Thursday, 10 October 2013

ECME october

Readings on Diverse Musical Childhoods


Following from the thread of the previous blog about the music of Kenyan children, this entry hopes to further the discussion on diversity and inclusion in children's musical education.


If we are truly invested in the music and music education of children, then we need to first understand the multiple contexts with which the musical lives of children emerge. Without a grounded understanding of children's musical ways, of how they explore, engage and create in their musical worlds, music educators would lose the connection and find it challenging to develop pedagogies and practices that would make sense and actively engage children they teach, particularly in this globalized age where the attunement to change should be high on any educator's radar.  The detailed study and reflection on children and their musical lives from various contexts would thus provide music educators with possible glimpses in coming to terms with implications for current music education practice, making it relevant and meaningful to the sonic surrounds that envelops the 21st century child.


Two recent publications come to mind, "The Oxford Handbook of Children's Musical Cultures" (Campbell and Wiggins (Eds.), 2013) and "Musical Childhoods of Asia and the Pacific" (Lum and Whiteman (Eds.), 2012). Both books brought together a series of writers from the fields of ethnomusicology, folklore, education and developmental psychology, to bring to bear a diverse range of rich narratives on children's musical experiences and engagements. These narratives served to continually challenge and question currently held views about how music should be taught and facilitated, and to constantly remind educators of the diverse range and magnitude of musical styles and structures children from around the world prefer and use in their everyday lives and encounters.  Earlier significant contributions to the examination of children's musical worlds include "Songs in their heads: Music and its Meaning in Children's Lives (2nd Ed)" (Campbell, 2010) and "The Musical Playground: Global tradition and Change in Children's Songs and Games" (Marsh, 2009). The growing literature in this field will help to add a critical and reflective voice in rethinking and reshaping music education practice, truly moving towards listening intently to diverse musical beginnings.




Campbell, P., & Wiggins, T. (Eds.) (2013). The Oxford handbook of children's musical cultures.

New York: Oxford University Press.


Lum, C.H., & Whiteman, P. (Eds.) (2012). Musical childhoods in Asia and the Pacific.

Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.


Campbell, P. (2010). Songs in their heads: Music and its meaning in children's lives (2nd Ed.).

New York: Oxford University Press.


Marsh, K. (2009). The musical playground: Global tradition and change in children's songs and games.

New York: Oxford University Press.





Contributed by


Chee-Hoo Lum

Assistant Professor

Visual & Performing Arts

National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore



Saturday, 21 September 2013

ECME september

The music of Kenyan children is as diverse as the peoples who make up the Kenyan society. What music do Kenyan children perform? Where do they perform this music?


Kenyan children attend at least 3 years of preschool education. The preschool is one of the environments where music is performed on a daily basis, for various reasons. These include the application of music to enhance learning of other areas such as language and numbers, as well as the use of music as a facilitator of social development. Notably, there is a session set apart for Music and Movement once a week. In this session, music is not just a facilitating subject, but is to be appreciated and enjoyed in its own right.


Most preschools are privately owned, or are maintained partly by the government and the local communities. Apart from those in upmarket areas of urban centres, a good number face challenges spatial challenges. A tour of most classrooms will reveal learning areas and certain corners such as 'shop'; spaces for toys such as wood blocks and other simple toys. However, there are few schools with 'music' corners. Much of the musical activities therefore take place in the playground. Music and movement programs may be described in general as a re-enacting of the traditional playground, where children learned to sing and play together before the onset of formal education.


Within the playground, children sing with movement and games. Circle singing games abound, with teachers joining in and providing support, or standing on the side lines and cheering on the children in their performances.


The music performed in the playground, especially in urban areas, is mainly indigenous Kenyan singing games translated into Kiswahili, the country's national language. Preschool teachers in urban areas prefer to teach songs in either English or Kiswahili, due to the  perceived dynamics involved in teaching multi-ethnic and even multicultural groups songs from the over 42 ethnic communities of Kenya. There are also popular songs with catchy tunes whose lyrics induce play and playful activities. One such song is the popular Jambo,  a greeting song, which is now known far beyond Kenya's borders.


For the most part, the philosophy underpinning Music and Movement performance in preschool education is that music is to be enjoyed in community, with call and response songs as the most popular. When contemporary musical styles are introduced, they also reflect the sense of community and the importance of everybody's participation.


In order to fully appreciate and celebrate the diverse musics of children's worlds, an understanding and appreciation of cultural influences on not only children but educators and families, is necessary in order to ensure that children begin their musical journeys from a point of understanding that is comfortable and familiar to them. As they grow and encounter other musical traditions, they have within themselves a rich repository of music that will enrich their lives.


Dr. Elizabeth A. Andang'o,

Music Educator and Researcher in Early Childhood Music Education,

Kenyatta University,



Thursday, 19 September 2013

ECME september 2013

Early Childhood Music Education


July 15-19, 2014 Brasilia


Theme: 'Listening to Diverse Musical Beginnings'


Venue:The Universidade de Brasilia, Departimento de Musica

Brasilia, Brazil



The July 2014 ECME Seminar will be particularly significant as the community of researchers, scholars, practitioners and students reflect on the diverse musical beginnings of young children from all the continents. New developments, especially in the field of musical beginnings at home, in school, and in communities, including the role of technology and media in children's musical beginnings, will be presented.  We will look at pedagogies of the world and share collaborative and constructive models. Creative and critical thinking, in musical beginnings and in teacher education, will be a theme within the seminar.



The ECME seminar brings together experienced and early career researchers and practitioners, who challenge, enrich and equip one another. This international forum also brings together diverse cultural perspectives on children, childhood and music education. Modes of presentation range from research papers, posters and workshops to symposia and practice papers. The sharing of songs and games from a range of cultures is also a feature of the ECME seminar. Ongoing international initiatives promise to foster meaningful collaborations among countries, regions and continents.


We hope to meet you in Brasilia and to transform our dream - music education for all children 0-8 years - into a most extraordinary reality.




Margré van Gestel

Chair Early Childhood Music Education 2012-2014 (ISME)


Thursday, 27 June 2013

ECME July 2013

ECME July 2013

At the end of a busy semester of work as an Early Childhood Music Educator in a number of settings, I find myself reflecting on the different responses to music I have encountered over the past six months.


First there is Stevie, aged 1.8 years, who attends a university Early Childhood centre , at which I am currently gathering research data. To Stevie, music means sharing in his favourite nursery songs in relaxed singing sessions every day, and having his carers regularly accompany his play and care-giving routines with snippets of song. Stevie's language is rapidly expanding into 2 and 3 word phrases, and he regularly sings short phrases of songs spontaneously as he plays.


Next there is Marco, aged 4, who recently joined the family music group I lead at an Early Intervention centre, and to whom new situations can be quite confusing and distressing. To Marco, music means playing 'go and stop' games with songs about trains and cars. Marco has limited communication and joint attention skills, but has shown great enthusiasm for singing and moving with songs about his favourite play interests. While at first he was not keen to stay in the room for more than a few minutes, as the semester ends, Marco now runs happily into the room and is beginning to sing along with us, smiling, laughing and matching pitch perfectly.


Then there is Kerin, a pre-service early childhood student, who thanked me effusively for my lecture on music, disability and young children. To Kerin, music means new inspiration to develop her skills and knowledge in singing to use in her future desired career as a play therapist.


Next there is Jeannie, also a pre-service teacher education student, who attended my tutorials in a compulsory Creative Arts curriculum subject this semester. To Jeannie, music means occasionally dragging her fingers and gaze away from her smart phone to join in with a song, showing awkwardness and uncertainty as a singer.  Jeannie and her peers attend 3 tutorials each for music, drama and visual arts – hardly time to develop any deep understandings or skills about the art forms, let alone any confidence as music makers.


And finally there is Diane, parent of a child with Autism and convenor of a playgroup for children with a disability and their families, who attended an Early Intervention conference music workshop I presented. To Diane, music means inviting me to come and sing at her playgroup, to help the adults there, who lack confidence in singing, to learn some new songs to sing with their children.


For Stevie and Marco, music is a joyful part of their lives. They happily and confidently participate in playful songs, and in their own ways are gradually developing their skills as musicians. For Kerin and Diane, music is something that they see has value for children, but they lack the confidence to lead children in singing and musical play. For Jeannie, confidence is also the issue, but whether or not she sees the value of sharing music with young children is not evident.


How is it, that in Australia, and I would guess in many other parts of the world as well, we begin life as enthusiastic and confident music makers, but by the time we reach adulthood many of us have not developed the musical skills we were born with, and have lost the confidence to try? The answer would seem to lie in the provision of music education, by well-trained educators, in both prior-to-school and school settings. Music (and the other creative arts) should be as integral to the curriculum as literacy and numeracy, at every stage of education.


In the Early Intervention music group I run, I work with an early childhood educator who grew up in Hungary, and had a Kodaly-based music education throughout her schooling. It is such a joy to work with someone who loves to sing, sings beautifully, and understands both the aesthetic and developmental value of songs and singing for young children. She is an inspirational example of the power of universal music education.


I am sometimes downhearted about the value of the work my creative arts colleagues and I are doing with pre-service teachers. However every time I share in songs and musical play with young children, I am encouraged by their love of music to keep on advocating for music education.


Dr Amanda Niland

Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University


Pathways Early Childhood Intervention


Commissioner ECME 2010-2016



Margré van Gestel

Chair Early Childhood Music Education 2012-2014 (ISME)
Voorzitter Stichting Muziek op Schoot
Secretaris Gehrels Muziekeducatie


Sunday, 21 April 2013

ECME April 2013

Chloe was new to our preschool music class; the other 3-and 4-year-olds had participated in toddler music classes in previous semesters. She came into the room a bit shy and hesitant, not knowing what to expect. "We have a new friend," I exclaimed to the six other children. After 15 minutes or so of free-play with instruments, we gathered up the simple percussion instruments; Chloe rushed to be helpful, too, as she brought me two of the small rainbow drums from the floor. Gathering in the singing circle, we sang our "hello song." Chloe commented, "I don't know that song."

The following week, Chloe brought a collection of stickers that she had received after having visited the dentist. She had asked for extras so she could share them with her music buddies. She explained to the children that they could pick any sticker they would like. "Now it's your turn, Patricia!" she exclaimed as she enthusiastically invited me to choose a sticker, too.

When it came time to "sweep" as we danced to The Broom Man song, Chloe asked for a pink scarf, which would function as a pretend broom. As she looked around, she noticed that three other girls as well as I also had a pink scarf. Chloe suggested, "How 'bout everyone who has a pink scarf is best friends forever?"

Chloe likes to bring things from home to share with her new music learning community. This week she brought a photo: "Here's a picture of me at my very first birthday party!"

Last week, Chloe came to music class without her home-made sculpture. (We are creating our own City Square engaging in 1) vocal play as vendors, shoppers, street cleaners; 2) movement as we embody possible statues and bring them to life; and 3) instrument-play as we create the cacophony of city sounds.) "I couldn't get it done because I had to go to court; my dad was being mean and yelling really loud. He was poking me in the chest and saying, 'you got a problem?' I was afraid and so was Grammy."

After our free-play with instruments, the children gathered around the singing circle. Chloe made her way next to me and leaned into my arm. She knew all the words to the "hello song" now and had found a safe place to make music with friends.

The above scenarios depict a variety of teachable moments offered to me by Chloe. Each child brings diverse cultural experiences to the music learning environment that offer insight to unique personal and musical needs. In these vignettes, Chloe reveals her emotional poverty, her need to belong, and her effort to make friends. The early childhood music classroom seems to provide that relational context from which Chloe can draw to fulfill her needs. Attentive to her strengths and capabilities AND the power of collective music-making, I can scaffold Chloe's learning and provide the time and space she needs to find not only the place to be, but the person(s) with whom to be to make music together.

The ECME Seminars provide a rich forum to share ideas, to experience diverse musical expression, and to cultivate treasured friendships. Our next conference in Brazilia (2014) promises to create a unique counterpoint of musical expression from a polyphony of voices across cultures and contexts as we explore the many venues in which young children make music together and the multiple functions that music provides them. I hope to see you there!


                                     Patricia A. St. John, Ed. D., Commissioner 2012-2018

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Listening to diverse musical beginnings

Listening to Diverse Musical Beginnings.


A nursery school offers a stimulating environment with all kinds of toys. Most of the toys have beautiful colors and they are safe and, above all, easy to clean.

Another place in the world where children are playing together: Using materials they found in the neighborhood: some wooden sticks, some stones and a self made ball.


When we read this we instantly create a "picture" using our own "backpack" of knowledge and experiences. Most of the time we instantly have "an opinion" about the pictures we created in our mind.


All over the world young children experiment with objects, voices and sounds. In some people's opinion this is just "producing a lot of noise".  Other people support this form of sound exploration and tell: "This is a way for children to explore themselves and to learn."

And above all, we, as music teachers/practitioners and/or researchers also have an opinion about the best way we, as adults, can support these young children in their (musical) learning and development…………… Time to share ideas and communicate!!


We would like to listen, in a respectful way, to the diverse musical beginnings of young children 0-8 world wide during the ECME seminar in July 14-18, 2014 in Brasilia.  Participants, coming from all over the world, have rather different ideas and experiences regarding music education, depending on their cultural background and educational level. This makes an ECME seminar a wonderful experience and we are sure you will make a lot of new friends!


ECME desires to promote music in the lives of all young children 0-8 years and we would like to provide an international forum for the exchange of ideas. At the seminar in Corfu in 2012 special interest groups were formed and we would like you to take part in the discussion.

Interested in: Pre- Postnatal, Parent-child music classes, Educating nursery teachers to work with music and young children or Intergenerational experiences?  Contact the ECME commission!


Margré van Gestel

Chair Early Childhood Music Education commission 2012-2014