Today's topic focuses on my side job on Saturday mornings. I'm sure I'm not the only teacher who works outside of school to make ends meet, but I may be one of the only ones who looks forward to that extra job every week, without fail. Every Saturday, I teach two classes (10 AM and 11 AM) of Music Together, a research-backed, early childhood, parent-child music class.
Music Together was founded by Kenneth Guilmartin and Dr. Lili Levinowitz and introduced to the public in 1987. Now the program is taught internationally and, to quote from the website, "connects families and communities across the globe as they express and explore our basic human instinct for making music" (Music Together website).
Music Together centers offer the classic Parent-Child classes, but over the years they have also rolled out specific Babies classes (for 9 months or younger) and Big Kids classes (for kids past the infant-5 year old age group that Parent-Child classes cater to).
I was first introduced to Music Together in the fall of 2011, when I took the teacher training course at the beautiful Music Together Headquarters in Hopewell, NJ. Soon after, I approached Sarah Orfe, director of the Princeton Lab School, where all new Music Together programs were first piloted, and asked if there were any openings for jobs. Sarah and I ended up becoming good friends, and not only did I end up apprenticing at and working for the Lab school, I also did clerical work there and at headquarters. In short, I fell in love with this program and the people who were promoting it.
Music Together teachers are an eclectic group of creative persons who range from trained music teachers, to parents of past Music Together children, to people who are just looking for a job to inspire them. We are all different, and that's what makes us so unique.
The music written for each Music Together collection is heavily based on research into traditional songs in many different cultures. Each collection is named after an instrument: Bongos, Bells, Triangle, Fiddle, Drum, Tambourine, Flute, Sticks, and Maracas. In addition, each of the 3 Summer collections are compilations of the other 9. So parents can go through an entire 3 years of classes with their child and have new songs every time! My favorite experience with the collections is when I meet a parent who went through the program with their older child who comes back with a second and gets SO excited when they recognize the songs they sang years ago.
Each Music Together class always includes: the same Hello and Goodbye song (consistent throughout each collection), small and large movement, two different instruments, a free dance, an instrument play along, and a lullaby. And here's the kicker: Music Together aims to involve the adults who are most important in a child's life in their musical education. Sure, the kids experience the classes, and we cater to them as well, but we only see them once a week! The parents go home with them- they get a CD and a songbook and WE WANT THEM TO USE THOSE AT HOME!! That is the most important takeaway from Music Together- we want the parents to be invested in the music as well, so we also offer small tidbits of Parent Education during every class.
As I move into my third year of teaching Music Together, I now get the privilege of repeating the collections I taught years ago, and I am still excited about the program that I teach! I love having my kids and parents come back to my classes from semester to semester and I feel a special connection to these families, because I get to share in the cultivation of their collective musical education.
I now teach at Music Together Alexandria- just one of the countless Music Togehter centers in the US. I was so lucky to be hired by it's founder, Ruthanne Lodato, in the Spring of 2013. This job has been a constant source of joy in my life, even when I wake up on Saturdays feeling wrecked from my week- my Music Together parents and kids never fail to revitalize my weekend in those two hours of teaching.
I was also incredibly lucky to call Ruthanne my mentor and friend for the year that I was able to work with her. Sadly, we lost Ruthanne last February to a random shooting at her home in Alexandria. Truly a tragic loss for not only her family and friends, but the Alexandria, VA community and the Music Together community as a whole. She dedicated her life to music and touched so many lives. We are so lucky that her family has decided to continue her legacy by keeping Music Together Alexandria up and running since her death.
Ruthanne connected me with my fellow teachers, Cindy, Melissa, Kelly, and Kymberley. Together with Ruthanne's husband and daughters, we have kept Music Together Alexandria alive and I hope that it is all that she would have wanted it to be.
If you have young children and you are not enrolled in Music Together classes, please consider checking us out! You can always take a free demo class if you are unsure about bringing your child to classes. I would love to see you there! Make music a part of your family life- it will have a life-long impact on not only your child's life, but your own as well.