Recently I caught an installment of “This I Believe” on the radio, and I discovered what experimental musician/producer Brian Eno holds to be his truth: that singing–especially singing with others–is the key to long and happy life. In his words:
Well, there are physiological benefits, obviously: You use your lungs in a way that you probably don’t for the rest of your day, breathing deeply and openly. And there are psychological benefits, too: Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness. And then there are what I would call “civilizational benefits.” When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because [group singing] is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That’s one of the great feelings—to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.
It’s no surprise that I agree! I also believe that singing (and music-making in general) is an essential part of life. What I especially appreciate in Brian Eno’s words is his focus on the power of making music together. I see it all the time in class–adults who never met before this semester share a laugh, a moment, an awareness of one another that they would not have discovered if their children had merely played together at the park. Music connects us in a way that other interactions simply cannot.
Eno declares that the world would be a better place if singing were included in the core of school curricula, and I heartily agree. But even if that were to happen, those of us over 18 would still have to find our own opportunities for group music-making. Thankfully, we sing together all the time in my house, and I know my children will do the same with their children, and so on. I hold the deep hope that families in my classes are doing the same–establishing a lifelong routine (and legacy) of singing together. If Brian Eno is right, we’ll all be smarter, healthier, and just plain happier for it.
To read the transcript of Brian Eno’s “This I Believe,” follow this link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97320958. And, don’t miss his paragraph that begins, “I believe that singing is the key…” Hot stuff!
Every week, I see children and adults work together in class to not only make music within their own families but to also help each other make music as a group. And it does take work! (Especially when Miss Anne “makes” the class sing rounds or execute square dance moves.) Beyond the community of music-making, though, I see children work together to put away instruments and otherwise conform to group norms in class–something that’s really not developmentally appropriate for two-year-olds. This evening, I read an account of a study that helps explain why all this teamwork and helping behavior is taking place.
Evolutionary psychologists Sebastian Kirschner and Michael Tomasello (“Joint Music Making Promotes Prosocial Behavior in 4-Year-Old Children”) found that when four-year-old children were given the opportunity to dance and sing together, the music-making children were afterwards far more likely to help other children in need than were those who hadn’t been making music together (even though the latter group had been equally physically active and verbally interactive). Here’s what the researchers have to say:
We propose that music making, including joint singing and dancing, encourages the participants to keep a constant audiovisual representation of the collective intention and shared goal of vocalizing and moving together in time — thereby effectively satisfying the intrinsic human desire to share emotions, experiences and activities with others.
Well said. And I’ll let you decode that research-speak to your heart’s content. My take-away is this: The more we make music, the more harmonious and helping we are, and we all need more of that in life! (In a couple of days, I’ll reprise a post from my family camping trip a year ago that reinforces this assertion…and I’ll remember to sing and dance more on our trip this summer, to increase my pre-teens’ helpfulness and community-mindedness.)
So…sing and dance with your children, and give them lots of opportunity to sing and dance with each other and with other grown-ups. Who among us couldn’t use more helpers? (And who among us couldn’t use more music?!)
For more information: http://www.salon.com/2012/07/07/musics_biological_imperative/
The BELLS semester is finally here! Guess what’s gonna happen in class this week (and every week of this semester): Your children are going to grow musically by leaps and bounds. How do I know that? Because the research on early childhood music development shows that it’s absolutely true. Here’s the quick and dirty summary:
- Every child is wired to develop musically. (And this music development starts while they’re still in the womb!)
- Music development/learning follows a simple formula: Exposure + Fun + Play + Exploration = Learning. (Our children will teach themselves!)
- We grown-ups model singing, dancing, and music-play, and our children do what we do…but in their own way. (They might stare, jump, or suck their thumbs…as long as we’re making music, that’s what they’ll learn!)
So, remember that it doesn’t matter how you sing, but that you sing. It doesn’t matter how you dance, but that you dance. It doesn’t matter how your child plays with the drum, but that she plays with the drum. It doesn’t matter how your child experiences the music, but that he experiences the music.
I can’t wait to play with all of you this semester!
P.S. If your child learns to sing when you sing, guess what she’s learning when you talk? Let’s sing as much as we can in music class…
STORY FROM A MOM
Last week, a mom came into class with a “Hello Song” story. Over the weekend, her child had begun singing her own version of the song, but instead of singing “Hello, everybody…” she sang “Hello, Buddy…” I love it!
The “Hello Song” is deeply meaningful to children for many reasons, including that the song is a ritual they can count on, and rituals help children feel safe. (Heck, rituals help ME feel safe!) Because the “Hello Song” is so beloved, I’ve heard many stories about children singing it at home, in the car, etc. This story left me thinking about how fun it would be to sing in class, “Hello, Buddy, so glad to see you!” I like to think of everyone in class as my buddies, after all.
But, if I did that, I’d be making a fundamental change to the song that children count on to be the same every week — and that I cannot do. So, I’ll just have to settle for singing the “Buddy” version at home, instead (at least until my husband asks, “Who the heck is this ‘Buddy,’ anyway?”)
We are off and running on our latest Music Together semester — MARACAS! One mom said that she’s been through all the collections…many times…and this one is her favorite. (Of course, every collection has an it’s-my-favorite secret admirer.) MARACAS is an absolutely fantastic collection of songs and chants. We’re gonna have a ton of fun!
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The Music Together national office is asking MT families this question:
What is one way that your family uses music throughout your day?
Now, I’ve heard enough stories in class to know that a lot of you can easily answer this question! What about the family who sings “Mary Wore a Red Dress” to help get clothes on in the mornings? (You know who you are…) What about the family who puts on the Music Together CD whenever their child gets fussy in the car? (You know who you are…) What about the family who starts every day by cranking up the stereo and dancing around the living room like wild people? (You know who you are, too…) Send in your stories, and you might win some cool instruments (and I won’t even ask you to share them with the class — they’ll be all yours. :-)
Please email your answer to SWYCM@musictogether.com by 12:00 EST on this Friday, March 11. Everyone who responds with an idea will be entered into a drawing for this prize: Individual Percussion Set AND a Woodpecker Rhythm Instrument ($22.50 value). The winner will be announced Friday afternoon!