Philly Music Babies opened its shaker-clad circle to the Fishtown neighborhood a little over three years ago. With a lineup of songs, scarves, pinwheels, guitar, rhythm sticks, wrist bells, drums, and a whole bunch of assorted instruments, we welcomed mommies, daddies, nannies, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, and all the neighborhood babies and tots to come enjoy some music with us on a weekly basis. The idea behind the classes was to provide quality music exposure.
Why exposure? There are many studies that point to the language and cognitive benefits that infants and young children receive from early musical education. Not only that, with regards to a child’s capacity to learn music, exposure itself (especially music in the home), leads to a greater music aptitude throughout the rest of a child’s life. Though music may not be important for everyone, there is certainly something to be said for the positive ways in which music shapes a developing child’s mind. And with all of the life-skills that learning and playing an instrument can give us (not to mention the artistic and emotional satisfaction), we are even more motivated to share music with our community of little ones in Fishtown and South Philly.
Philly Music Babies focuses on repetition through traditional songs and incorporates the Kodaly Method. Teacher-lead music and games, backed by guitar, form the core of our class. We introduce solfege (Do, Re, Mi …) to develop a music language of pitch and syllables. By these means, we work toward nurturing a sense of rhythm, melody, and harmony. But really, what we are aiming at is just creating music that simply sounds and feels good! It is our experience that music is enough of a reason to come out and sing. Whether your baby is venturing out around other kids for the first time, or your youngest just needs some mommy-and-me time, the process of making music together is invigorating for everyone (and tuckers them out just in time for naps)!
So then, what is Open Music? Open Music was inspired by the first set of graduates from our Philly Music Babies series. Now 3 and 4 (and almost 5!) and looking for some continuation of weekly music, parents often ask, what’s next? Do you have any more? When can I start private lessons (more on that here)?
In my own experience, few kids are ready for lessons at 4. While certain kids might do well in the one-on-one lesson, most are still itching for exploration and free-play. Philly Music Babies, with its mixed-age philosophy, welcomes babies and kids from 0-3. This requires an individualized approach to teaching. We’ve applied this same approach to Open Music. Open music is designed with some structured learning (to break the ice as a “jumping off” point), and focuses primarily on child-led, free-play activities for toddlers (2 yrs) and kids up to 5. Kids are given the space and time to feel out musical concepts at their own paces. Combining a multitude of senses, children are physically engaged by music-props, learning tools, and tinker-projects that reference music and sound. Some aspects of the Montessori method are incorporated into the classroom, while the Kodaly method continues to turn up with loose musical instruction on piano, voice, and ukulele. In our weekly class, kids step foot into a musical playground of sorts to learn about notes, instruments, music, and play.