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Music Lessons with Ms. Ruth

September 13, 2021
By Ruth Berg

What fun it was teaching your children music this week!  Their enthusiasm and excitement are such a joy, and both Tempo (my puppet co-teacher!), and I realized how much we missed being with them over the summer.

During our music time together, your children will be singing, listening and moving. Most of the songs will be taken from Dr. John Feierabend’s First Steps in Music. Dr. Feierabend believes children should be taught to be “tuneful”, “beat-full” and “artful”, and I agree! To be tuneful (on pitch) requires practice for young children, as they learn to listen to themselves and stretch their voices to produce both high and low sounds. To be “beat-full” requires keeping a steady beat in various tempos, distinguishing the beat from the rhythm of a song. Being “artful” requires interpreting music with feeling to produce “goosebump moments” that transcend description.

The First Steps in Music songs are short and very age appropriate. Their wonderful accessibility gives young singers confidence to sing boldly, preparing them for more complex songs. Individual singing is critical in learning to match pitch, and I encourage you to have your child “perform” a song for you whenever you have a moment. They should use their sweet, gentle, naturally high voices at this age; loud singing or singing in a lower voice can actually derail a child’s ability to sing on key.

Comparing and producing high/ low (tuneful), fast/ slow (beat-full) and loud/soft (artful) sounds, as well as critically listening and moving to music will fill our music time.  A “sung” book will usually end the class where children may recognize the music staff, treble clef and even music notes. But first and foremost will always be singing—a lifelong source of enjoyment and community-building.

I encourage you to make music a priority in your child’s life. Whether you have an operatic voice or can barely carry a tune, singing with your child will have rewarding and lasting consequences for both of you.  Make riding in the car a bonding time by sharing songs, listening to fine music (tune to XM 76 or FM 88.3, for great classical music). Ask your child how that music makes him/her feel. Expose him/her to the best in the musical world by enjoying family-oriented SA Symphony or Youth Orchestra concerts or attending quality band/instrumental/vocal recitals at churches/schools. (Note: you don’t have to stay for the entire performance!) Make music a fun, family, bonding activity.

Finally, I encourage you to escape the “noise pollution” that surrounds us. Enjoy moments of silence (or just the sounds of nature) with your child. You may be surprised how powerful and rewarding that can be—it certainly is vital to listening and learning and can often be a springboard for conversation and heartfelt sharing—or singing.

Thank you for allowing me to share my love of music with your child.

Keep singing,

Mrs. Ruth Berg (and Tempo)

Quote from Dr. Feierabend in his forward to First Steps in Music.

“The First Steps in Music series attempts to preserve the rich repertoire of traditional and folk literature and to enable today’s families to recall and learn songs and rhymes that have nurtured wonder and joy in young people for generations. The authentic affection, innocence, and wonder of these songs and rhymes have the potential to plant the seeds for lifelong sensitivity and imagination.”