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