Music was a big part of my childhood. My parents would put records on (remember those?) and I’d dance with my Dad, perched on his toes as he spun me around. They enthusiastically encouraged my attempts at the recorder and violin, despite the tuneless racket emerging from my bedroom. Today, however, children are much more visually stimulated, with a multitude of gadgets and dedicated children’s television channels at their disposal. Many children are now growing up with no opportunity for playful music making, and that’s where Music Together can help.
Founded 25 years ago, Music Together classes provide children, from six months to four and a half, with a rich musical experience, encouraging them to develop their skills and consequently helping them to become future music makers.
Astrid Myriam Adams moved to Qatar 18 months ago and now runs Music Together in Doha. She stresses the importance of music in a child’s life. ‘What we impart through the programme is a love of music, more than learning the technicalities of it,’ she tells me. ‘In this way, children have a direct learning musical experience, a journey. It’s about learning how to love music, and be comfortable with music, from an early age.’
Astrid explains that her passion for music stems from her childhood. ‘I discovered my love of singing at an early age, as there was always singing in our house. My mother was so happy when she was singing; she would never clean the house without singing at the same time! I’m thankful that my parents imparted this very simple love of music and expressing yourself.’
Originally from Switzerland, Astrid speaks French, English, conversational Spanish, German and Arabic, which is useful given the mix of nationalities in Doha. She explains why her classes are already proving popular. ‘There aren’t many activities for young children here, so I’m pleased to offer something that’s needed, and I’ve been amazed at the response.’
One of the things that make Music Together stand out from other music classes is the ability to attend as a family. ‘This programme is different from others as we have mixed age classes,’ says Astrid.
‘At Music Together we emphasise family music. Parents can bring both of their children, and they really appreciate that.’
Astrid stresses that grown up participation is also important. ‘We focus on having fun together as a family. The first sound that the child hears is their mother’s heartbeat, the first voice is their mother’s – so in the classes I tell parents to sing too, as their child will notice their voice the most, not mine – the most important voice in the world to your child is yours.’
The Music Together curriculum includes a mix of original and traditional songs. Astrid is enthusiastic as she discusses the mixture. ‘There’s such a rich variety; I actually call it a ‘musical buffet’!’ she says. It’s also a continual learning experience, as you don’t leave the music behind when you leave. ‘Each term, families take home two CDs – one for home and one for the car, plus an illustrated songbook. In addition, new families receive a parent guide DVD and booklet on making music at home,’ explains Astrid. Plus, there’s no chance of children getting bored with the songs, as each term there’s a new series.
This programme is not just about teaching children to develop a lifelong love of music though. ‘Movement is very important too’, says Astrid. ‘Children like to move so there is always an action to a song, as well as a beat. We teach rhythm and tonal competence, we tap and move, so the child is internalising their musical experience. Even with babies we tap on their legs and backs as we sing, so the baby feels it, he sees it and he hears it. This ensures that all the senses are engaged.’
We all know how transitional expat life can be. You settle your child into a class then suddenly it’s time to move on. The advantage of Music Together is that it’s taught in 40 countries across the world, so the likelihood is there will be another course at your next destination. Even better, you can pick up right where you left off. ‘If someone leaves they don’t have to worry, they could arrive in China at exactly the same place in the programme. It’s synchronised across the world,’ explains Astrid. Inspired by Astrid’s passion for music I’m off to dig out my old recorder, I bet you I can still play London’s Burning!
Contact Astrid Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.musictogetherinmotion.com for details of classes and prices.