Finally! A Brand New Raising Harmony Course

Are you working this summer? So are we! We’ve got two brand new Raising Harmony courses for you. Only $49 with 3 CMTE credits, lots of new songs, and tons of great ideas for early childhood music therapists. Open the video to get a taste of how to create effective preschool groups, then head over to www.RaisingHarmony.com/training to sign up.

The Power and Persuasion of Musical Scales

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Yesterday was tax filing day here at my house.

Actually, it has been tax filing week.  Each year I seem to get more and more bogged down with finding and filling out forms.  I like to think I’m organized, but every spring proves me wrong.  The stress builds as I frantically search for Box 3 (B) subsection A, Item 1 on small pieces of paper that I can hardly read. If only there was a reliable system that I could trust would be the same from year to year. As I drifted off to daydream about numbers jumping off the page to taunt me, I began to think about how much stress is caused in our everyday lives by the demands of having to understand things that make no sense.  And of course this led to thinking about how this kind of stress impacts my young students with disabilities all day, every day. That same wide-eyed panic that I feel when faced with a clutter of torn bits of paper and crumpled receipts is the same look I see in the eyes of my little ones when they face new or novel situations.

But new experiences, just like taxes, are a fact of life.

Being able to absorb and integrate novelty is critical for young children as they develop.  Luckily, as music therapists, we do have a system that can give even the newest idea or experience a context and a familiar reference – musical scales.  All of the children that I work with not only seem to ‘get’ scales, but they can demonstrate on a daily basis that they ‘get it’.  Music cognition research fully supports this innate ability to ‘get’ familiar scale patterns.  One of the music researchers that I often go to for information on music and patterns is Dr. Aniruddh D. Patel.  You can read his comprehensive 2007 compendium- Music, Language, and the Brain – or access some of his lectures on YouTube or at http://nihrecord.nih.gov/newsletters/2013/06_21_2013/story2.htm.

Here are two suggestions of how I use the power and persuasion of scales to help my kids feel safe and able to understand what is happening, even when though don’t understand language.

key of g

Sol – La – Ti – Do:  Moving  Up and Forward

This upward scale sequence is so familiar to us that we might take it for granted in our work with children.  I use it to introduce a new experience or to get us ready to start something.  Often I will just sing or play the single tones with no other harmony and wait with an extended pause before finally moving to the ‘Do’.  The silent anticipation of the children as they wait makes the air almost crackle with expectation.  Those focused seconds of listening and regulating are followed by such excitement as they break into music making. They get it.

Sol – Fa – Mi – Re – Do: Moving Down To Completion

Descending down these five tones to the fundamental ‘Do’ gives the children a clear signal that things are coming to an end. I often pair the tones with words that explain such as “I sure had some fun”.   Hearing this sequence again and again at the end of a session or end of an experience will help the children internalize the patterns of completion. Most of the students I work with will vocalize this descending scale along with me. And then I hear them using the same sequence independently helping to make the world a more understandable place.

Whew, I feel calmer already! Okay, now back to making sense of those tax forms.

Enjoy the music!

Beth

Five Things I’ll Change in 2015

I happened to see this amazing video this morning while wasting time in cyber space. It is a very short story about new research into very tiny Pygmy seahorses. What does that have to do with early childhood music therapy? Well it turns out that the new-born babies adjust their color to fit their environment rather than sticking with their genetic coloration. Our little children also are very adept at adjusting to the environment we create for them in music.

So, for 2015, here are five things that I will do to change the music environment I create for the children that I work with:

1)  Sing less, so that the child can sing more.

2)  Change the key or tempo of the music to fit the child, not me.

3)  Repeat music experiences more so the child can become master of the music.

4) Expect and respect the music of the child.

5) Share music more with all the grownups in the child’s environment: Dad, Mom. sibling, teacher, bus driver, friend.

Best wishes for the New Year to you and yours.

Thanks for being part of Raising Harmony and Sprouting Melodies!

Beth

I Told You So!

Maybe it is because I grew up as the second child. Maybe is it because I chose to devote my life to a profession, music therapy, that requires constant explanation and promotion. Maybe I am really just obnoxious. But I love it when respected scientists report findings that support the things that I have known for years. So I am particularly crowing this summer with new research out of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. The study finds significant correlation between synchronous musical movement and social skill development in young infants. In other words, when we bounce to music with our babies, we are opening a world of connections that go way beyond keeping the baby entertained.blog (940x300)

In my early childhood groups and in the Sprouting Melodies program we have seen this connection develop week by week. The children that move and sing and play along with their grownups to developmentally responsive music show huge growth in their interest in others and their engagement in being part of the social group. They watch their peers more closely and choose to play with them or near them. The relationship with their grownup becomes one of joy and togetherness rather than stress and conflict.

Why is this important? Because we are primarily social creatures who live and work and play and learn in groups. Those early social connections are the foundation for later success in our families, our schools and our communities.  We know this and now hard science is giving us a strong backup.

As early childhood music therapists, we often feel the need to justify our value. But with science like this behind us, we can confidently articulate to parents, educators, administrators and funding sources why good quality, developmentally focused early childhood music programs are essential.

To help you out, the article citation and abstract is below. Thanks to the researchers and McMaster University, there is also a video explanation of the findings that you can share.  As an added bonus, I have also included a link to a Sprouting Melodies Sing at Home video with a brand new song using music and synchronous movement that I wrote for little ones just about the same age as the babies in the research. Sing it, move with it and share it with your families and your colleagues.

And maybe, just for now, it okay for all of us in early childhood music therapy to put on a bit of attitude and say loud and clear – “I told you so!”

 

Enjoy!

Beth

 

Cirelli, L. K., Einarson, K. M. and Trainor, L. J. (2014), Interpersonal synchrony increases prosocial behavior in infants. Developmental Science. doi: 10.1111/desc.12193

 

Abstract:

Adults who move together to a shared musical beat synchronously as opposed to asynchronously are subsequently more likely to display prosocial behaviors toward each other. The development of musical behaviors during infancy has been described previously, but the social implications of such behaviors in infancy have been little studied. In Experiment 1, each of 48 14-month-old infants was held by an assistant and gently bounced to music while facing the experimenter, who bounced either in-synchrony or out-of-synchrony with the way the infant was bounced. The infants were then placed in a situation in which they had the opportunity to help the experimenter by handing objects to her that she had ‘accidently’ dropped. We found that 14-month-old infants were more likely to engage in altruistic behavior and help the experimenter after having been bounced to music in synchrony with her, compared to infants who were bounced to music asynchronously with her. The results of Experiment 2, using anti-phase bouncing, suggest that this is due to the contingency of the synchronous movements as opposed to movement symmetry. These findings support the hypothesis that interpersonal motor synchrony might be one key component of musical engagement that encourages social bonds among group members, and suggest that this motor synchrony to music may promote the very early development of altruistic behavior.

A video abstract of this article can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaqWehfDm7c&feature=youtu.be

 

The Moods of Major and Minor and other Myths

Girls like pink. Boy like blue. Dads always roughhouse. Moms always cuddle. Childhood is happy. Adulthood is serious. These stereotypes still seem to stick despite the truth that none of these qualities apply to all people all the time.  It struck me this week that this same way of trying to make generalizations about the very complex human condition is what makes many people still believe the myth of major and minor.  Major is always happy. Minor is always sad.  Kids are happy so they must only like major music. Minor music is not happy, so kids won’t like it.

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Well the reality is much, much more complex.  In our everyday life, there are hundreds (or maybe thousands) of shades of emotions.  It is no different for young children. Yes, there is happy. But there is also content, or pleased, or excited or exuberant.  There is sad, or somber, or thoughtful, or quiet. There is mad, or angry, or frustrated, or confused. In the old days, I would have said that the emotions in early childhood are like boxes of crayons. (Do children still use crayons?) If we limit the number of crayons that we give children, we will only ever see the colors that are in the box. We then might make the assumption that those are the only colors a child likes or will use.  But if we give a child a large choice of colors (Crayola 64 was my favorite) than we can begin to see all the subtle variations that splash across the paper as the child draws us a bit of themselves.

Back to the myth of major and minor.  Major music and minor music absolutely is connected to human emotion. But there are many shades of major and many shades of minor.  By respecting and playing that shading we can choose to support an expansive view of how children feel by giving them a full range of musical experiences including major and minor.  This is often jarring for music therapy students or professionals who come to visit my sessions or listen to me present. They have a hard time letting go of the myth of major in early childhood work.  The parents I work with are sometimes taken aback when I begin to sing in minor or in another mode. I have heard them say “Kids won’t like that” or “That doesn’t sound like kid’s music”.  But after a lifetime of sharing all kinds of music with all kinds of kids, I know that young children will respond to major and minor and modes.  And once they are caught up in the music experience, they seem grateful to have a place where they are free to choose and express all the shades of themselves. Try it!

Take a listen to this new song I wrote for very little ones and their grownup that explores the movement between major and minor. Sing it with your own little one or the little ones you work with. Teach it to Mom or Dad or Grandpa or Grandma. And then let me know if you too think that there is a mood of major and minor myth.

Enjoy singing!

Beth

Curiosity, Questions and Quality Time

How do we teach young children to think? to be creative? to ask questions? to be curious? Come watch this Sprouting Melodies Sing at Home video for some thoughts and of course another brand new song for you to sing with your child.

There’s Something New About Me     E.K. Schwartz 2014

There’s something new about me.  Just look and you will see. There’s something new about me.  I’m learning to be me!

My hands are clapping;  My feet are tapping; And I can tell you  ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

My hands are clapping; My feet are tapping; And I am ready to go!

There’s something new about me. It happens every day.There’s something new about me. And I have lots to say.

My hands are clapping;  My feet are tapping; And I can tell you  ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

My hands are clapping; My feet are tapping; And I am ready to go!

There’s something new about me. Just look from head to toe. There’s something new about me. Come watch me as I grow.

My hands are clapping;  My feet are tapping; And I can tell you  ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

My hands are clapping; My feet are tapping; And I am ready to go!

There’s something new about me.  Just look and you will see. There’s something new about me.  I’m learning to be me!

Transform your Music Therapy Practice and Earn 23 CMTE Credits

largeSpring is the time for new beginnings! Take advantage of this opportunity to transform your music therapy practice and earn 23 CMTE credits by signing up for

Music Therapy and Early Childhood: The Sprouting Melodies® Provider Training. 

On-Line training: Beginning April 23, 2014

Information and Registration @https://raisingharmony.com/training/

The on-line course is delivered to your in-box every Wednesday for 10 weeks. You can access the content on your own time and in the comfort of your own home. Included in the course materials:

  • Interactive on-line forum where you will meet other course participants and share music and ideas.
  • A complimentary copy of Music, Therapy and Early Childhood: A Developmental Approach by Elizabeth Schwartz
  • Two optional phone conference calls with Meredith and Beth

The Sprouting Melodies® Provider Training gives you comprehensive, research-based and clinically relevant information and resources on:

  • early childhood development
  • early music development
  • treatment planning for early childhood music therapy
  • creating and adapting developmentally appropriate music
  • theoretical and practical guidelines for music therapy based parent/child groups in the community
  • specific strategies for successful business practices in providing early childhood community groupsCompletion of the Institute will allow the participant to be eligible to become a Sprouting Melodies Provider™

The Sprouting Melodies® Provider Training is taught by Meredith Pizzi, MT-BC and Elizabeth Schwartz, LCAT MT-BC. Meredith and Beth are co-founders of Raising Harmony: Music Therapy for Young Children – a resource for professionals and parents on music and early childhood. Visit them at www.RaisingHarmony.com.

To find out more about Sprouting Melodies® visit www.SproutingMelodies.com .

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Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

This month Raising Harmony turns 2! It was a crisp, sunny February day in Boston when Meredith and I shook hands and signed the documents that began the journey of creating a place to support, share and celebrate early childhood music therapy.

Like any two-year-old, Raising Harmony is growing and moving fast.

Who has nurtured this growth? You!

It is through your backing and encouragement that we have been able to train almost 100 board-certified music therapists in understanding and serving the children and families of their communities. The seeds that these trainings have planted are coming into bloom with a growing number of Sprouting Melodies Providers all around the country. Read about your colleagues who have already launched a program on Sprouting Melodies Find a Class Page.

Here is a Birthday gift for you!

You Play A Little Download

This has been one of my most popular song interventions. Some of you may have heard me present it at conferences. It is one of the songs from “You and Me Makes…We: A Growing Together Songbook”.  I am so happy to be able to share it with you a birthday present and I hope that you will pass it along to your children and their families. 

And make sure you visit www.RaisingHarmony.com and click the link on the right to get five free song downloads.  Each song comes with full notation and some ideas on how to get the most meaningful interactions as you sing them with young children and families/

Here’s to another great year of transformation and growth!

Beth

 
 

 

Going After Gold – What the Olympics Tell Me Not to Do

I have never been a big fan of watching sports, especially not on television. (Well, I did watch the Super Bowl commercials!)  It was a little easier for me in person, but at my son’s early baseball games I remember that I would watch the other parents from the team and shout and clap when they did. Peter Jumping

The Winter Olympics, though, is an exception.  The pictures that you see with this article are not of some random athlete. They are of my nephew who is a ski jumper on Team USA. This is his second time at the Olympic Games. The event is only one of the many competitions he enters each year as he travels around the world in search of that elusive top spot.

As my sister and other family members were leaving for Sochi Russia, the rest of the family were sending along their “Best wishes” and “Good Luck” as well as the signature phrase “Fly long.” For some reason I asked my sister what she would say to her grown son right before the first jump.  She quietly told me that her final word of encouragement to him is always “Relax”.

Jennie and Peter

Later on as I watched the talking head commentators weigh in on the merits of each contestant, I heard the same sentiment echoed again and again. “She wants it too much. She needs to just relax.” “He is not focusing on what he needs to do. He should just relax and keep his head in the moment.” What a contradiction! In order to go after the gold, you need to let go of thinking about going after the gold.

I began to mull over this conundrum in terms of my own work as a music therapist and as a provider of developmental music experiences for young children and their families. My responsibility in this work is to help children meet individual goals or gain developmental milestones. I feel the burden of ‘making progress’ or ‘meeting benchmarks’ all the time.

But what I have found is that if I go into a session rigidly determined to have the child meet a certain goal it almost always backfires.  I get too involved in one little response and how “I can make that happen”.  Neither the child nor I get fully involved in the music. The harder I try, the less seems to occur. Conversely when the session is fun and engaging and satisfying musically for everyone, the child intrinsically responds in the way I had hoped for when designing the experience.

You would think that after almost twenty-five years in the field, I would remember this. But I know that I frequently slip and slide down the slope toward checking off items on a list rather than being present and responsive to the child in the musical moment.

Olympic Flag

So, here is what watching the Olympic Games has taught me to ‘do’ and’ not to do’ that I hope to take into my early childhood music work.

1. Go for the Gold

Go for the gold, don’t go after the gold. Envision the moments of pure musical joy in which each child and grownup is fully engaged. See in your mind the ‘fist-pump’ of elation when everyone is making meaningful music together.  Know what each child needs with a clear picture of how that music will look, sound and feel.

2. Create a Training Plan

Figure out the steps and elements needed to get to those great musical moments. Find a coach or mentor to help you. This could be a real person or a book, article or blog. Make sure the steps, or the music experiences, you create will lead to the ultimate goal.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

This means you as the music therapist or music leader, more than the child, need to practice before each session. The music experiences become part of your musical self. The music is not something that you place ‘on’ the child. It is something that becomes second-nature and free that you share with the child.

4. Relax and Fly Long

Finally you are at the top of the mountain or on the oval of ice or in the circle of children. All of the work preparing for the music now needs to be put aside. Relax! Trust yourself and trust the music. Most importantly, trust that within the music experience, the child will be able to pull out all the stops and rise up to their potential.

Sochi Russia

So even with all the talk about gold medals, the Olympic athletes tell me that to be successful you need to let go of the medal and focus on the moment.

Go team!

Beth

Time Marches On…And So Do Young Kids

20140106_101540Happy New Year!

Once again, I watched the Times Square festivities from a comfortable, warm couch. The television showed thousands of people dancing the minutes away until midnight. The music was pumping loud and rhythmic. The crowds looked energized and focused toward the deadline separating old from new. As excited as everyone seemed, though, the music at the stroke of midnight turned nostalgic and almost wistful. While I drifted off to sleep (the first activity to bring in the new year for me) I started thinking about the mixed emotions that surround wanting to move forward and wanting things to stay the same. [Read more…]