A Parent's Perspective

Music; the Great Remedy
By Rhonda Matson on June 29, 2012

Here is Jessica's last blog post, for the spring session.  Read on, and hear about all the musical growth taking place in their family.

Music; the Great Remedy
by Jessica Rapier

We missed a class due to sickness, so we were ever so happy to be back this past week. It is amazing the music-making and related discussion we have had since our week back involved in class. I’m not sure if I, as the parent, was more aware of it, or if the kids were more musically expressive, since having that immersion time this week (probably a little of both) but it made for a fun week!

Probably the most heartwarming, best thing that could have happened this week is a change for my two year-old son, B. He has, since a very young age, resisted my singing when attempting to “lull” him to sleep. I realize I recently wrote a post on our sweet experiences with lullabies, so let me explain.

B always has enjoyed my songs when he is awake and anything but overtired, but as soon as he reaches a certain point of sleepiness he starts yelling “No songs, no songs!!” In the past I would try switching to every song I could think of- slower vs. fast paced songs, songs with stories attached to them, old favorites, etc. but he would still refuse them, if he was very tired. I should mention that both of my children do not have the easiest time going to sleep or with sleeping in general, so I have always recognized this as simply a resistance toward sleep, vs. my singing (I hope!). It is also interesting to note that he never did this with my husband (I have my theories on this as well)! I never stopped singing lullabies to B, instead I would just sing to him when he was more awake, and when he reached his really sleepy state, we/he would just lay still and quiet. I have noticed since we started the classes this resistance hasn’t been happening as much (hence my Mother’s Day blog post). And I can happily say that as of this week he has consistently stopped resisting the lullabies altogether, for every nap and nighttime sleep! Instead of saying “no songs/no singing” when he got really tired this week, he would say in a mumbly voice with eyes closed, “No mama,don’t hmmm…” referring to humming, and the fact that he wanted to hear the words of the songs I was singing instead of switching to humming which I often do for lullabies. I feel like this is such a breakthrough!

Also as he had a little relapse of his cold later in the week, he told me during our bedtime routine, in his same little sleepy voice, “Peppermint tea and lozenges will make me get better….oh, and songs.” So sweet; one of those quotes I hope I will remember forever.

On an unrelated note, my daughter L told me in the car this week while we were all singing, “Mom, please stop interrupting me, I am trying to think of good words for my own song.

Lovely. But I am happy she has been more and more inspired to create, musically.

What about you? Has anyone experienced this with the lullabies? Does anyone have any good music-related quotes or stories to share? I would love to hear them!

Music Does
By Rhonda Matson on June 14, 2012

Quite simply, this makes me smile!  Enjoy this second post, by Rome, dad to two wonderful children in SCMT classes. 

Music Does
by Rome Rapier

One of my favorite philosophers of art is Susan Sontag. She can articulate impressive arguments for how we ought to approach the rich world of expression through the sharing of forms. Permit me to quote her but replace the word "art" with the word "music," (they are somewhat interchangeable anyway) in the following. "None of us can retrieve that innocence before all theory when [music] knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work of [music] what it said because one knew what it did."

This is where Sontag and I now part ways. After the class I attended with the kids, they came home singing a new song with the purity and joy that only comes from that innocence found in children. They did not need to justify their dancing and sometimes awkward movements, nor did they need to explain what the music said to their souls. It was quite obvious. At times the music flowed so freely from them it gave me a glimpse into some unknown time where music originated from children first. What I am trying to convey is that we as adults can retrieve momentary corpuscles of that innocence before all theory when music is just music in its raw and "delightsome", nay, edifying form. This is what music from little children does. I am learning this is what a program like Music Together® does. But we cannot be idle as parents; we must seek out opportunities to create the environment in our homes. Make our homes musical temples free, from the interpretations of the outside world. I would like to submit that the best way to begin this process is to try to retrieve some of that innocence from our children and then allow ourselves to drift away on that clarifying raft. As I have written before, we must let mean egotism vanish.

As my children have continued this week with songs and movements throughout our busy day, I am reminded of what music can do if we let it.

The Power of the Lullaby
By Rhonda Matson on May 29, 2012

I LOVE this post!  The opportunity for bonding, decompressing, and reconnecting is ripe during the before bed time.  Read on to see it through Jessica's eyes. 

The Power of the Lullaby
by Jessica Rapier

Mother’s Day was incredibly sweet for me this year; mostly because of the time I shared with my two little ones in the evening. I sang them to sleep as I usually do, but for some reason that night they were incredibly relaxed and attentive as I sang, “The Water Is Wide,” one of the songs we are singing in our classes. I thought about the lyrics, seemingly simple to an adult but probably quite magical to a 2 or 4 year-old being lulled to sleep. I thought, and talked to them quietly about the things they were imagining related to the song - everything from flying, to being a bird, to rowing a boat on this great body of water. Then I told them how I was grateful we were singing this song in our classes, because it reminded me very much of being 11 years old (the age I was when I learned this song), and they were tickled by this.

My kids and I shared some very special conversations that night that centered around this lullaby. Susan Hoffman, a Music Together writer/editor wrote an article on the power of the lullaby in which she explains how lullabies can act as a relaxing mechanism for both parent and child, and promote bonding. In this article she discusses infant-directed singing, and cites research which suggests that infants are sensitive to the emotional undertones present in infant-directed singing. The lullaby is a kind of "synchronization device," which coordinates emotion between parent and child. As parents I know we have very much experienced this sort of emotional bonding while we sing to the kids, as they lay in their beds at the end of the day. I have often wondered why we tend to share more with each other during this time of night; this explanation and research makes so much sense to me.

But as I said before, this particular night and lullaby, and the conversations that followed were especially lovely because of this song, and the way we have learned to “play” with it in our classes and at home. Not only do my children have their own experiences to relate to it, but I do as well from my own childhood! As we continue with the classes I am excited to start a collection of lullabies that they can choose from each night that I know will be very personal and meaningful to them for years to come.

Can we talk... about music?
By Rhonda Matson on May 22, 2012

This week we take a look at a new perspective, that of Jessica's husband, Rome.  Rome attended his first South Coast Music Together class, last week.  Apparently, it made an impression on him:-).  Read on, and see what this dad has to say about his experience!  


"Talking about music, is like dancing about architecture."
by Rome Rapier

There are many things I learned from my experience at The University of Arizona School of Music ten years ago, but it is this quote by Sir Elton John that resonates whenever I recap that part of my life. It is also what I have been thinking about since I had the pleasure of attending our Music Together class last week.

It is somewhat of a phenomenon how music is so difficult to define, and yet it transcends time and space and is universally recognizable. It is within us and without us. It can move us deeply and we can be the creators of it. In fact, in the book, The Silmarillion, the gods have a war fought only with music. To these gods no other weapon is as powerful. And though we all know it, the ability to communicate about it still eludes us until we are forced to come up with words like Forte or crescendo. Sometimes it's worse and we have no other options but to use a clumsy word like “tone,” which really has endless meaning in the world of music. I remember getting a very sophisticated and expensive guitar pedal and the words written on the dials suggested you could adjust the sound to make it more "fuzzy," or give it "push," and even turn up the "stab." In the 7th grade these words were meaningless when trying to articulate the sound I wanted to get from my guitar. It is only after years of communicating in this way with others that share this "language," that I can pretend to know what I am talking about. (Truthfully, I still listen to this jargon and laugh because I constantly second-guess what I am saying).

What's my point?

Even Sir Elton John has serious doubt about our ability to communicate about music and yet last week our little Music Together group, made up of children and their caregivers from different cultural backgrounds, were able to spend a gorgeous hour making music and talking about it with some ease. This, to me, is quite a feat. No one needed training. We just needed good music presented in an engaging way that allowed us to hear and follow until we were confident to do it independently (or in some cases, maybe we wanted to stick with just hearing the music, and that was okay too). In my mind this is where young children are Vikings. They are innocent, and humble enough to take direction and also untainted by the worries of mean egotism to stop them from experiencing the music with arms wide open.

Elton John is right, music is the universal language that no one can talk about.

Many times you just don't need to.

Silly is Serious:-)
By Rhonda Matson on May 12, 2012

This session it has been wonderful to read about how the Rapier Family are embracing the Music Together philosophies, and discover how they can affect aspects of life beyond music. 

Silly is Serious! 
by Jessica Rapier

I love these words by founder/director of Music Together Kenneth Guilmartin: “Children are very serious about silly…silly drives their play, and play is their work.” So true! I often get caught up with the “business” of being a parent- meals that need to be prepared, housework which needs to be done, not to mention bills that need to be paid… the list goes on and on. But in the past few months as I have tried to focus on the very thing Mr. Guilmartin is talking about- being downright silly- I not only have more fun with my children, but I’ve been amazed at how much smoother my days with them go. I am so happy that this is now extending into our musical play at home. This week we had a great time opening up our songbook, talking about the pictures, and then listening to the songs and doing silly things. We all (myself included) could not stop giggling during these times!

I know it sounds cliché, but it’s hard to describe the joy I feel in these moments, or when I just sit back and listen to my children creating music independently. I heard my 2 year-old picking up his wooden animals and one by one singing to the tune of the “Hello Song,” “moo moo, moo moo moo moo…” This was serious. He did not stop until he got through every animal and corresponding sound. I heard he and my 4 year-old playing/singing “Can You Do What I Do” and creating unique rhythms and repeating each other pretty accurately (although of course I wouldn’t have cared if they were inaccurate). These are the moments I cherish, and for that, I will be forever grateful for the Music Together program.


Seeing is Believing
By Rhonda Matson on May 08, 2012

Sometimes we hear about all that a Music Together class offers our children, but have a hard time believing our children are REALLY getting it, until we witness it for ourselves.  Read on, and see some of the music making which Jessica observed this week! 

Seeing is Believing
By Jessica Rapier

I tend to analyze things a lot, and as a parent even more so.  I decided for this week’s post that I am not going to analyze, just note some observations that have taken place in our home in the past two weeks since starting our classes.  First, since it is fresh in my mind, as I was putting our two children to sleep tonight, ages 2 and almost 4, we discussed the fact that we would be going to music class tomorrow.  They both lit up and my son, the two year-old said, “I love my teacher but I get sad when we sing the goodbye song Mom.”  My daughter said, “Yay!  Our teacher is really pretty and I love to watch all the things she does, especially when she makes rhymes about the songbook and ten fingers and…….”  Why, oh why do they have to be so cute and talkative when it’s time to go to sleep?! 

Both of my children have loved music, singing and dancing since early on, but in the past two weeks they are singing and dancing themselves ALL THE TIME!  I think one big factor for my daughter is the fact that she is comfortable not singing a song perfectly now.  As I’ve said before, somewhere along the line she became extremely self-evaluative and "perfectionistic".  Actually, I recall noting her perfectionism as a baby.  I was a graduate student at the time, working on my degree in speech-language pathology.  I, of course, analyzed her language acquisition, and noted that she refrained from saying sounds, syllables, and words until she could articulate them clearly and perfectly.  I could see her thinking about the sounds and words she wanted to say, and forming her mouth as though she was going to speak, but then stopping herself before saying anything.  Then one day, the sounds, and later, words would come out astoundingly clear.  I am sure that part of this behavior stemmed from my over-emphasis on language, and anxiety about how early, or late, she would begin talking.  While I learned a lot as a speech-language pathologist, I know in many ways, at least when it comes to early childhood, I have learned much more from being a mother. 

Back to my daughter - since starting our South Coast Music Together classes, we have much more balance!  I still place a big emphasis on language due to my background, but I love that we are encouraged in this program to sing songs without words!  There is so much value and wisdom (not to mention supportive research) in this!  And now I can add my anecdotal evidence… I can see that my daughter is able to focus on the rhythm and tonal aspects of the music, and that she is actually grasping these concepts as we sing “Can You Do What I Do?” at the dinner table, and as she sings while playing all throughout the day.  She is strong in her language abilities, and often became frustrated before when she couldn’t perfectly combine the words she knew with a particular melody.  So once again, it is about taking a step back, changing our focus.

Okay, so I lied.  I analyzed a bit, and I have more to share about my son, and many more observations in general.  I can never tell where my mind will go as I sit down after a long, busy day to think, breathe, and write.  Sound familiar?  But hopefully I will leave you thinking about whether or not you have found a good balance between exposing your children to language and music.

Nurturing Creativity
By Rhonda Matson on April 24, 2012

See an SCMT class through the eyes of our Guest Blogger, Jessica. 

Nurturing Creativity
by Jessica Rapier

Most nights, ever since my daughter was a baby, I have sung her a sweet little lullaby, by artists Renee & Jeremy, with the lyrics, “…we are one, and that’s won-der-ful; you are you, and there’s never gonna be anyone like you…never gonna be anyone like you.” Oh how those lyrics have weighed on my mind lately. First, I have thought about how it is interesting that I have instinctually chosen to sing different lullabies to my son each night. Aren’t those motherly instincts a beautiful thing? I know only now that those are exactly the words my daughter needs to hear, and I am sure this will become even more apparent the older she gets. And second, I wonder if my actions really reflect that I believe these lyrics: are my husband and I nurturing qualities of exploration, discovery, independence, freedom, and creativity?

I am so enjoying reading the “Music Together” literature because so many of these types of questions are addressed, and the explanations are logical and really ring true for me. This week, after seeing my two children respond to our first class in different ways, and knowing this was okay, and knowing I want to let go more as a parent (refer to my last blog post), I still needed the reminder that young children have very different learning styles. I still needed the comforting words, “…some children jump right in while others prefer to observe…some are extremely active and absorb the music best while moving around the room, while others absorb it by watching carefully.” I observed all of these styles our first day of class. I watched as one baby boy became completely mesmerized by his mom and dad’s every move, and sound. I saw another toddler-aged boy who, as soon as we started singing entered his very own world of music and dance and stayed in that world for the length of the class. I saw very active children, and of course I saw my own children, who definitely preferred to observe (especially my daughter, the oldest), and desired to be held by me as I danced instead of dancing themselves.

So, to answer my question, it’s hard to know if we as parents are fostering the environment and qualities we hope for in our children. I have seen, however, how the classes are helping in a number of ways already. I saw this with my daughter this week as she more freely and confidently invented songs to sing while she played each day, acting/singing out scenarios with her dolls and animals. I saw it with my almost two year-old son, as he did the same, but also as he told me a very involved story while drifting off to sleep one night about a goblin, a dog, and a cat among other characters who made music together. I was amazed at the varying melodies and vocal tones he created for each of the characters! And for myself, this week I was excited for more experience, more knowledge gained on how to be a better parent, of course as it applies to music, but I am constantly amazed at how far reaching these lessons extend. Lastly, this week I was glad for the reminder of how children learn best: in an environment “free from expectations, from performance pressure, from undue interference with their natural sense of fun.” Rhonda provides many great models of how not to interfere with this type of learning and growth, and I hope I can carry these out at home. I think providing this type of environment is the start of the path that will help my children understand, love, and celebrate that “there will never be anyone like them.”

Letting Go
By Rhonda Matson on April 20, 2012

Welcome, to Jessica, our guest Blogger.  Jessica is taking SCMT classes, with her two children, for the first time this session, and will be sharing her family's experiences here.  Enjoy!

Letting Go
by Jessica Rapier

We are starting our “Music Together” classes tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited. I attended a trial class back in December and was blown away by what I gained from just one class. I have been anxious to learn more ever since.

After reading an article written by Rhonda recently, I contemplated the question she often asks parents, “Do you believe you are musical?” I realized it has taken me all of my 28 years to have the confidence to answer a definitive “yes” to this question (okay, maybe I’m lying a bit, I’m not sure how definitive my answer would be, but it would be yes, which is a big improvement). While of course I would answer “yes” to the same question about my children, I don’t want them to lose as many years as I did worrying, wondering the answer to that question about themselves. I have already observed this sort of self-conscious behavior in my 3 1/2 year old daughter L., believe it or not. And of course at first I blamed myself and worried, but then I decided just to change the way I/we were doing things in our home. I have spent many late nights in the past six months reading and researching the correct ways to teach music, play, and art among other skills. And what have I learned thus far? The Music Together program really says it best regarding the birth-to-preschool years: “[This is the time when they] learn about their world primarily through the magical process of play. The especially unique thing about play is that children are born experts in it. It is not necessary to teach them how to play. In fact, they use play to teach themselves the things they need to learn.” I can tell you that the simple lesson of taking the “teaching” out of the equation- sure has led to a lot more fun at our house!

Just as I began researching these things is when the stars aligned and I met Rhonda, and decided to give one of her classes a go. And that was the day that I saw my highly sensitive, self-aware, "perfectionistic" L. through different eyes; eyes that were able to see her as the independent, beautifully imperfect, free spirit that she desires to be. When her dad asked her about her experience at the class, L. replied in the dreamiest voice I had ever heard from her, “I danced and danced to pretty music.”

So that’s the place we have been at in my home; no forcing activities, no perfect end-products, just playing. Playing through dance, playing through music, playing through art, reading/storytelling, and other mediums, and making sure as a parent I am creating environments to promote these “magical” moments. And they truly can be magical, especially the more I work on my own mind-set and shift my priorities.

And that is exactly what I am excited for and eager to do tomorrow! I am ready and willing to learn more how to LET GO as a parent; ready to dance and play, and play through music, creating some more magic in the process.