Tag Archives: Music Teacher

Social Media Marketing to Attract Music Students

Social Media platforms have transformed the way our world communicates. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 70% of Americans have at least one social media profile. These platforms can be a highly effective means of reaching new music students and engaging them in a very meaningful way. And, when your followers engage with your form of social media, you have the opportunity to influence all of their connections as well. When considering if and which social media platforms to market your music studio, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Social Media Tips for Music Teachers

  • Understand your target market so that you select the social media platform that will reach the most of them with the least amount of effort. There are several social media platforms for families and mothers of young children such as Famster, Justmommies, Cafemom, and Disney Family Community, but keep in mind while these are highly targeted platforms, their population pales in comparison to the major platforms such as Facebook or Pinterest.
  • Rather than participating in all of the different major social media platforms, think about doing just a few of them really well. Social media can take a large amount of time, so you will want to budget your time wisely so that you can concentrate on other aspects of your music studio marketing.
  • Post often and with relevancy. If you do engage in social media for your studio, be prolific about posts, and make sure they will be interesting to your intended target audience of prospective young music students. Social Media authors can be very creative in what to post and how it links to their business or message. Don’t write all of your posts like an advertisement for childhood music program, so followers don’t get turned off.
  • When the platform allows for it, use pictures along with words. Color catches the eye, and eyes on faces also grab attention. Just be sure that if you do post a picture of a young music student on social media, that you have signed permission from their parent(s).  Also be sure that you do not provide the child’s name anywhere in the post.
  • Use links to references within your posts to add more relevance. Search engines like for social media content to have supporting evidence in the form of online articles, blog posts, and other data sources. These can be easily found by searching for industry leaders in childhood music theory, and placed as a link within the content itself.
  • Pay or not to pay. Often times you can build a group of followers from scratch with interesting, creative, and thoughtful social media posts. If this is the case, then you may not consider paying for ads or “boosts” in social media. However, these methods can be helpful to get a social media destination off the ground. Consider starting small and seeing what kind of results the buy gets you. Cost per new follower is a good way to gauge the effectiveness of an ad buy or boost.

There is a multitude social media resources for early childhood music teachers available online, if you do some digging. Start with a few platform(s) that best suit the target audience for your music studio, and learn as much as you can about effectively using those social media outlets.

 

Teaching Toddlers to Piano: When Seeds Start To Produce Flowers

If you imagine yourself to be a gardener, you will have to learn to wait and wait for the day when  those tiny seeds you planted last April will finally flower into their full glory. So goes the musical development of the children in our music classes. We welcome in the new family with infants in their arms and encourage music making through singing, rocking, dancing and playing sticks.  Of course the baby mouths that stick, eagerly working on that emerging molar. We let the parents know this is a first step in the music literacy development, exploration, and the child will soon find the sound, play with the sound, copying the beat, and keeping a steady beat. We sing and ask parents to sing along in whatever key they can find and feel a seed of joy in our hearts when the toddlers begin to sing along, first in snatches and then slowly joining us for the whole song.

We relish the moment when a child comes back with their first “bah” or “bam” and secretly jump up and down when their response is in tune, and, oh, the quality of that first voice. And when a child in your classroom NEVER responds with a bam or bah you find yourself nervously reminding your parents how this is a process based program. But you, the teacher, wonder when or if you will ever see that flower bloom. Patience is the key and making sure all those little things that happen are acknowledged and appreciated.

Let’s go back a few years to one of my Cycles classes. A mother arrives with twin girl and boy, Ayla and Acer, and a baby in tow. The twins hide behind mom and very rarely do I see their faces. Mom reassures me the boy is very musical, but I am not allowed even a glimpse of this in my classes. We go through the year and Mom brings the children weekly without fail.  I know she plays the music at home and participates fully in my classroom. The boy moves into Music Makers and the girl into ballet class at the same time as his music class. Sigh! Mom comes week after week with both, drops off the boy and DRAGS the young ballet dancer out of my studio. The boy is still very shy but shines his sweet eyes on me sometimes when I am looking. When Music Makers: Around the World begins, the girl joyfully rejoins the class, still very shy but I hear her beginning to sing with a sweet quiet voice as she joins all our musical activities.

Ayla Acer and Trekker - May blog

Fast forward to this year; Music Makers: Piano. Both children are now singing in tune, keeping awesome steady beats and playing their keyboards like there is no tomorrow. The “baby”, now a preschooler, is still hiding behind mom in his music class but I have heard him singing in the background when his siblings send me recordings of their music making at home.

Let’s hear a bit from the mother, Jennifer, about the experience:

As a homeschooling family, we find outside enrichment to be very valuable. I suppose our Musikgarten journey began even before our home school journey – when our oldest (twins) were 2 1/2. We went in search of some sort of musical training for our particularly eager son, who was obsessed with guitars. Through a local music store, we found Ellen. At first, I would say we found classes to be fun but did not see how this would foster our budding musician’s creativity or bring along his less-eager and very shy twin sister. In fact, both children (and especially now our third child) were pretty reluctant to take part in many of the activities. We continued on, only partially (if at all) understanding what was happening.

And then we moved into piano instruction. We were amazed!! Both children grew by leaps and bounds – our son was constantly at the piano creating, and our daughter even started to love playing and getting creative! And I was surprised at what I was learning too! Now all 3 children are in, and enjoying the program. I can only imagine what great surprises may be in store as we continue!

Jennifer did not give up on her children. Instead she kept music a big part of their home life.  She provided instruments for the children to explore at home and invested in a keyboard that has become a center for playing the piano all day long.

I bet in your piano classes you usually don’t have time to hear all the pieces the children have been exploring at home. It can get discouraging when it feels as if they only know two pieces – Listen for Bells, and Mouse Mousie. This year, I found it useful to have my parents send me home recordings of their  children’s playing. This has been an eye opening experience as a teacher. For the shy student, this is the ideal place to express their pieces from a place of comfort. Ayla never wanted to share her pieces during piano sharing time.  Yet when Mom sent videos of her playing at home I was surprised and pleased to hear how comfortable she felt playing the piano, heard her entire repertoire (which included every piece we did in class) and even got to hear her improvisations.

With home recordings you can :

  • Hear their entire repertoire
  • Make little suggestions in terms of sound production
  • Give positive feedback, which they love to hear
  • Observe their home bench height and distance from the keyboard
  • Remind the parents to get their pianos tuned

Listen to Acer and Ayla’s latest recordings.

Acer – Green Gravel in two keys

Ayla – Follow Me with improvisation

I hope you can hear how all the little things we do with the children in those early classes finally bloom in a myriad of ways when they are ready to place the music in their hearts onto the piano.  My garden is blooming!

Summer Offerings: Ideas from Musikgarten Teachers

Every teacher has a different idea of how they wish to teach through the summer months. Long gone are the days when music studios go quiet during the summer months. Parents are looking for music classes and camp programs to keep their children involved in music. I was curious how different teachers manage their summer months. Last month I spoke about my own way of creating a balance between downtime and offering classes.  Here are some other teachers’ responses.

Bobbi Morgan of Florida, who teaches in a studio called Music Compound in Sarasota, Florida tells us about her program:

During the summer I use a variety of Musikgarten programs:

  • Babies: Babies Musical World
  • Toddlers: Sing/Dance/Play or Clap With Me
  • 3s and 4s: Summer (part of the Cycle of Seasons Program)
  • 5s: Music Makers at the Seashore
  • 6s and 7s: Introduction to Keyboard.

For my Music Makers: at the Keyboard students I also offer a Music Makers Keyboard review class.

Although we have an outdoor space, we tend to not use it because it is simply too hot out there!

I offer my programs through late Spring and Summer. I work most weeks, but I take a break from over the July 4th holiday and most of August. Like many studios, I teach by myself and do my own administrative work, like marketing, registration, collecting tuition and material fees.

To attract families, I have a mailing list to which I email a schedule prior to each session and then I follow up by phone or individual emails. My schedule & Musikgarten information is on the studio web site. I teach a free class for the Hospital Mom/Baby groups.  I also put schedules in music stores, children’s clothing stores, church nurseries, doctor’s offices, libraries, coffee shops with bulletin boards, etc.

I teach in the summer because my parents request classes. Teachers in my area who are off in the summer request them too. Short summer classes attract new families, help retain families, and generate income for the studio during dry summer months.

The Toddler classes are most popular, although Baby classes are a close

Second. These classes enable children to participate in group experiences
before preschool years begin. It gives the moms something to do together
with their child and friends with kids. They believe in the power of music
to facilitate their child’s development. Everything is new & exciting
to this age group. To new teachers I just want to mention that attendance to summer classes in my area is generally sporadic, unlike during the rest  of the year.

Lianne Brewer founded The Music Factory in Springfield, IL in 1994, and currently has 7 teachers serving approximately 300+ children.  She now lives in southern CA and has started teaching Musikgarten there at a local music school.  This is how Lianne is shaping up her summer plans:

I use the Musikgarten curriculum because everything I need is there! I love teaching Musikgarten because the curriculum excels in providing developmentally appropriate activities, as well as fun activities, melodious songs, and lots of variety for the families and for me. The music school I presently teach at has no access to outdoor space, but many years ago I did have a grassy area outside that we used in the preschool classes!  Great fun!

Currently I teach a summer program by myself (looking for another teacher and helper!) for six weeks during the summer starting in early June when school is out.  In previous summers my teaching colleagues and I have presented a program called “A Taste of Music”. This ran for two weeks in August and was a music program filled with fun, low-key classes that geared up for Fall. We made a rule that current families could only attend if they brought a NEW family. These August classes were FREE!

To find families, I advertise on Facebook, and direct email. I primarily teach during summer to attract new families, so I make the session shorter to give families a taste of my regular programs.

In my present music school my most popular  class has been our Dancing, Drumming & Drawing Camps for preschool (ages 3-5 yrs) and music makers  (ages 6-8). Offered 1x a week, on two different days, from 9:30-11:45 AM, for 6 weeks. I am lucky because I can offer a Baby Class or a Toddler class at the same time in another room. Of all the summer toddler programs, Twist and Turn or Nimble and Quick have been the most popular.

I would encourage teachers to offer “perks” to get new families in! It works to offer discounts to current families if they bring a new family; I also have families pay for only classes they can attend (minimum of 4 out of 6 weeks) so those who say they can’t come at all because they’ll miss two classes due to vacation, swimming lesson, etc, will be more inclined to come!

Stephanie Rivera, Coordinator of Children’s Music at First Presbyterian Church Orlando, has big plans for the summer:

We use the following programs during the summer.

Summer Curriculum plans for 2017:

  • Babies (birth-13 months) – My Musical World
  • Walkers (14-23 months) – My Day
  • Toddlers (2-3 yrs) – On a Trip
  • Big Kids (3-4 yrs) – Cycles Summer
  • Family Class (mixed ages) – Nature’s Music
  • Explorers (4-5 yrs) – My Neighborhood Community
  • World Travelers (5-6 yrs) – Seashore
  • Nature Trail for 6-8 yrs, possibly

We solely use Musikgarten as our curriculum because of it’s quality, flexibility, and how many curriculum options we have for our large program.

Our location is a church in a downtown area. It has 3 buildings and a parking garage, which can be intimidating to some families.

Our summer schedule usually consists of morning classes Tuesday-Thursday, adding Friday as necessary. Very rarely add Mondays, but it has happened. We also offer a lunch-time class, but that has a tendency to be cancelled because it is such an odd time. We take off the week of July 4th, and this summer will also take off the week our church has Vacation Bible School due to lack of rooms available.

I have a team of 4-6  teachers that teach during the year, and a small set of 2 teachers that teach during the summer. This summer, I’ll teach on my own due to one teacher being on maternity leave and the other traveling more this summer than usual.

We use Facebook for our advertising through our own Facebook page and my own personal page. Our teachers share my posts about upcoming classes. Current families also tag their friends in the comments. The rest is word-of-mouth. In May, I will give a free demo to a local moms group in hopes that they will join us for Summer.

Our most popular classes during the summer are Walkers and Toddlers. There are many activities available for 3 years-old and older in our area, and some people think their baby is “too young” to attend classes so they wait until they are walking to pursue any structured activities.

When offering summer activities, consider that many people are traveling during the summer, so try to keep your classes in the middle of the week rather than Monday or Friday. As always, nap time is a major factor when families are scheduling activities, so ask around about what ages are napping and what time of day. Mixed ages classes work well during the summer due to older siblings being out of school, so that might be a good starting point of your curriculum offerings.

I hope these three teachers give you some great ideas!  What are you planning to do this summer?

The Value of the Parent in a Toddler Music Class

The time to start experiencing music is in early childhood; the place is in the family. Home is the first and most important school for children, and involved parents are the most effective teachers. Adults are learning how to interact effectively and easily with children through music, and families are growing together musically. This is good for children and good for families. (Musikgarten, Family Music for Toddlers, On a Trip, 2016)

When I teach a music class for toddlers I must acknowledge the elephant in the room.

elephant

Next to, or nearby, every toddler attending class is an adult. This adult could be a parent, a caregiver, an uncle or a grandparent, but what do they all have in common? They are no longer toddlers and therefore have completely different musical needs from a toddler. They may be agreeing to sit in a toddler class but does that mean they need to sing along, dance along and play along? Wouldn’t they rather grab their cell phone, find a corner and start Facebooking? What can you do to keep those parents from herding into a corner and starting a gossip circle?

News Flash! You are not only about to teach a toddler music class, but also teach music to adults. So let’s first address the question,

“Why do Musikgarten family toddler classes include a loving adult for each toddler in the room?”

  • The adult links you, the teacher, to their child. For instance, you will demonstrate a steady beat by bouncing your stuffed animal and the adult will bounce their child the same way, instilling that steady beat.
  • The adults join in a community chorus of singing and participating that surrounds the toddler with hopes that one day s/he will feel comfortable joining.
  • The adult creates a space that becomes a safe zone for the toddler. Within that space the child feels most comfortable; in their comfort space they can best learn.
  • The adult makes logistics easier in the classroom. Imagine walking into a classroom filled with 12 roving toddlers and no adults. Bounce along? Maybe one at a time if you can catch one. Sing to them? They won’t sing back and will stare at you with a lost look. Sit in a circle? What’s a circle? Hand out sticks? Could be dangerous. Ask them to Walk and Stop? Good luck. Try pulling out that drum. Bam, oof, watch out!

Teachers agree: The parent is the channel through which you instill the heart and life of the Musikgarten program.

When the parent participates in class, the class is moving and grooving. When they sit back and watch or zone out your class is compromised. So your parents need to know this and you need to acknowledge their presence and worth. They already have a clue that music is wonderful and significant for their children. They have heard that music is part of a well-rounded education and it makes a significant difference in the lives of children.  Now the participating adults need to know they are the magic key to accessing the music education in your classroom. So what can we do as teachers to help the parents feel their value?

  1. Make sure you have spoken to every parent that plans to attend either on the phone or at a parent’s meeting. Besides reminding them about arriving on time, washing hands, and taking off shoes, they need to learn to enter the studio with excitement and anticipation, leaving the worries and cares outside the door, along with their cell phone.
  2. Before class begins, set the mood by having the CD for the program playing softly. So often I have parents walk in and begin to sing along with music. This is marvelous proof that they have been doing their homework and playing that recorded music often enough that they know the words.
  3. Room should be free of clutter and all toddler distractions put away. Remind the parents to leave all toys and food outside of the room. Stuffed animals that sneak in under a child’s arm gets invited to watch on my piano. Invite them to sit on your clean carpet or floor. Maybe have a drum or other classroom instrument to explore. Note: I keep that instrument with me at all times.
  4. Begin the class on time. I can’t emphasize this enough and tell the parents that we always begin on time. Note: I say this every week and also mention this at the end of class.
  5. Ask the parents to gather up their wandering children to form a close-knit circle.
  6. Quietly remind the parents that you are modeling all movement and they are expected to sing and move just like me. Mention this for many weeks – not just the first week! Note: I do not go into the discussion of “But I can’t sing” at this time.
  7. Sing the opening song quietly with a smile.
  8. Keep a slow tempo and make sure you have had eye contact with each parent and hopefully with each child.
  9. As the class progresses you will deal with individual needs and issues: roving toddlers, toddlers that need some quiet time in the waiting room, chatty parents, non-participating parents, etc.
  10. End on time, acknowledge the class, and invite them back for next week’s class.
  11. As parents leave, take care of any business. Note: I sometimes choose to call or email business related items later and keep the goodbyes pure.

As rapport grows, encourage parents to sing more and more in class. First encourage the ancient word, “la” and then urge the parents to eventually sing the words. Repeat a verse so that parents can sing along. Note: I make sure I drop out for a verse or sing quietly along, promoting their musical participation.

There are a few ways to communicate to parents between class and this is a great way to smooth out any miscommunications or to continue to educate parents about music class.

  1. A follow up phone call
  2. Through emails or handouts
  3. Indirectly through the encouraged use of the CD or downloaded music at home

By making the parent the most valuable asset, you are investing in your studio because these are the parent who will return next semester and the year after that.  Eventually you will have a base from which you can teach all that Musikgarten has to offer.

Make this your first step towards establishing your music studio.  You will reap the rewards of all your hard work.

Question:  What have you found to be the most effective way to guide your parents into joyful music making in your classroom?

What works and doesn’t work when marketing your Musikgarten classes?

What works and doesn’t work when marketing your Musikgarten classes?

I need to face a fundamental fact about myself. Although I have been teaching my classes for over twenty years, my weakest skill is marketing my program. Like most teachers, I love teaching, but shudder at the thought of putting myself and my studio out there. Often after dutifully sending out marketing material I throw up my hands and pray for three more students, just three more students.

Here is the good news and the bad news. You will become a better teacher over time and marketing doesn’t get easier.

So what works and what doesn’t work for my studio business? First let’s get the “doesn’t work” out of the way. Doing nothing or wringing my hands and hoping my classes fill up with registrations on their own doesn’t work.  I have learned that to market my classes I needed to step out of my studio and actually tell others about what I do and when I do it.

What has given me the best bang for my buck? Every area is different, but these three basic tactics have given me the largest overall return:

  1. Website: I use the website offered by Musikgarten through AW Technology (makingmusik.com).This service is easy to use, only $14.95 a month, has a modern look, and is mobile device friendly. This is the single most important marketing tool in my box.
  2. Word of Mouth: Creating relationship with my families is very important to me and research shows this will fill your classes more than any other tool. If parents like me and like what I offer there is a good chance they are going to tell their friends about my studio. I highly recommend listening to a podcast produced by Michael Hyatt called,”Do you Want to Wow your Customers”.  I found myself rethinking how I greet my clients as they enter my studio, and how I communicate to them through emails and on the phone.  This podcast has a lot of relevance to how we can grow your business by making it the most awesome music studio in your community.
  3. Brochures: Whether you use the brochures produced by Musikgarten for licensed teachers or create your own, brochures are very valuable. Having this valuable tool in your purse, bag, by your studio door or in your glove compartment is essential. One way I use a brochure is to introduce myself to teachers in local schools. This may sound like cold calling but you need to start somewhere. Most parents will ask their public school teachers for a good “piano teacher” who will teach their three year old. Guess who they will refer if they have your name in their contacts?

Other Tactics to Keep in Mind:

  1. Print ads in your local paper, magazines, or journals: As I mentioned earlier, every area is different. I personally have not had good luck with these, but that does not mean you should not consider or investigate these as an option in your area. Print ads can be expensive, but they may come with some combination of digital ads. You could also consider Musikgarten’s co-op advertising. If you have three or more teachers in your area, advertise together and Musikgarten will partner with you, evenly splitting the cost of the ad between all parties. Contact Bunny at bgodfrey@musikgarten.org for details.

Note: A lot of local papers have event sections for kids that you can be listed in for free. Submit a description, class times and contact info of your program in this section.

  1. Online parent sites: There are many of these sites to explore. It helps to ask families around town what they use to find their activities and that can be an eye opener. Do some research and choose what fits. Other online sites like Macaroni Kid may be an option for you in your community. Network and post on Facebook pages that cater to parents in your community.
  2. Flyers: I still run around town putting these up and I feel so good afterwards, but I will admit I know I do not get more than maybe one or two calls per year. Musikgarten has pre-made flyers that you can easily customize to your studio on the Teacher Extranet. If you want to create your own flyer, I recommend Canva.com. You can use the wonderful pictures and Musikgarten logo available to licensed Musikgarten teachers on the Teacher Extranet and create a professional looking flyer that tells parents what they need to know.
  3. Social Media: I do have a Facebook page for my business, but I follow many other Musikgarten studios that consistently update and advertise via Facebook and I have to admit that I suffer from Facebook envy. Check out The Music Garden, LLC. Keeping content updated is key. You can reference blog posts, promote your classes, share Musikgarten posts from their corporate page or from other sources, and create simple ads. Here is a sample of a quick ad I created for my Facebook page in less than 15 minutes; not perfect, but helps demonstrate what you can create in a small amount of time. An added bonus is that you can add a website link and email this to inquiries as a reminder to sign up for the fall, you can also post this to your Instagram and Twitter account and add it to a flyer with your contact information.

August2016adphoto (2)

  1. Demo Classes: As a veteran teacher I realize this was an important step early on, which brought me good exposure. I offered these classes in my studio and at my local libraries. It gave me a chance to practice my skills on the unsuspected. It also gave me a chance to hand out those nifty licensee brochures mentioned earlier.

For other ideas, check out this blog post from March 2015.

Please know it takes time and patience to bring families to your studio. Also remember that different communities require different combinations of tactics to reach your audience.

After you have chosen your tactics, how can you know which ones work best?  I have created an inquiry list that includes the question, “How did you hear about me”. Start collecting this data when the phone rings. This will give you the best barometer for the most effective tools in your marketing toolbox. Whatever tools you choose remember that you need to assess time and effort versus return.

Tell us how you have grown your Musikgarten studio!

Musikgarten Recordings Make Classes More Successful!

Last week an enthusiastic father in my toddler music class announced to the class that his daughter learned to sing two new songs this week. While both songs (If I had a Hammer and Puff the Magic Dragon) are wonderful songs by themselves, I wondered why he wasn’t enthusiastically sharing how his daughter was singing two of her favorite songs from her class recording. So I asked the question every Musikgarten teacher fears asking,

“Have you downloaded (or listened) to your classroom music yet?”

As a teacher I bet you will cringe when you hear the myriad of excuses why parents haven’t gotten around to doing this simple and important act, and as a parent I bet you guiltily look for that code to download the songs onto your listening device or search for your CD.

Why would children and parents listening to the music at home be so important to the success of your program? Here are five important reasons to consider:

Familiarity breeds success: Children love to hear a song over and over and over again. They will request the music on every car trip. When they enter the classroom they embrace the activity because they KNOW the songs from listening to the recording at home.

Children singing on recordings: All Musikgarten recordings have children singing several of the songs, sometimes in a children’s choir and other times as a solo. This is magical for children because they love hearing other children sing. They can easily sing along because the vocal range is optimal for their voices.

Expands the classroom experience: So often I have parents share how their children are “practicing” their songs. This could be a baby or toddler singing the songs on a syllable like ba or bam in their crib or in their car seat. Or an older child singing a complete song while dancing.

Develops vocabulary: Songs, especially the folk material that Musikgarten uses, are rich in words. When children sing with the recording or later by themselves, they are developing their growing vocabulary.

Parent’s important role: Parents are the model the child will follow. I notice more parents sing in class when they have listened to the recording with their children or on their own.  How many times have I heard parents say they continue to listen and hum along to the music long after they drop off their children to school or other activities?  Parents love the music!

I always encourage families to listen to as many different types of music and I embrace the tremendous variety of musical choices in our society that we can access 24 hours a day. However, I want to emphasize the strengths of the Musikgarten recordings that are created specifically for young children:

Instrumentation is diverse: This is so important! So many children’s CDs limit their instrumentation to drums, guitar, piano and voice.  But take a look at a typical Musikgarten CD. The listener will experience a children’s choir; instruments from the woodwind family like the clarinet, oboe, and bassoon; large orchestras, brass instruments; folk instruments like bamboo flute and jaw’s harp; plus the traditional guitar, drums and piano. Oh, and did I mention an ensemble of Renaissance instruments? When it is time for a child to choose the instrument they wish to study, teacher and parent can be sure they have heard a wide selection of musical instruments before they make that lifelong choice.

Tempo: The tempo of the music is just right for children. I have found when I listen to CDs that are labeled for children they are just too fast. In my classes I am constantly slowing down the speed of the songs we sing to match the speed of the children singing.  At the same time, I want the tempos on the recordings to be lively and catchy and the CDs have the speed that is ideal for the children.

The singers are often children: This needs to be repeated! This means a child has a model of singing that is just like their voice. They hear a sound that they can easily understand and recreate.

Music includes activity: Remember in class we don’t just sing a song, we sing and MOVE to the song, whether it is tapping the beat on our knees, rocking to and fro, marching through the room, or playing along with sticks. This brings another dimension to the song, something a recording by itself cannot do.

Share these wonderful attributes about the Musikgarten recordings with your families. Encourage them to find these recordings and make them a part of their daily life.

This father has promised he will spend five minutes and download the music. I hope he will take advantage of this opportunity to share Musikgarten’s excellent music all week and all session long.

The Magic of Finger Plays

Finger plays are songs or stories that are acted out using your fingers and hands. As parents and teachers, we all want children to experience and play with as many finger plays in their early years because they “focus on the aspect of identification of fingers and hands and experimentation with their various movements.” In Musikgarten classes, finger plays are an essential and fun part of every toddler music class.

Over the years of teaching toddler music class I have learned that I must be well versed in the finger play to be able to share it with a group of children.  As I present the activity I realize I am also presenting it to parents in the hope they will continue to play and share this play at home.

So where do we begin?

Like many finger plays, the raw material for a parent or teacher is usually a ‘head scratching’  little poem:

Five little birds without any home,
Five little trees in a row,
Come build your nests in our branches tall,
We’ll rock you to and fro.

Not much to go on…….

A parent started a discussion about finger plays in class the other day.  She asked, “How do I do finger plays? Is there an online source to show me how?  When can I do them at home?”  I realized that finger plays were not a part of her early life. As a child I was surrounded by finger plays, learning and enjoying them with my parents, my siblings, my Sunday school teacher, etc.  Finger plays were part of my everyday world as a child. Is it possible we have lost the art of finger play in today’s home life?

As a teacher a finger play is an immensely powerful tool to draw in my children and their parents to a close knit circle.  From this intimate space we will share a moment that brings smiles and giggles mixed with hugs and rocking.  Always a good plan in a toddler music class!

The experts say a finger play:

  • develops vocabulary
  • creates a stronger emotional link between parent/teacher and child
  • develops the motor facility of the hand
  • develops cognitive areas of the brain
  • creates a safe place for children and adults to explore together
  • creates a safe place for physical contact between a parent/child or teacher/child
  • connects culture from generation to generation
  • goes beyond the purpose of nurturing, caressing, comforting or feeding.
  • creates laughter and excitement and pleasure.
  • creates a place where a child wants to repeat the game and play more and more.
  • turns a hand into a toy.

The finger play, summarizes Jelena Sitar Cvetko, is the “shortest and simultaneously the most comprehensive form of Folk literature. Finger plays are pre-dramatic forms with fingers as players and the hand as the stage, completed within itself and created within the play itself.” **

Good stuff in a little activity.  But still, the question still begs, HOW do I do a finger play?

So I have created a “before children walk into the room” video of the finger play “Five Little Birds”.

With no children in the room, it appears that all you need are the words and the fingers.  Notice the pace of the poem, the vocal tone used and the expressive quality of my fingers.  I believe a finger play needs to be rehearsed before your families walk in  because when children are added to the mix, anything can happen. You need to be ready to adapt in the moment.

Here is a video of another finger play with children and parents learning side by side.  It is quite different in that  you need to engage the toddlers and the parents. Luckily it helps that you are building on the common bond of love between parent and child:

When can a parent/grandparent/caretaker use a finger play?

  • during a diaper change
  • before bed
  • during a waiting time in a doctor’s office
  • during play time
  • whenever you need a connection or just want to laugh and giggle along with a child

Finger plays are fun and can create special moments throughout a child’s day.  For the teacher, it can make a major fun moment in a music class.  For the parent, it is a break from the necessary routines of a child’s life. Yet both parents and teachers still express apprehension when it is time to actually share the finger play.

Here are some clues to help:

  • Memorize the finger play but don’t worry if you mess up a word or two. It is more about the tone of voice, the pacing and loving way you transmit the play.
  • Repeat over and over. Children love to repeat and will gladly help and correct you if you don’t repeat it exactly the same way you did it yesterday.  Believe me, they remember EVERYTHING!
  • Exaggerate the underlying emotion of the finger play. Emotional response (laughing, crying, gasping) create significant memory cues for the children.

Watch how I emote in “Five Freckled Frogs” as the frogs “disappear into the pond” only to all return at the end.

Finally, some finger plays, like “Whoops! Johnny” can be changed to include the child’s name.  I add verses which include each of the children and then Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, sisters, brothers, and pets. I had a mother say her child would go through everybody in her world before going to bed at night.  The list was quite long and she would diligently repeat all the loving people in her repeats.  And, yes, I was included!

I hope you will make finger plays a part of your repertoire as a teacher and as a parent/grandparent/caretaker. Use these whenever possible.  This magical moment will make a difference in your life as well as the child playing with you.

What could be better?

**Quote from the Paper of Jelena Sitar Cvetco, The value of Finger play as a form of Cultural Heritage in the Curriculum of the First Age Period: https://hrcak.srce.hr/file/222654

The Teaching Triangle

As a young piano teacher, I was taught that the most successful recipe for learning to play the piano was to encourage the triangle of support from student to teacher, teacher to parent, and parent to student.  When any of these sides become weak, the process becomes more difficult for all.  Then reality set in. I faced a problem many piano teachers lament.  The parent would drop off their student, hopefully on time, and later pick up their student, hopefully on time, but their involvement ended there.  Even though the child received a weekly written homework assignment of what to practice at home, more than likely the only one benefitting from this paper was a hungry dog.  I was entertained with threats indirectly aimed at me as the exasperated parent would lecture the sullen child, “If you don’t practice the piano, I am not going to invest any more money for lessons”.   Unlike an orchestral triangle, my triangle was thudding, not dinging.

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Adding Musikgarten classes to my piano studio makes this triangle so much more fun to manage.  By bringing families into my studio to share music with me, I could now direct appropriate music making. Families receive a marvelous CD, or digital download, of music for them to sing and dance with all week. Ultimately I form a lasting relationship starting in my early childhood classes and moving through the program and beyond into my private piano program.

In a Musikgarten class, a community is sharing music and magic is in the air.  Below are some of the benefits from each perspective of the musical triangle:

 

Teacher:

  • Gets to know the whole family in the music class setting.
  • Becomes familiar and can work with their high/low and out of tune voices, and can adapt the program to work with the laid back family or the families that giggle and jiggle along.
  • Long term relationships are formed in a Musikgarten class and the triangle is strengthened. This musical relationship can go on for nine years in the Musikgarten curriculum and beyond in traditional lessons. When that student finally graduates from high school and adds music to their college course load all can shed tears of congratulations.
  • Gets to share something once to a group rather than 8 times to individual lessons. And the punch of the content is much more effective in the group.  No more telling a student who may or may not tell the parent.

Parent:

  • Receives firsthand experience of what is happening when their child is learning music.
  • Learns alongside their child and may even relearn what they were taught as a child.
  • Receives a quality recording and doesn’t have to entertain their child with solo performance of singing.
  • Know they have made a sound musical choice for their child that will go well beyond the early childhood years and gracefully bridge their children on to formal lessons.

And Students?

  • LOVE having their parents and siblings alongside as they share music.
  • Know they can share this music at home and the family will be familiar with the songs and dances.
  • Can dance, sing, and play musical instruments along with their friends.
  • Freely fall in love with their music teacher, can dream of learning to play an instrument and get to share music throughout their whole lives (although they don’t know about this surprise yet!)

Teacher-kids low resThere are so few experiences in our culture wherewe get to really know the teacher the way a Musikgarten class can provide this access.

If you are a teacher, I hope you add these ideas to your list of talking points. If you are a parent, I hope you will see the lifelong benefits of Musikgarten

And if you have, share the benefits you have enjoyed.

Confessions of a Piano Teacher

It’s a new year and a new beginning for our blogger, Ellen Johansen.  She will be adding her insights, tips and suggestions each month.  But first let us introduce her:

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My name is Ellen Johansen and I have a passion for teaching music to young children.  It is my belief that music is one of the most valuable gifts we can share with others; the kind of gift where both the receiver and the giver benefit.  Being a Musikgarten teacher, I get to facilitate and develop this gift of music with children and their parents with the hope that they will continue music in their family lives and in their future.

I began teaching piano when I was 16 and I am reluctant to talk about it 🙂

I had no idea what I was doing but I did discover that teaching music was fascinating.  In my twenties after studying the art of piano pedagogy in college, teaching became an important source of income. I drove from home to home, sometimes wondering if I was teaching music or providing an expensive babysitting service.

As I developed my home studio and continued to study piano pedagogy, an annoying and enduring question rose, “How do children really learn to read music?” I scrambled to collect every possible method book, theory and ear training workbooks thinking they would somehow answer this basic question. Yet there seemed to be a disconnection from the printed pages of these books to the sound I wished for my students to learn. The joy I wanted them to experience with discovering and creating a musical sound was missing.

Why were my students so squirmy on the bench? They seemed un-interested in my attempts to help them see a half step compared to a whole step.  Even though they could name those dots on the page with letter names, why did they seemed no closer to reading music fluently?  I found myself blaming it on not enough daily practice.  Or maybe I wasn’t following the method books correctly. The children coming for piano lessons could not sing in tune or keep a steady beat. This concerned me greatly.

As I began to raise my own family I recalled all the hours I spent singing with my own family as I was growing up. My Great grandfather was an organ builder, my grandmother was a piano teacher during the depression and my mother and her sisters learned to play the piano and sing.  Music was part of my every day as a young child. My mother played the piano and sang every night as I fell asleep and my siblings sang songs and played all sorts of musical games children like to sing and play.  We sang and played in the car, we sang and played around the house, we sang at campfires on the beach, we sang in school and at scout meetings, we sang weekly in church and in Sunday school, and we sang and played with our neighborhood friends in the backyard.  But the children walking into my studio were growing up in a different culture, where music was performed on the radio or TV and children attended playdates instead of knocking on a neighbor’s door.

Then I found an ad about teaching early childhood music and movement classes in my studio.  Maybe this source could help me answer this question.  I met Lorna Heyge and everything changed.

I completed every training session offered in early childhood music, and then I taught as many classes as I could book in my music studio. It has now been over 20 years that I have taught the Musikgarten curriculum and this wonderful teacher’s resource has been the ongoing wellsping of appropriate and passionate sequential musical activities that lead the children in my classes towards musical literacy.  But it wasn’t without many missteps and musical mishaps before learning how to incorporate this aural and joyful approach to my classroom.

Today I run a successful, independent music studio on the East End of Long Island and offer all levels of the Musikgarten program, from toddlers through keyboard classes. Most of my Musikgarten graduates continue into piano studies.  I now have the experience of witnessing many of my Musikgarten graduates go on to study other instruments as well as composition. They enter college with music in their hearts and as part of their course load.  One student of mine, who started in a toddler music class, is graduating from High School this year and will be giving a concert of piano music including Debussy’s Arabesque and Gershwin’s Preludes.  He is a great example of the Musikgarten graduate who is the literate musician I always dreamed of teaching; he thinks and plays musically, can hear what he sees and sees what he hears.  It all started with that first question: “How do children really learn to read music?”

I hope my experience and insights into this marvelous curriculum will help you find your answers to your teaching questions.

11 Reasons Kids Need Music More Than Ever!

Parents have lots of options when it comes to activities for their children. How’s a parent to choose between Baby Yoga and Toddler Soccer and Mommy & Me Cooking Classes – not to mention those other music-like programs? As a Musikgarten studio owner, it’s important to know what to say to a parent who is thinking about signing up for Musikgarten, but isn’t totally sold…yet.

So with that in mind, we’ve researched and compiled a list of 11 important ways children benefit from music education. Use this sound reasoning to help parents make the smart decision!

  1. It’s highly logical: music improves reasoning skills! Children who take music lessons are shown to have unique brain functions compared to children who do not receive music lessons. In general, children with music instruction tend to score higher in memory, reasoning and in writing, math, and science. Source: PBS.org
  1. All together now: music teaches coordination! Playing instruments and learning rhythmic movement develops dexterity and coordination between the ear, brain, and body. Enhanced coordination, fine, and gross motor skills can open a world of possibilities, not only in the arts, but in sports as well. Source: Parents.com

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  1. Excuse me ma’am, music cultivates social skills! Music classes require interaction with both adults and peers, and classes help teach respect, direction following, impulse control, teamwork and “musical sportsmanship” – that is encouraging and supporting each other. Through music, a child learns how to respect others and collaborate within a group to accomplish a goal. Source: Parents.com
  1. From the top! Music teaches children to practice. While practice may not always make perfect, music teaches children how to practice and why it matters. Whether they’re learning to play an instrument or simply learning about music, the act of practicing teaches children about self-discipline, patience, perseverance, resilience, and how to reach both short- and longer-term goals. Source: Violinist.com
  1. Music boosts confidence and self-esteem! Learning about music and how to play an instrument takes work but the rewards are incredibly gratifying. A child’s confidence can be immediately boosted through understanding, reading, and performing. Even small achievements will boost a child’s self-esteem.
  1. Music is like “IQ food”! Studies show that children who were given music lessons over a year averaged three IQ points higher than other groups. And because music requires the use of both the right and left sides of the brain, it helps create new neural pathways and linkages that help improve overall brain function. Source: beautythroughimperfection.com

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  1. Music teachers are many! We don’t have to tell you that music teachers are something really special! But when it comes to music, children also benefit from a whole world of mentors – from classical composers to popular musicians to experimental sound artists. Whatever a child’s preferences, there will always be an endless catalog of music and musicians available to inspire and teach them something new.
  1. Don’t forget! Music fosters short- and long-term memory! Each of us can still remember the first song we were asked to memorize as youngsters, or even the 16 bars we practiced for hours upon hours. Learning music stimulates the hippocampus in the brain, which in turn supports short- and long-term memory. Source: Psychologytoday.com
  1. Wait, what? Music can increase attentiveness and focus! The ability to pay attention—focus, listening, and staying on task—is deeply connected to academic performance. A research team at Stanford University found that music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention and focus, which can directly contribute to higher test scores in school. Source: med.stanford.edu; Oxford Journal
  1. ¡Fantastico! Music helps children learn other languages. Music training has been shown to physically develop that portion of the brain responsible for language development. A more developed language center allows for the mastery of a native language as well as foreign languages. Source: PBS.org
  1. Music is a trip! Because Musikgarten incorporates curricula, lessons and songs from other countries, children will learn about other cultures. Musikgarten won’t just open their minds; it’ll open up their worlds! With our uniquely global approach, children become curious about other cultures and may be inspired to follow an educational or career path that takes them to new and exciting places.

You know music matters, now you can help parents understand why music – and Musikgarten – are so much more important that they realize!