All children are born with musical aptitude. The child’s own body is their first musical instrument. The heartbeat lays the foundation for rhythm. Babbling becomes singing, bouncing becomes dancing, patting becomes playing. The impulse to sing and move rhythmically to music is a natural part of being human.
In Frames of Mind, The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner posits that music is a unique intelligence among several intelligences, and that “all children are born with innate aptitude specifically related to musical intelligence.” Early childhood is an ideal time to strengthen musical intelligence, but it is never too late to begin.
The Young Musicians (YM) program nurtures developmental growth in a musically rich environment combining movement, listening, singing, touching (playing instruments), and play. The brain/body connection is strengthened by active music making, which leads to improved concentration skills, verbal skills, early literacy skills, and physical coordination. Music class also allows children to explore their imaginations and practice creative decision-making. Students who engage in music making develop a greater sense of self-efficacy, which supports the development of a growth mindset and resilient behaviors.
The eclectic YM curriculum is based on contemporary and evolving research and the time-tested teachings of three exceptional early childhood music pedagogues: Orff, Kodàly, and Dalcroze. While there is overlap in their theories, each emphasized different facets of the totality of music-making.
Carl Orff (1895–1982), a German composer and music educator, emphasized elemental music. His model of music-making, Orff Schulwerk, developed with his collaborator Gunild Keetman, is used by teachers worldwide. The Orff process is based upon that which comes naturally to children. In Orff Schulwerk children sing, chant, move, play, and create music. Another highlight is the “instrumentarium,” a set of xylophones based on African, Indonesian, and European instruments. As children play these beautiful sounding instruments, their aural skills expand and they develop a heightened sensitivity to tonal quality and harmony.
Zoltàn Kodàly (1882–1967), a Hungarian composer and music educator, emphasized that children’s folk songs are the most natural starting place for building a musical foundation. Solfege (Do, Re, Me, Fa, Sol, etc.) and rhythm syllables (beginning with ta and ti-ti to represent note values) are employed to develop aural skills as well as tonal and rhythmic competence.
Èmile Jacques-Dalcroze (1865–1950), a professor of music in Switzerland, believed that musicality—the expression of feeling in music—is sacrificed when musical technique is too strongly emphasized in the training of young musicians. As children move to music and express themselves through dramatic play, muscular responses throughout the body are activated, making the whole body the instrument of learning.