By Ashley Lucas
As a mom of a little girl, I’ve sought as many opportunities as possible to expose my offspring to music. I remember deciding the day she was born, that I was going to sing her the same song every night before bed: “I Will” by the Beatles. This song has always had the magical power to calm her down when nothing else would. It made her smile before she knew what smiling was. She would clap upon hearing it as soon as she discovered she had hands.
I truly believe that listening to music is a vital part of the developmental process in wee young ones. In Roanoke, there’s an ample amount of children’s music classes and I’ve tried out most of them. They’re all great in their own way but one sticks out, at least from a musician’s standpoint.
Music Together® is a world-wide children’s music and movement program. I spoke with owner and director of Music Together in Roanoke, Carla Nelson, about the history of the program and why she believes early music education to be so important. “The program was borne out of The Center for Music and Young Children in Princeton, NJ. It was introduced as Music Together in 1987 and it quickly became the nation’s most loved music program and now a world-wide phenomenon. Music Together is a research based, early childhood approach to music learning. We believe that all children are musical and therefore can learn a basic music competence from being surrounded by a rich musical experience with the people they love most…mom, dad, or caregiver.” She continued, “I believe music is a birthright. We are all born with an innate ability to learn it. Music expression in humans develops in ways similar to language expression. Children may be born with an innate ability to learn the language of their culture, but the language does not arise spontaneously. It is a leaned, complex skill which requires certain stimulation in order to develop. Although the child effectively teaches herself to speak, she can do so only within a language environment. And so it is with music. A child requires a rich music environment in order to fully realize her potential music intelligence. The younger we can offer this environment to them the better!”
Nelson, who’s been a singer and musician since she was twelve years old, started Music Together in Roanoke in 2008. A talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter in her own right, Nelson has seen her former students continue their learned love of music after outgrowing her classes. “Many [students] have gone on to participate in the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir and many are enrolled in the Girls Rock Roanoke camps. I’ve also had several reports of the kids going on to formal instruction in different instruments,” Nelson commented.
If you are interested in registering for Music Together in Roanoke classes, visit www.MusicTogetherInRoanoke.com. By signing up, you receive two professionally recorded CDs of the songs used in class, a songbook with illustrations, weekly 45-minute classes, and more! If you’re unsure about registering, then take Nelson’s advice: “Make music with your child. Sing to your baby. Let them hear your voice. Let them see you dancing in the kitchen as you make dinner. I know it is hard sometimes in the day-to-day of life and we feel silly indulging in such activities but it is so important to give your child your demeanor towards music and let them see you enjoying it. You can give them the gift of music just by being musical yourself, no matter what your ability. Even if you feel you can’t carry a tune in a bucket let them hear your voice. To them you are their favorite singer.”
Blue Ridge KIDS Rock is an ongoing series highlighting the opportunities to get children involved in music. The previous KIDS rock post can be viewed here.