What is so great about Saturdays? It's music class day!!!! When Oliver was about 9 months old daddy got a NICE bonus at work and agreed with me that we should try a baby music class. It seemed pricey but after our van unexpectedly needed work we axed the Disney trip we were originally putting the bonus towards, so it didn't seem too bad in comparison.
I googled music classes and found the New Haven Kids blog which RAVED about Musical Folk (www.musicalfolk.com). Musical Folk offers a 10 week session of classes in a number of locations throughout the Greater New Haven area, and follows the Music Together (www.musictogether.com) program. The program is amazing! Just amazing! It was developed by child development and music experts and junk... whoever and however... it is just wonderful!
After signing up for the class I listened to samples of the music (a little backwards, no? whatever) and thought "Oh gee...this will be interesting." My first impression was that it was a little too folksy, earthy, crunchy than what we are used to. Well I am hooked on the music now! It is definitely not the nursery rhymes you'd think of right away for a mommy and me music class. These are traditional songs, international and cultural songs, GREAT songs! They are designed to get your child moving and interacting as well as settle down and listen and relax. They promote musical development by highlighting rhythmic and tonal patterns at the ends of the songs (sounds like I know what I'm talking about right...see parents learn just as much as the kids!) and they promote the use of instruments with a "play along" song on each CD.
Ok, obviously I am a fan of the Music Together (MT for us groupies) program, but I am a HUUUUGE fan of the Musical Folk experience. The classes are all about being silly and singing and playing. On the very first day the instructor warns you that you need to be silly and do everything he does to promote imitation from the children. Even if your own child is ignoring you another is watching and you need to model for them as well as your own. They are fully aware that children all learn in different ways and are accepting of all them!
Have I mentioned yet how much I love these classes? We are in the middle of our third 10 week session and we hope to keep it up!
Oliver's musical journey has been so fun and amazing to us. When we started the class I was a little disappointed in his lack of participation. But that was his personality- from birth he had this expression that he was there to observe and take everything in, and that's exactly what he did in class. We quickly saw his interest awaken- first at home, with his excited response to several songs in the CD. He began to sit up and pat his lap to his favorite songs, and then he started crawling over to the stereo and patting his lap asking us to turn it on. It was beautiful. And he loved the drums! He drummed on anything he could and in class we always made to sure to claim the drum for him during the instrument play portion.
Still, he was quiet in class. I get it, we are all more comfortable at home. Well the last day of class that first session was like a breakthrough for him! Over the course of the session we noticed him becoming more and more independent- crawling away from us to sit in the middle of the circle or in front of our teacher. On the last day he just seemed to get it. He appeared to participate in new ways and really enjoy the class with a more active level of participation. All of the children in the class seemed to have the same musical breakthrough that day. It was wonderful, especially when we learned that the entire class re-registered for the next session to start after a break of a few weeks.
Since our first session Oliver's confidence is grown in leaps and bounds! He clapped for the first time in class, he vocalizes from time to time (that is still more of an at-home thing), he is on the move from the moment we get there, checking in with us every once in a while. His instrument play at home is amazing (in class he is more concerned with handing out instruments to everyone than actually playing them himself).
We bought him a drum from Target filled with bells, shake eggs and rhythm sticks when we first started these classes and since then his toy instrument collection has tripled at least! At Christmas time I was in The Christmas Tree Shop for some last minute things and found instruments to add to his stocking. I'm pretty sure they were under $1 a piece. I almost put back the triangle thinking it was too advanced for him, but at that price I figured "what the hey?" I'm sure you can guess what his favorite instrument was for months! Our rough and tough boy was so gentle with his triangle. He had the coordination to hit it and every resonation made him smile.
On Easter, my cousin gave him a toy drum. I found him sitting with my mother and playing with it and I broke into the stick tune from class: "Hey hey, what do you say? Let's all click our sticks today. Ba dum, bum bum ba dum..." He turned away from the drum and hit the sticks on the floor, just like we do in class (and every once in a while he will participate and mimic this during class time). Then he surprised me. He brought the sticks up to his head and in a second I realized he was doing a variation that our teacher does with the song: "Hey hey, what do you say? Let's be aliens today. Do doo, do do do doo..." and we put the sticks on top of our heads and move them like antennas. Never before has he done this. Not at home. Not in class. It was just another piece of evidence that he is taking things in even though it can seem sometimes like he's not paying attention.
The Music Together program is really amazing. Check out their site, it's full of information. You can even follow them on Facebook. And Musical Folk is a wonderful provider of this program (if you are not in the New Haven area there are groups nationally that use the MT program..google it!). We have been lucky enough to attend classes with several teachers through make-ups or substitute teachers during our regular class time. They are all great at what they do, but I guess the one bad thing is that you will become sooo attached to your own instructor and their way of doing things that you will definitely have a preference. We love our teacher Nik! All the kids are so fond of him, and he plays the guitar in class (so does Liz the director of Musical Folk) and it has an incredible effect of the kids. Like the Pied Piper, they flock to him when the guitar comes out and he is so great about letting them explore it.
I also value the class as a socialization time for Oliver and I who are pretty much each other's only company for a majority of the time. I am so fond of the parents in class with us and I love that I've been able to see the other children in class develop and grow alongside Oliver over the past few months.
Since the first session that we used bonus money for, Oliver has been gifted his second and third sessions (Christmas and birthday gifts). The classes are not cheap. But we find them so worth it that my husband and I have agreed to keep it up as long as we can. We agree that it is a great use of any gift money that any one of us receives for whatever occasion.
We are so happy with our experience and I hope I expressed that clearly enough to encourage other parents to look into MT and begin their own musical journey.