Philosophy of the Young Children's Division

"Musical consciousness is the result of physical experience," wrote the revolutionary music educator, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze.  Since children learn by doing, the classes in the Young Children's Division (YCD) develop natural musical instincts through joyful participation.  In YCD classes, children listen to vocal and instrumental music of all kinds, learn to analyze what they hear, and have the opportunity to make their own music.  They also experience the essential physical equation of time, space, and energy (the basis for all music), through rhythmic and creative movement.  In YCD classes children develop the ability to absorb, process and react to music, an ability that musicians of all levels must have.  As they become more sophisticated aurally and physically, they learn to instantaneously take in musical stimuli, analyze it, and respond accurately to it, in a continuous cycle.  By learning to do this, your child becomes more musical. They also prepare their ears and bodies to play instruments.

Children naturally understand the basic language of music expressed through pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, and phrasing, when they have experienced these elements physically. Children should internalize these concepts before they begin playing an instrument, but most do not. Once a child has learned to "appreciate rhythm and distinguish sounds," learning to play an instrument is a logical and exciting next step. Would we try to teach our children to read before they learned to talk, recognize letters, and listen to stories? Then why should we expect them to learn, in reverse order, the language of music, an activity that requires a much more complex synthesis of mental and physical coordination, than reading does?

Children already taking instrumental lessons will find that YCD classes improve their playing and enjoyment of music. There is a great disparity between what a child can understand and feel musically and what he can express on an instrument, especially in the first few years of playing when the emphasis is on technique rather than expression. The inability of a child to express her own musical ideas, even though she is taking lessons, can lead to frustration with her instrument and with music lessons in general. Often neither the parent or child or even the teacher realizes the cause of the frustration. Children feel the same thing when they first learn to read and write - their reading and writing vocabulary is small and stilted compared to their spoken vocabulary, comprehension, and ability to create a story.

In YCD classes, children apply what they learn about music creatively, even if they cannot yet do this on instruments. They derive satisfaction, pride and skill from their own musical expression through improvising on percussion instruments, and piano, through rhythm games and movement; they learn how varied and subtle that expression can be. Simple improvisation teaches children to speak the language of music themselves, just as speaking their own words teaches them grammar and syntax of their native tongue. Just as we improvise speech from the moment we learn to talk, so we should improvise music in the same way. The class emphasis on singing, ear-training, and rhythmic accuracy strengthens areas in which young instrumentalists are often the weakest.

Children will be introduced to the world of music through activities appropriate to their vocal, aural, motor and intellectual level. Each year of instruction progressively deepens a child's understanding of music and ability to express himself musically. The classes are fun and challenging. Our purpose is to develop life-long music lovers and music makers.

Quotations are from Rhythm, Music and Education, by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze.