a parent in Chester, Connecticut, who has been attending classes for two sessions
now, says that exposure to Music Together® opened her eyes to a part of life
in Connecticut she barely even knew existed-but one which she was thrilled to
discover and now calls her community.
Recently, when she took her children to a folk music concert, she found herself
responding as never before. "For the first time, I felt very viscerally
the power of music to unite people and to motivate people and to affect change,"
she said, explaining that she has never considered herself musical. "Physically,
my feet were tapping. The way I felt when I was there was, 'Oh my God! The way
I want the world to be is possible! There are other people out there who believe
in communities and who sing and move together.' And I don't think I would have
been so taken with it before Music Together, because music to me was too scary."
In her case, Makrianes said, the classes have done more than introduce her sixteen-month-old
son and five-year-old daughter to the basic building blocks of music competence.
They are teaching them "not to be afraid of music" and are consequently
opening them up to a wider community which shares her family's values.
If early exposure to a community of music-makers can expand and enrich a child's
environment, the musical community itself is enhanced when more children and
their parents join it. It might sound obvious, but the more people making music
informally, the more opportunities there are for non-professional, non-performance-oriented
music-making. And that is "more than just an unintended side benefit of
the program," explains Kenneth K. Guilmartin, Music Together's founder
and director,"it is one of the primary goals."
"In America in the 21st century," he said, "there are very few
venues or opportunities to make music in an informal, participatory way. When
people come together to belt out 'Happy Birthday,' for example, nobody particularly
cares whether it's sung terribly out of tune or beautifully in harmony-everybody
Music Together, however, creates lots of these opportunities. First, there are
all the class times. Then, there's the music-making at home. And as a growing
number of families go through the Music Together program, a broader musical
community is forming, one which shares in common not only the Music Together
songs but also the ways to break into singing and musical activity taught at
Music Together. This can generate spontaneous Music Together moments-in the
elevator, on the food store line, in the playground.
Guilmartin says that over and over again, he hears anecdotes about how Music
Together unites people into a community. For instance, there are the cousins
who live thousands of miles apart but who keep close by both taking Music Together
classes. Old high school friends reconnect after twenty years when one parent
sees the other's name in the Music Together newsletter.
As Normal, Illinois, center director Annelise McVoy puts it, "The main
reason I teach Music Together is to foster community growth. I view the music
classes and the materials as the basis from which to nurture a large 'family'
in my area. Music Together provides exactly the right vehicle for me to do that.
Improvisation, humor, playfulness, and fun are built right into the program."
Jessica Nevins, a Music Together center director in Chester, Connecticut, said
that in her experience, parents are just as likely to join her class for the
first time because they are searching for a community of people going through
the same things as they are, both as parents and as individuals. An interest
in exposing their young children to music is sometimes the by-product of a search
for an appealing group of people sharing a worthwhile activity.
That was certainly true for her six years ago when, as a new mother, she first
enrolled in a class in Brooklyn, New York. "I wanted to know people who
were having babies at the same time as I was. I wanted to know the people whom
my kids were going to grow up with. I had an unflinching desire to know every
family around," she said. "The joke was that I was trying to make
Brooklyn feel like a small town."
If the search for community draws parents through the door, it is Music Together's
ability to "show them that all children are musical and that musical growth
is something we can watch and nurture" that keeps them coming back, said
Nevins, who had worked as a professional singer before beginning her new life
as a parent.
The community-building aspect of Music Together has also helped Judy Woodson
of Newport Beach, California, to orchestrate her own successful life-change.
A globe-trotting hotel entertainer for the last ten years, Woodson was tiring
of her peripatetic lifestyle. She was beginning to envy her sister Sally Woodson,
director of West Side Music Together of Manhattan, for the community she had
created through involvement in her neighborhood, her church, and her classes.
"The word that came to my mind representing what she had that I wanted
So two years ago, when Judy decided to settle down, she took the Music Together
teacher training and opened a center in her West Coast home town. "I don't
have kids, but this has allowed me to feel as if I am part of the community
here," she said. Perhaps even more importantly, Judy's decision also brought
her closer to her sister than she had been since their childhood, when the two
of them were first developing their passions and talents for music-making.
Young children learn by watching and doing what their community of caregivers
do. Once they have the skills, knowledge, and disposition to make music, they
then need the opportunity to put their learning into practice. That's what Music
Together does, Guilmartin explained. "By creating informal musical communities,
we generate a lot of musical 'doing'- and lots of fun!"
Copyright 2001 MusicTogether LLC, Production Editor: Catherine
Judd Hirsch, Website Production Editor: Richard Young,
Editorial Assistant/Writer: Cleve Kersh, Feature Article: Deborah Gesensway,Columns:
Lynne Ransom, Photos: Karin Naimark.
Music Together, CMYC and Center for Music and Young Children are registered
trademarks of Music Together, LLC,
Princeton, New Jersey, Music Together logo art Copyright 1992 Music Together
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