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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Music That Brings Harmony Home

I am a fairly musical person.  My kids are varying degrees of musical.  All six of them can actually carry a tune and sing on key.  We have had some piano lessons, violin and guitar lessons.

We listen to music all the time.  Especially now that we are at about week 5 without T.V. during the week.

I heart Pandora!

I admit that I control the stations we listen to depending on my mood.  So, usually, we listen to Dean Martin, Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney or my current favorite, massage music....or as Pandora calls is Brainwave music.

When I am in a really good mood....or the kids have been extra good, I relent and we get a lot of One Direction or Taylor Swift....which I honestly don't hate...but gets on my nerves after a is just too chipper or something.

When I was growing up and attending good, old, still smells the same, Bethel Elementary, I remember music class.  I remember working on "Ta, Ta, Ti-Ti, Ta".  I remember the teacher handing out of instruments.  Shakers, sticks, stick with bumpy ends, and my personal favorite, that I rarely got....the triangle.

I remember the days when we would sit and listen to Free To Be You and Me....with Marlo Thomas.  Although I just went and read about it now and didn't realize that the basic concept encourage post-1960s gender neutrality, saluting values such as individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one's identity.


When we got the chance to review a product called Music Together, Bringing Harmony Home, I thought it would be something similar to the music classes I remembered.

But, when I got the book and started reading through it, I admit that I thought maybe I was wrong and it was one of those "yuppy" created classes for kids.  (You know, like Mommy and Me classes....which I always wondered why people went to them.....because you can be "mommy and me"....alone.... at home....for free...and not even have to get dressed.)

But, I digress.

Music has always soothed my kids.  I don't think it was just because I was always singing or playing piano when I was pregnant.  But, I think there is something deep within all of us that responds to music.

When V-girl was a little baby, the song Minnesota Gurls would stop her crying every single time.  Every time. 

(Although I wish they weren't wearing bikini tops through so much of the video)

If we had tried everything else to soothe her, or even if she was just mad at us for something, we would just go to You Tube and put that song on....then, we would watch her she would figure out what song was playing....she would quiet down....her face would lose all the frowny-ness, and she would smile.....when she was older...she would wiggle and dance a little.

It really was a magical song.  At the time, I was still so sad because of leaving Minnesota, I took comfort in the fact that she surely was feeling a real connection to Minnesota and really was a Minnesota girl.  I know.  I was depressed.

For the record,  I do say, Uffda and fry my Spam.

So, yes, I totally agree with Music Together's premise that all children are musical.

Although, it does make me think of the Duggars.  In the way they choose to follow God, they feel that dancing, and I think, any kind of modern music, aren't Biblical....or something that they partake in.

But, I remember one episode of their show where they were shopping in a thrift store and one of the little guys started playing with a musical toy.  He heard the music and danced a little bit....he couldn't seem to stop himself....much to the chagrin of his big sisters who were nearby.

I really think there is something in all of us that can't help but "dance to the music" sometimes.  I mean....just ask my kids....there are times when I can't help but "burst into dance" when certain songs come on.  Like Harry Belafonte's Jump In the Line. 

As dorky as I know I look....I can't help it....I have to jump in the line!  Somebody help me!

So, we were all sort of happy to get to review  Music Together's songbook and the CD of Family Favorites.

The 19 songs on the Family Favorite CD were a pretty eclectic mix of slow and fast....cutesy and serious.  There are songs you will have heard before, like I've Been Working on the Railroad, and songs that you haven't heard of, but you will never forget....even if you want to, like Biddy, Biddy.

I mean, they heard that song once.....and have never forgotten it.  Me either. I love steel drums. It is a cute song.  But it is easily ingrained in your skull.

Here is a glimpse of Biddy Biddy and a Music Together actual class. 

If you want to hear some of the other music on the CD, go take a listen.

Music Together has been around since 1987 and they do still hold classes around the world.  If you want to try to find one near you, take a look here.

Anyway, I read through the information in the songbook about their music, their classes and their philosophy.  It didn't just seem like yuppy mumbo jumbo anymore.

Like when they are talking about the fact that all children can achieve music competence.  They talk about the fact that, in our culture, we increasingly equate music-making with performance and believe that only the experts should engage in it publicly.

That statement makes me think of my dad singing hymns on Sunday mornings.

My dad sang loud.  He sang off key.  He freely praised the Lord with his voice.  Even when it bothered those of us sitting around him.  His response?  Certainly not to sing a little more quietly.  He would just say, "I am making a joyful "noise" to the Lord.", and sort of chuckle.

Even though he wasn't a performer.  He loved music.  It gave him joy.  One of his favorite things was to listen to his girls sing for him.  He would close his eyes and just take it in when we sang.

Which is why, as hard as it was, we girls sang at Dad's funeral.  Music was our gift to him.

Music Together also believes that music apititude is a type of intelligence.  I certainly want to believe that idea!

There is a portion of the book where it talks about Music Together's Teaching Principles.  I have mixed feelings about some of these items.  They have a section where they talk about "accept and include".  I think I understand what they are trying to convey, (Everyone in class learns that they have valid music and movement ideas...and, can let go of concerns about making "mistakes"), but it veers very close to the idea that "everyone gets a trophy" type of mentality for my total comfort.

The idea that I did agree with from this page is that the instructor, or in my case, parent,  needs something known as SQ, or Silly Quotient and needs to not be afraid to make a fool of order to get the kids to participate in the music.

I have learned this over and over again at Vacation Bible School....when I am jumping around and doing the motions and being crazy.  That is when the kids will sing and smile and do the motions too....except for the pesky tweens/teenagers....still haven't cracked their code.....except at my own house.

You can read about Music Together's  basic philosophy here

Most of their recommended activities are things that will be natural for people, lap-singing, finger play, small movement....which are basically....having your small children sit in your lap while you sing and help them with the motions, or songs that have finger movements or small movement like making waves with your hands.

We created some of our own instruments to use along with the Music Together CD. 

We used pots, pans, and wooden spoons for some really loud percussion.  But the favorite items were the rice shakers we made with Easter eggs, rice and tape. 

(I wish certain people would start wearing clothes around here!)

Although, we had a few mishaps with our rice shakers when the users would be a bit wild.

The only bad thing I will say about this CD and the music is that even though they sprinkled in quiet songs....somehow my kids were so revved up from the fast songs that they really didn't settled down and enjoy the peaceful songs.  They found a way to be wild and active during the quiet ones too.

Even though this is recommended for children up to age you can see, my big kids got in on the fun too.  Listening to the CDs brought "Harmony Home" in a different way than the creators intended.  The whole family would laugh and dance and wiggle while we listened.

(Conga line for Palo Palo)

The only song that we didn't "like"....and D-man hated....and said that he couldn't even be in the room when it was playing was, "Mississippi Cat", which is a jazz song that sounds like there should be a group of Bob Fosse dancers making themselves at home in your living room.  It is a snappy song....but in addition to spelling Mississippi repeatedly, has a lot of scat-like nonsense words that we just found really jarring.

This CD will definitely be put into our car for road trips and won't get old very quickly, like some of the other children's music CD's we have owned.  Not to mention any names, but.....Barney's Greatest Hits, The Early Years.....comes to mind.

I don't think your little ones need to attend an actual class to appreciate and learn music.  I was comfortable teaching them the songs, the motions, the actions and ways to use their "instruments" on my own.  Maybe because I already have music in my background. 

But, even if you just use this as a listening CD and don't try to "teach" them anything, it will be good to expose them to the different musical styles and cultures represented on the CD.

Music Together has won a boatload of awards.  The names didn't mean anything to me, but they might to you...go take a look. 

You can get Music Together Family Favorites CD for $14.95....even if you don't get the actual Teacher's songbook, the CD comes with a little mini-booklet that gives a bit of information about the song and suggested activities to try. 

You could also download individual songs for you can download individual tracks for $.99 each or the entire album for $9.99.  But, I would just invest the little extra money for the actual CD.

Or, you can get the CD and the songbook combo that I used, with the  activity suggestions for $39.95

Regardless of what you decide on, if you enter the code "Schoolhouse" at checkout, you will get $2.00 off.

Go and listen to what others on the TOS Crew thought of Music Together.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of the songbook and Music Together Family Favorites CD for free, in exchange for an honest review.