Find below blog from Heather Lowe who has been delivering music sessions as part of Our Future City’s Early Years Music Programme.
My time as a music practitioner for Our Future City has been very exciting and interesting. Not only has it been a time of self-reflection as a practitioner, it has really shown me what the project can do for communities. I have found it to be very diverse and challenging but it’s been interesting to see what has come out of the different circumstances. The two groups that I worked with were a very small Bilingual Families Group and a large community lead children and parent group.
Meeting with the smaller BFG group, I found it very easy to build up a relationship with the families there and it was very freeing to be able to offer a bit more diversity and child lead focus. With my larger group I found from trial and error, that repetition was key to keeping focus and building trust. I started to draw upon the languages that the families spoke at the BFG and incorporate them into the sessions. We would focus on a language and if there was a counting song we would count in that language, I tried to incorporate a different language each week.
I really loved watching how each child’s conﬁdence grew. Week by week they would be more involved and certain songs were found as favourites for each child. One child in particular progressed in these sessions, from very quiet and reserved, she became eager for music and vocalisation. I found that allowing her full access to all sounds was a great way for her to explore. She loved strumming the guitar as I played the chords, and she would hum along. From here, we played the shake and stop song. I would always ask the group to ﬁnd something to ‘shake’ and then to ‘tap’ so that they could hear and feel the difference in sounds.
Even though she didn’t grasp the playing and stopping element of the song, she is one of the ﬁrst children to really understand the difference between the sound of shaking and tapping interments. She would always pick a bell shaker when we were ‘shaking’ and then, would make sure to put these down as soon as I said about tapping. She would then pick up a beater or the mini symbols. I was really interested in this development; she really had an ear for sounds. Something she particularly enjoyed, was the movement element of the session, especially the parachute. She loved being on top of the parachute while we made ‘waves’ with her on it. Due to the small size of the group, it was so lovely to really invest that time in each child and to watch how each of them, found their enjoyment. One of the little boys in the group really grasped the sound aspect of the shaking and stopping of the instruments. When we sang about stopping, starting and then playing slowly, he ﬁrst began by just playing straight through, but the last 2 sessions he really engaged with the idea of stopping and starting and hearing the difference between silence and sound. I really like the idea of silence to emphasise different sounds.
My sessions were mainly focused on sounds and play, parents could feel that even if they didn’t want to sing, they could participate in some way as they had a focus, A ‘prop.’ These helped parents who maybe didn’t want to vocalise, feel safe and so sometimes as they were focused on the prop they would forget about being nervous and join in singing. In my ﬁnal 2 sessions one of the children started to vocalise. The ﬁrst time she joined in was the hello song, where she sang it to herself and the second was when we were singing while using the parachute. It was so exciting to hear as she pitched everything nearly perfectly and felt conﬁdent enough to do so in the room.
As a practitioner seeing a child exploring their own voice is really exciting. In my larger group, it was more difficult to see the changes until towards the end of my time with the centre. One thing that really resonated with the families was the lullaby that we sang at the end of every session. The fairy lights and fabric were used, to focus the children, and we always put the lights out and sang a lullaby. Most sessions this brought a lovely relaxed atmosphere and they just listened to someone singing for a few minutes. I made sure I sang as operatically (with care of ears) as I could so that they were exposed to a different sound. It was interesting to see how different children responded, some were really engaged and some weren’t bothered. Some children didn’t like it at all.