Music has been a part of our humanity since we first started banging sticks on rocks and grunting in time to the beat. There is even some evidence that musical development in humans preceded that of language development. It is my personal belief that all children are musical and consequently, all people have the potential to be musical.  Studies show that, with enough exposure to music-making experiences at a young age, children can achieve Basic Music Competence (being able to sing in tune and clap to beat by the age of 3 or 4). We are all born with a certain amount of musical potential but whether we achieve this potential depends less on our genetics and more on our interaction with music making.

These days, in most of the communities around Canada, we tend to listen to a lot of music in our homes but we don’t tend to make a lot of music there.  Music making doesn’t have to mean a performance. It can mean, taking those songs you sing in the shower into the living room instead or getting out the pots and pans and making a kitchen band!  Musical development in children is a lot like language development. We need more than passive listening to the language we are learning. We need to interact directly with that language and play around with the sounds and babble and get immersed in the soup of its grammar and structure. Imagine if we didn’t talk to our children or expose them to any interactive conversation until they were 5 or 6 but only played wonderful recordings of people with trained talking voices and exposed them to voices from other cultures etc. Well, we wouldn’t be surprised that they didn’t talk very well when they got to be 5 or 6. We probably wouldn’t be surprised if their language was still a bit delayed when they were adults! In reality, we begin talking to them right when they come out of the womb or sometimes while they are still in the womb. Musical ability is one part potential but in order for that potential to blossom and for us to become musical, we need musical interaction.

For children under 5 years of age, their parents are their best musical models. Whether you believe you have musical ability or not, the good news is you can never teach a child to sing out of tune! If you sing to your child, you can only give them a disposition towards loving singing. It’s true! Just as children born into families where the parents have an accent or lisp do not grow up to have that same accent or lisp, children who are exposed on regular basis to parents singing off key will not grow up to sing out of tune. They’ll simply grow up singing!

Music Together provides a safe, fun environment where everyone can feel comfortable participating in music making. This gives each child a rich, informal learning environment to soak up this language called music. At this age, children learn through play and that is what we do at Music Together. We play with music and through our play we achieve competence. At Music Together, you will join a community of music makers and be given the knowledge, ideas and confidence to bring music making into your home. – New classes starting at the West Vancouver Community Centre in the Fall of 2009. Call 604-921-2100 to register for our Free Demo class on May 7th.

Katherine Deane, director and teacher of West Side Music Together, has been a teacher of drama, music, and dance and a favorite nanny to children of all ages for the past 14 years.  Her formal music education includes classical studies in piano, voice, and music theory, and she is currently pursuing a degree in Music Therapy. She has completed her Music Together® training and is a registered Music Together teacher.