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


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