We have some seriously clever people in our Musical Adventures community, I love learning about all the families in our classes! Jen and her little boy have been coming to our classes for over a year, and it’s been a joy to get to know them.
As a kid, Jen learned violin through the Suzuki educational approach. She was keen to provide that great experience for her little one too, so our Suzuki baby/toddler classes were a perfect fit. She is now a Psychologist and Professional Violinist, in addition to her full-time job as parent (how does she juggle all that? I have no idea!). She has kindly taken the time to write about their experiences in our classes, and I tell you, someone was chopping a lot of onions when I was reading her words.
It’s often overwhelming making decisions around how we parent, and which of the bevy of rewarding activities we choose for our young children to explore. I’ve felt this as a mum and also seen it being a psychologist working with children and parents. The flipside of our diverse modern world with all its advice and its choices is that it’s incredibly confusing and there’s that constant sense that we might not be making the best choices (even though this is frankly a bit ridiculous!). We’re just so spoilt for choice.
While some children certainly display strong preferences for and skills in particular activities, there are certain environments that are particularly rich for all children. While I freely acknowledge to being a bit biased as a working musician myself, the benefits of music for kids’ social, emotional, and cognitive development are really clear: music is one of the best things we can introduce to young minds to nurture them. And I’ve never met a kid (or adult) who doesn’t love music. Learning music helps kids develop literacy, numeracy, social skills, emotional expression, fine and gross motor skills, and playing an instrument uses more parts of the brain than any other activity!
I was a ‘Suzuki kid’ growing up, learning the violin with a fantastic Suzuki teacher from three years of age. The Suzuki method has a philosophy of teaching music in the same way that we learn our native language – by ear – and it incorporates so many skills in addition to the obvious ones of learning to listen and play an instrument. Particularly in a group setting (and ensembles/group activities are a key part of Suzuki training), the Suzuki method helps to develop social skills such as reciprocity, respect, confidence, and discipline; in fact, its founder, Shin’ichi Suzuki, aimed to nurture not only a love of music, but also a deep sense of community, and a ‘beautiful heart’. It is an approach to learning music that develops the whole child and consciously avoids ‘aptitude’ or assessment.
I took my 12-month-old along to the Musical Adventures ‘Pioneers’ class slightly sheepishly at first, despite my love of music. It was recommended by a childcare worker friend, and while the rational part of my brain knew that my toddler loved music, and that learning about music is something that I want him to experience in life, I still felt like I was being a bit of a ‘ballet mum’. I found myself feeling the need to explain to others that it wasn’t because I was trying to push my toddler towards becoming a precocious, talented musician! But as soon as we entered the room for our first Pioneers class, my toddler’s broad grin on meeting Sophie and her warm smile, his utter delight in the activities, and his excitement about the sounds that he could explore through the beautiful percussion instruments, were all bursting forth and reinforcing what a special opportunity this would be. Nearly a year later and Musical Adventures has become such a valuable and loved part of our week. I’ve been incredibly impressed and inspired by Sophie’s classes, which are wonderfully creative, comprehensively thought-out, fun, and enriching. Sophie has a very special capacity to engage children with a mixture of wonder, respect, and effervescent warmth, and she takes time to develop a deep understanding and attention to every child. She knows their loves and their strengths, and she notices and encourages the social and emotional skills of each individual child while simultaneously being able to engage the group and get them excited about music. Sophie doesn’t patronise the children, and offers the opportunity for every child to contribute in a way that they wish, whether it be through active participation in playing instruments, singing and dancing, listening and responding to a diverse range of wonderful music and performers, teaching the children and adults about different musical ideas, and encouraging each other within the class.
The Musical Adventures classes really are one of the most rewarding, fun, beneficial activities for children, and I feel incredibly lucky that their classes have become part of our lives. With the onset of COVID-19 in the past couple of months, I was initially grieving the loss of the rich relationships and activities that my toddler has as part of his weekly life. Sophie and her team’s quick transition to Zoom classes has allowed us to maintain such a valuable sense of connection, routine, and creativity while we navigate this strange, physically isolated time. It’s a little beacon of warmth each Saturday and a reminder of what we can celebrate when we can all come together again in person.
Thank you Sophie! – Jen