‘Come Gather Together’ The Importance of Synchrony in Early Childhood Music Groups

Maybe it is because I have either been in school or worked in school settings for most of my life that I think of fall, and especially September, as the real beginning of the New Year.  Here where I live, the air becomes crisp and the leaves fall from the trees making room for a particular brightness and clarity in the sky.leaves 1

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School Readiness: Music as a Key Ingredient in Effective Early Learning Environments

I walked into an early childhood classroom recently and saw a scene that at first made me shudder, and next made me think of the much mentioned term – ‘school readiness’.  The young teacher was sitting in the usual place surrounded by props and puppets and pleasant visuals.  From the pictures on the easel board, it was obvious that she was in the middle of ‘teaching’ one of the core concepts from the school’s curriculum. [Read more…]

Being Musically ‘In Irons’ – Recognizing and Respecting Fleeting Moments of Change

Growing up by the water, it was inconceivable to me that other kids did not have beaches and boats as their playgrounds. I guess we learned our way around the water just as kids from the city learned their way around the streets and subways.  We knew to make plans by the tides; to judge wind direction by the breeze on our cheek; and how to tell a big storm was coming. [Read more…]

Fostering Freedom in Music

It’s the time of year when there is a cluster of patriotic celebrations in this country – Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day, the 4th of July.  As a child, I was raised to value and respect the liberty and opportunities available as a citizen of the United States.  I tried to pass these beliefs on to my own children while teaching them that these privileges came at a price and a responsibility. The lesson was very close to home, since their father was an officer in the Air Force and was deployed during the first Iraq war. As small children, they experienced the burden of responsibility to freedom when saying goodnight to Dad meant writing him a letter or waiting for a phone call from overseas. [Read more…]

What My Tone-Deaf Dad Taught Me about Music


One of the best things about writing a blog is the opportunity to tell the story of an everyday hero whose strength and depth might never be widely known but who has so much valuable wisdom to share. The hero for today is my Dad. [Read more…]

The March Leprechauns, Bunnies, Lambs and Lions Are Here: Making Imagination Flourish through Music



In my work as an educator and consultant I have plenty of opportunity to visit early childhood centers and schools.  Most of my visits are very pleasant, and I get to see some really excellent programs.

This time of year, though, I am always amused to see hung on walls and decorated in projects the lasting vestiges of the March Imaginarium: Leprechauns, Bunnies, Lions and Lambs.  How come these symbols and icons have lasted so long? And how come they sometimes become the foundation for educational curriculum?  [Read more…]

Love Songs 101: Music and Affection in Early Childhood

Somehow the round green wreaths on the front doors of houses in my community have morphed into red or pink heart shapes.  Even when they are covered with snow, the colors and shapes of these decorations send the message that love is in the air.

I’ve been so lucky as a daughter and a wife and a mother to love and to be loved.  I’ve been fortunate also in my work with young children to feel a different kind of love for the little ones and for their families. As a music therapist and an educator I have examined the idea of love and affection and bonding from all different kinds of perspectives – developmental, biological, neurological, behavioral, social and emotional.  What this research and clinical experience has shown me is that one of the most important things that can happen for a parent and child making music together is to experience a feeling of love.  [Read more…]

Moments of Wonder and Awe in Music

It’s a wonderful lifeIt’s the most wonderful time of the year. Star of wonder.  Winter wonderland.

So many songs of the holiday season remind us that the world promises moments of awe and amazement and wonder. As you read this, you might be picturing or feeling or reliving one of those moments.  One slice of time sticks out for me from this past year. The lights were glowing soft and the room was cozy. My family was bundled together doing what we always do – sing.  There is a moment in singing one of our favorite scores when the close, warm harmonies take a sudden enharmonic turn.  Each time I sing these same few measures I get a tightness in my chest and a catch in my throat. The beauty of the sound is indescribable and seems to take me to a whole different world.  The feeling is one of wonder and one of awe.  [Read more…]

When Words Fail: Small Children and Tragedy

Dear Raising Harmony Members,

For the second time since starting this blog a few short months ago, difficult, and now tragic, events have torn open the vulnerable world of small children.  There are no words that can meet the depth of sorrow for those who lost children in this latest school shooting.  Many will write for those families and that community and offer them what they can in their grief.  But today I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts with you, our early childhood community, on some immediate and critical ways to meet the needs of our own young children in times of tragedy.  [Read more…]

Two Sides of the Street

Reaching Out a Hand to the Music Teacher

I just returned from another long week of travel up to the annual conference of our state music educators association. For the last few years I have been the music therapy liaison to this music teacher’s group and attending the conference is one of my duties.  Each year seems to bring greater acceptance and understanding on both sides of the music street for the things we have in common and the ways we are unique.  This year my music therapy colleagues, Evelyn Selesky and Tracy Wanamaker, and I presented three sessions- on Autism, behavior management in the music education classroom and music therapy as a career.


As I walk around this packed and very hectic conference, I have had to perfect my ‘music therapy elevator pitch’.  And it has to be tailored to the audience- our fellow music educators.  The first thing that generally comes up is the pressure these teachers feel to be successful in reaching every student since ‘all kids like music’.  Many are given minimal support and scarce information.  This is the perfect time to ‘walk across the street’ and reach out a hand to the music educator to share our knowledge as music therapists about children, development and music responses.  I find that spreading our resources is more effective in the long run than protecting them.  But I make it clear that the strategies that I give them are designed to help them be a better music teacher and to help assure that all children have access to a quality music education.


The road gets a little muddy, though, when I meet with the early childhood music educators.  Good quality early childhood music education often promotes development.  The teachers see this and assume that the two sides – music skill development and overall development in music- are one and the same thing.  This is true as long as the child responds to the curriculum in the way that the curriculum intended. The problem arises when the child does not respond according to plan.  This is another place for the music therapist to step in.  Rather than meeting in the middle of the road though, I encourage the early childhood music educator to find their way back to their side of the street and continue to do their job of helping children gain early music skills.  As music therapists, we can then provide an alternate way to help young children develop through music.

Here is one way I explain it using some visual imagination. Music can be like a beautifully wrapped present. The music educator’s job is to show children how to carefully wrap the package – paper, tape, string, bow – putting together the pitch, rhythm, form and melody.  When it is finished, the package of music is ready to display and everybody recognizes it as a present.

The music therapist takes the same elements of the package and takes them apart. Maybe the rhythm will be tucked in the child’s shoes.  The form can be a crown or a helmet.  The melody is stuffed in pockets and taken out as needed.  And the pitch is worn like fingers on a glove.  At the end there is no pretty present to show.  The elements are just absorbed into the child’s whole being.


Enjoy this visual image as you make your way toward the holiday season.  And maybe think of giving a gift to a music educator by inviting them to dance with you in the middle of the street.






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