You wrote your master’s thesis on using music improvisation for the development of the self. Tell us what you found in that course of research, specifically that pertains to the life of a child between the ages of birth-seven.
Movement, song and joy are essential for the healthy development of the self. If we as children can find ease and flow in our movements, in our speech and in our singing and we can learn to do this with joy, then we have greater possibilities of becoming healthy and balanced adults. If we, as children, however, have challenges with music, singing and flowing movement then we will continue to have these challenges for our whole life. As adults we are able to work on these qualities, such as practising some eurythmy, or learning to find balance and co-ordination, however, we have to work at it continuously day and day again, month and month again.. it will never stick with us if we have not developed these senses as a child.
That is why the healthy development of the 12 senses, that Rudolf Steiner speaks of, is the core foundation upon which the pedagogy in Waldorf schools is built upon, and is of course, of high importance for homeschooling parents as well. Lectures of the 12 senses can be found on line and in many books and lectures.
Improvisation is the key to my teaching as well.. it is in everything I do and say and teach and cook and be.
It is something I have studied now for over 16 years in intensive studies through various different teachers, methods,genres and experimentation of performance etc..
I believe that musical improvisation is healing in it’s essence. As an art it is a challenge to find the listening that is required to make something true and not forced. Improvisation fosters many core values that we all search for as parents, students, teachers and striving human beings. For children musical improvisation is something that they do naturally and if they can be lead with movement and musical pedagogical games then it leads to great learning.
You have just released your first CD, which is gorgeous. Where did you find your inspiration, and what are you most proud of with what you have created?
I am most proud of bringing beautiful music that is filled with light during this time of darkness, both as a season and as a time that they earth is going through. I want to encourage mothers and fathers to sing with their children. I want to inspire everyone to believe that they can sing because singing is healing in it’s very core.
There are three main inspirations for me and for the reasons for creating this CD. I spent four formative years in Jarna, Sweden which is like a Goetheanum of the North. (For instance there are 5 waldorf schools to choose from in the area). My friend and mentor Pär Ahlbom, who I wrote my Master’s thesis on, is a founder of Solvik Skola in Sweden, whose core values for the school are building community, meeting nature and developing music and flow, where ‘what is best for the children’ always come first.
He is a master pedagogue, a musical improviser, composer and currently runs the a very interesting Education Training called Intuitive Pedagogy. I have trained with Par in these ways over the last 8 years and value his work. I have always incorporated his Swedish Pentatonic songs from his collection of songs Soltrumman in my Early Childhood music programs. When I decided to create this Early Childhood music series I wanted to honour all I have learnt from Pär Ahlbom and also share his beautiful songs with N. America. It is very easy to create simple pentatonic and children songs, but it is challenging to create beautiful ones.
The artwork on the CD is created by my dear friend Anna Gran, who continues to inspire me daily from afar. I have always respected the care, attention to detail and quality of which she mothers and creates the most nourishing and creative environment for her children. You can see from her artwork on the cover and inside the CD sleeve that she has a true sense of inner peace.
The other inspiration is of course my students and their parents and all those people who believe they can not sing. I believe that everyone can sing and wish for everyone to give themselves permission to sing sing sing.. especially with their children.
What do you see as being the most important aspect of movement and music in early childhood development?
Flow, singing, breath and meeting.
What I mean with flow is the importance of movement that is made with grace, ease and beauty. It is essential that children can move, mingle, meet and bend with others in games, eurythmy, play, music and in daily life without fear and instead with Flow.
Singing is essential for the health of a child. A well known and highly regarded Anthroposophic doctor once said to me that if a child sings freely then you can tell that she is essentially healthy. I believe this. And it is echoed here by Dr. Michaela Glockler, M.D.
Pediatrician, Dornach, Switzerland “Singing is the best form of illness prevention, the easiest bridge-builder between human beings and the most wonderful gift adults can give to their children! Singing can help generations navigate the time and space that separates them, thus weaving a bridge of love, health and joy around the world!”
Breath is a key function in all of this, it is at the core isn’t? This is why there is so much flute playing in the lower grades and singing, it is because of the breath and breathing. To bring the child into their bodies and themselves, to bring a peace within.
Meeting is also essential and it is the very core in our school of music Lila Music Centre – joythroughmusic.
It is through meeting others that we meet ourselves.
I have learnt endless games from the Intuitive Pedagogy training that emphasize the meeting of the children. In this day and age, many children are not meeting each other face to face, but as we know, through social media etc..( I don’t need to go into that!). When there is a lack of meeting the ‘other’ then the child acts out and seeks to find this kind of meeting in perhaps more serious and potentially harmful ways. The child and human, need to develop a safe way of meeting one another instead of having fear. If there is fear then the child seeks to find other ways of expressing this meeting..( I hope this is clear ). If there are games that they children can meet again and again another child through play, then they can discover an inner peace, strength in the self , balance and more more.
(By the way Pär Ahlbom is coming to N.America this summer to teach at both Spring Valley and Rudolf Steiner College I believe! I may also have him come up to Ducan to give a workshop here if he has time.)
In a world of auditory disorders, how can we use music to soothe the soul of a child, rather than stimulate it?
One of the greatest and easiest ways that we can soothe the soul of a child is to sing, play the lyre or glockenspiels to a child as they are falling asleep. This can be a very special evening ceremony or ending of a day, a true daily rhythm that the child can begin to trust in and helps to ease into sleep. Music can help with transitions during the day, to begin and close the meals, to clean up the toys, to wash hands, it is all part of the magic and a simple and harmonious way to soothe a child.
Children deserve to hear beautiful music with real instruments and real people who create it. Essential for the young child is to EXPERIENCE music. They don’t need to master an instrument or memorize the staff. ( Some do and that can be great also – you will know what is best for your child and it is always best not to be radical and dogmatic!!!) However, most children before they are 7 years old are satisfied and nourished with experiencing beautiful music.
The CD Winter and the others in the series that is to come, has the goal of providing music that can be played in the home and car and the children will learn the songs and begin to sing them on their own,. However, perhaps more important and exciting would be if the parents and teachers learnt the songs, verses or stories and then shared them with their children…in whichever way it comes out, without the attachment of perfect.
There is no need for it to be perfect!
The CD is a tool for the adults to learn material and still I also wanted to offer something that is age appropriate, nourishing, beautiful, rhythmical and inspirational while listening to it.
You have done extensive training in Anthroposophy, can you give our readers a sense of what that term means, and how it plays a role in the development of the child?
Anthroposophy literally means the wisdom of the human being.
Rudolf Steiner’s understanding of the human being is what Waldorf Education is based upon. His lectures and written material is extensive and covers vast subjects from agriculture, architecture, nutrition, colour, festivals, spiritual knowledge and education to name a few.
At the core of his work is a spiritual understanding of the health of the human being. I have been most interested in his work with the 12 senses and how we can use music and movement to foster health and joy in the growing child. With this understanding I lay a foundation of my music teaching, parenting and social contribution to the world.
What role do you believe music should play in a child’s daily rhythm?
I believe that we can all include music in some way in the daily life and that we do not need to be a musician to this.
It does not have to be a lot to be meaningful. It can begin with singing at meals to begin and close the sharing of the meal.
Singing can be an easy and effective way to transition between play and clean up, brushing teeth and sleep. Music can accompany the child to sleep and this is soothing and helpful to bring the child to a restful space before bed time.
I believe that the young child should not be forced into playing music, but that it can be an experience with ease and joy. Often the child in my Parent & Child classes that never sings during the class, is the one I hear about singing the most at home and repeating word for word, note for note every gesture and mood.
I believe in the quality of instruments that sound beautiful to the ear, even when a child plays them, especially when a child plays them. Of course, I also believe in teaching a child to respect all instruments and the voice and not to yell when singing or bang on pianos for example.
We can all learn to be gentle and music is a great way to learn so many important values.
How can a parent begin the journey of musical exploration with their child?
Sing a song, skip through the forest, play co-ordination games with your hands, feet and jumping.
If you do want to purchase an instrument, please buy a quality instrument that is real and not a child pretend one, that will break and doesn’t have a beautiful sound. The child needs to hear beauty and quality to be able to have the instrument and music be nourishing and have a lasting healthy effect.
Look into Gaia tone Instruments made by my husband Massimo Pintus. He was a student and now a collegue of both Par Ahlboms and Manfred Bleffert and creates hand forged and tuned – iron, copper and bronze instruments that are priceless and age appropriate for children, classrooms, educational institutions, music healing, performance and more. Choroi Flutes made in Sweden where designed by Pär Ahlbom and can be purchased by Mercurious. Choroi makes a wonderful one hole flute, that is ideal for the young child learning to play the flute, simple and beautiful, and yet, still encourages care and respect towards an instrument, that should be dried inbetween use and oiled every so often. Manfred Bleffert’s instruments are used extensively in schools, hospitals, care homes, by music therapists and artists across the world.
A fun and inspiring home based project for music learning and discovery of tones – is to find different sizes of slate, or flat rocks that ‘ sing’ when they are hit with another rock. Ideally you will find a slender ‘ hitting/sounding’ stick like rock for the music making. Get some long rope and place it on the floor in a rectangle shape.Place the rocks on top of it and it you wish, place them occordingly to how they sound with the lower to higher sounds in a row. You have now created your very own rock golckenspiel. This is also possible with woods, drift woods at the beach – let your imagination be creative and enjoy exploring sound creation with your children.
How can music classes, like the ones that you teach, enhance a child’s musical experience?
The child is like a sponge, they drink in all that is around them. In the music classes I want the children to feel safety, experience beauty and joy and give them the gift of song. I also want them to experience rhythm, the sense of well being, balance, and self. I want them to discover the ease of playing instruments that are made to produce beautiful tones.
I never expect the children to ‘perform’, but invite them along in the ‘play’ of the class.
We always begin and end in the same way, so that they child feels safe even with the introduction of new seasonal songs and verses.
The joy of being with other parents and children is uplifting. Often parents come who believe they are bringing their children to a music class for the child. And actually it is often the parent who discovers that they can sing with new awareness and be musical without the fear of making a wrong note When they are with their children at home they realize they were coming to the music classes for the whole family.
They also learn how to tell stories and make puppet shows, they learn rhythm and how to play the flute. They learn that repeating the same songs each year is something that the children are at ease with and helps them to feel safe in this busy world. They actually Need this repitition of songs and seasons to help them feel held and safe.
What makes a young child so well suited to the gifts of music?
Children come from the heavens, a place of mystery and spirit. It takes time for children to fully come to earth and be incarnated in their bodies.
It is said that the music of the spheres, the cosmic music, the music of the past and of the heavens is a music that we don’t hear on earth anymore. It is said that the pentatonic scale, of which much of the Waldorf Early Childhood Educational music is based on, the mood of the 5th, is a simplified version of this ancient music and a modern way of interpreting this ancient sound. Many of the songs on the CD Winter are in this mood of the 5th.
That is why in Waldorf schools they wait to introduce the Major and Minor scales, the diatonic recorder and harmony only in grade 3. There are other reasons as well, as the child in grade 3 is most likely 8 years and has just past their first 7 years, and is going through a kind of tug-of -war in the soul. This introduction to the minor/major music reflects their inner soul state.
What are some of your favorite songs for young children?
Improvisation singing is healthy, fun, and the best way of connection through music with your child… try it.. try to get past the ‘ silly child’ idea of music and actually create living music with your child.
Begin with tones.. vowels.. E, A, O, U.. then add some consonants..v, k, jz, ng,.. have fun.. try to sing long notes.. short notes.. overlapping..made of languages….don’t give up.. try again another time…. give your children and yourself permission to sing a song even if you forget the words.. or the tune.. sing what you know then make it up.. or better yet.. make them up from the start!!..
Once children feel safe to sing, then they will sing all day long…. and bring a warmth to the home with their whole being.
What advice would you give to parents who are beginning a musical journey with their children?
Listen to the child, not to their words so much, as to their essence, try to see what they need and what would give them pleasure, instead of from an outside pressure to perform.
Experience music with them and play, play play.. hop, skip, clap, jump, create and discover. Many of the ‘old fashion’ games encourage children to move with songs and rhythm ( just think about the games you played as a child) – try to encourage these. When you do introduce a child to an instrument be mindful that the teacher is imbuing the instruction with joy. Then the young child then imitate this quality.
Have fun and remember to improvise and have enjoy what you are doing.