Find below blog from Fernando Machado who has been delivering music sessions as part of Our Future City’s Early Years Music Programme.
Making music with families has become a big part of my life. For the last 10 years, I have been developing sessions that are accessible to parents with young children from all paths of life. I love watching the development of a musical family and discover what songs and movements spark interest in each individual in the room. One simple musical moment can bring families together, help shy parents to meet new people and children to ﬂourish creativity and social skills.
Last year (2018) I was very happy to join the new team of Early Years practitioners for Our Future City in Brighton. I was invited to lead sessions for bilingual families. Being a bilingual person myself, with a bilingual family, I was very excited about this assignment.
The group I am leading meets at Tarner Children’s Centre in centre Brighton. It is normally a very busy group with numbers usually ﬂoating around 40 families per session. Some aspects of the sessions can be described as “general” workshop routine, but this number already changes everything. Also, the fact that we normally have around 25 languages in a session can be considered unusual.
So, over the last few months, I started noticing what kind of impact my sessions were having on participants and what I could learn from it in terms of using music even more as a connection tool to improve my practice.
The ﬁrst thing that comes to me is to think about the music session itself as a thing, a moment in the week to make music together with a large group of people. It is clear that lots of the families don’t have any musical routine at home. Sometimes they might like music and some of them are actual amateur musicians but they don’t seem to connect music to their lives as parents. So I guess the fact that they come to a music session with their children is already a big deal for them and a great change in their routine.
The second point I would like to make is that although I think that parents’ musical interaction with their kids is the main aim for my sessions, the interactions between parents have become part of my mission. I encourage these encounters and have experienced great progress in interactions between parents that wouldn’t have met each other if it wasn’t for the sessions. I believe that their kids’ interest for music makes them relax with each other and start conversations with people they don’t know.
When it comes to challenging moments in the session, I would say that movement with music is one at the top amongst the activities I propose. I can encourage parents to sing along simple songs, respond to some “call and response” tunes but I ﬁnd them a bit more reluctant when I mention anything about getting up and dancing/moving with their kids. After a few sessions, It is very clear that parents start having a physical interaction with their children. They probably have never even thought about different ways of interaction and it is great to notice when a coin drops at a session and you see the children taking the lead on what could be an extravagant move for the grown up.
One interesting fact of bilingual and multinational groups like this one is that they don’t have childhood songs in common. For that reason, I tend to use mainly world music from different countries in my sessions. The songs help me ﬁnd different approaches of interaction: for songs with simple words, I ask everyone to join the singing and/or do some dancing to help remember the words; for songs with more words I try getting the participants doing some actions or some rhythm with their bodies and teach them parts of the song (i.e chorus). Sometimes I sing a famous song that most of the group can join in and help the others (i.e Three Little Birds by Bob Marley). So instead of using usual nursery rhymes or children’s songs, I end up surprising everyone with fresh songs from different parts of the world embodying the connecting philosophy of the session.