a hugely successful program here at Music Connections. What’s your secret?
KH: One secret to success is to learn to let go of the lesson plan, and of the idea that you have to follow the plan exactly and/or “get to” everything; to relax and be in the moment with the children AND with the parents – to get personal with them and to be in relationship with them.
TC: And if you could share one tip with a new Kindermusik business owner, what would it be?
KH: Don’t do it all yourself. Come to understand what you are best at, and do THAT, and find others to fill in the gaps! Also – don’t look to replicate yourself in others on your team! Building of team of like-minded, impassioned folks, with varying strengths and abilities, will reap immeasurable rewards in your business.
TC: Share with us some of the most touching moments you observe or experience in your Kindermusik classes.
KH: Some of the most touching moments are celebrating the milestones achieved in class – like a baby taking its first steps, or an extremely active kiddo finally laying down for Quiet Time are special, of course. But I have also been deeply touched – often blown away, really – when we have asked parents to tell us, outside of class, what they love about Kindermusik, and they provide these eloquent testimonials about how we have changed their lives! One parent recently told how she was experiencing extreme post-partum depression, to the point that she could barely leave the house, and someone invited her to visit a class; she described in great detail how welcomed she felt, and how she was drawn to come back the next week because we had been so genuine and kind to her. She detailed how we literally “saved her life” at that time, and I had NO idea about it! (She’s been in for nearly four years and now has a second kiddo enrolled)
TC: What has been one of your most impactful moments in your Kindermusik career?
KH: Though I’ve had many individual experiences, what stands out at this point in my career is the big picture of our business’s journey. We became a Not for Profit in 2008, our 15th year in business, to be able to provide services to larger groups of kids/people with special needs or those at risk. I have a staff who teaches most of these outside classes – for Hispanic families, at-risk two year olds, special needs kiddos, seniors with moms who couldn’t otherwise afford our services, etc.; when I get to the various sites and observe these families who overcome obstacles to make a commitment to get to class (many don’t drive or have cars), and watch them try to sing in English, or reach out to interact with seniors, or work with such patience with their special needs little one – it is then that I stand back and soak in the impact of what we do! It extends well beyond me, with the ripple effect from a team of dedicated ladies (both teachers and my administrator) who give of their hearts and souls as well. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for what I believe to be God’s gift to me, 22 years ago, in finding purposeful, rich “life’s work,” and serving thousands of kiddos and families along the way.
TC: What are some new and exciting things happening with the Music Connections Foundation?
KH: In connection with our 3rd annual yearly fundraiser, an evening entitled “Open Your Heart to Music,” we had a video made to highlight the work that we do as a Not for Profit. We will be cutting it down, eventually, into “snippets” we can use in advertising/marketing efforts, but I am excited that it tells an important story, and was successful, at this event, in helping us to raise nearly $19,000.00 to support the work we do!
TC: What’s next for you and for the Foundation?
KH: Well, if you want my 10 year, long-range plan, I believe it is that our business will find a new, young leader (or leaders) who can embrace “cutting-edge” ways of doing business that will take us into the next 20 years of Kindermusik, presented by Music Connections Foundation, in our community! I will always stay involved, but would love the role of “Community Advocate,” where I have the time to “pound the doors” of businesses and the “powers that be” in our community, educating them on how music at a young age is crucial, and soliciting funding to support the expansion of our offerings. I also want to see Kindermusik@schools becoming a part of Head Start options in our area. For now, however, I am still on the floor with the kids… for as long as my knees will allow it!
Theresa Case is the director of Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, where her award-winning Kindermusik program is part of a vibrant, thriving, community music school. In addition to being a former member of both the KEA and PKE Boards, Theresa has also worked with Kindermusik International on such projects as piloting Village and Imagine That!, developing the original Fundamentals course, contributing to the Imagine That! teacher guides, serving as co-author for the first two units of Family Time, working on the early ABC teacher videos, and presenting various professional development webinars and conference break-out sessions. By far, though, Theresa’s favorite life work includes serving in her church and being a wife and a mother. She and her husband have three boys.