We firmly believe children can benefit from music education in countless ways as music helps them develop important traits and attributes such as confidence and self-esteem, concentration and attention, memory, self-discipline and respect, social skills, sensitivity, perseverance at task, listening and observation, coordination, positive attitude to learning, and enjoyment of music that will last throughout their lives. In the long term, these skills are necessary for future academic and non-academic success.
Little E has attended Medley Music School for about 6 months by now. Her first class was held on 14 February 2015 (she was 17 mo then), when J and I brought her for a trial class back then. We had been informed by Little E’s Sparkanauts teachers that Little E is musically-inclined, even at such a tender age. A few weeks after, when different unrelated friends of ours also commented on that, along with our own keen observations, we decided to bring her for a trial class at Medley Music School. Little E was given a position in the school’s Medley Toddlers class, which was created using the Suzuki Method, specially catered to very young children from 6 mo to 2.5 yo.
The Medley Toddlers class is a very age-appropriate class, that draws on the Suzuki method to deliver a range of musical and social concepts. Little E and her classmates get to play a wide variety of percussion instruments, through solo, duet and ensemble playing. The teachers use songs, spoken speech patterns and movement throughout the engaging 1-hr class.
Examples of instruments include lollipop drum, glockenspiel, xylophone, stirring drum, chyme bar, step chyme, rain maker, ribbon bells, tambourine, etc. among many others.
During the gross motor segments, shakers, scarves, feather boas, rainbow streamers, etc. are used to attract the toddlers’ attention, while they twirl and dance to the music.
The Suzuki method was developed by Dr Shinichi Suzuki, a Japanese violinist and teacher, whose primary goal was not just about music but character building. The Suzuki philosophy seeks to help unfold a child’s natural potential to learn, and through the study of music, develops the child and nurture his/her character such that he/she becomes a sensitive and happy person.
“If a musician wants to become a finer artist, he must first become a finer person; Character first, then ability; Beautiful tone, beautiful heart. ” – Shinichi Suzuki
The class always starts off with ball rolling to develop their dexterity, as well as their sensitivity to others in the room. This is followed by developing their social skills through the Medley greeting song, where the toddlers go around the room, shaking each other’s hands while singing a good morning song.
We really love how Medley’s classes using the Suzuki Method emphasise on creating a calm, quiet and positive class setting to facilitate a conducive environment for the children. As a parent, I observed that our toddlers can settle down quickly to hone their observation and listening skills without any unnecessary adult pressure or intervention. With time, I see that the many activities do help the children develop patience, sharing and gracious acceptance.
That was Little E playing the xylophone, with her teacher trusting her to play it by herself using her right hand. Although it is not within Little E’s developmental capacity to achieve synchronising her both hands yet, I could see how she has improved over time.
Little E is one of the few in her class who has got the beat and rhythm in her. She is always attentive and focused while playing music, even though it is just simple beats! This video was taken when she was 20 mo.
This is Little E’s latest video showing her finesse in beats (she was 22+ mo). She caught up with the beat and knew exactly when to stop. All thanks to the teacher trusting her to do it all by herself! They were singing 一只青蛙 🐸
Unknown to most adults, skills such as musical sensitivity and keen auditory skills are fostered and developed in a child through consistent musical activities such as nursery rhymes, spoken speech patterns, action songs, finger play, circle songs and story-telling. Besides musical skills such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, they also pick up non-musical skills such as numbers skills and counting, language and literacy, size and direction, vocabulary, social skills like taking turns and sharing, and motor skills like finger independence. So Medley’s Suzuki classes are definitely more than just song and dance.
In the above picture, through observation and imitation, Little E quickly understood when to lift her hands up when the teacher played the high tone on the glockenspiel, much to the delight of both her teachers.
Medley’s classes using the Suzuki method believe that all children are fast learners and they pick up habits and skills even faster when they have someone to model against, e.g. a parent or older sibling. Hence, young children in Medley toddlers Suzuki program will model after older children and pick up more sophisticated skills while the older children tend to be settled by the presence of younger babies, and they enjoy being ‘the expert’, which is important in their development of self-esteem and patience. Ultimately, the children’s observation skills and learning of patterns will accelerate since their listening skills have been sharpened since they started young.
Dr Suzuki believed that any child could become musical, with the right environment, education and effort. Moreover, he saw it as a birth-right of every child to grow up with music in their hearts.
Besides taking turns in playing different instruments, the toddlers are also engaged in musical activities that develop gross and fine motor skills, memory, vocalisation, their ability to take direction, anticipation, ensemble skills, and rhythm. The above picture shows the Parent Involvement segment where parents take turns to call out an action to be copied by the toddlers. That was Little E shouting “Hurray”! after one of the parents contributed the action. She was the only one who followed!
For learning to be developmentally appropriate, it has to be joyful and loving. It is so important to set our children up for success, and we ought to celebrate their achievements, small steps along the way. This encourages them to want to repeat new skills and become motivated internally to love learning and keep learning!
Well, not all weeks are the same! In fact, songs are seldom repeated in two consecutive weeks. New songs and new instruments are frequently introduced to the toddlers, making sure that there is no room for boredom!
While we understand these toddlers are too young to pick up instrument learning, needless to say appreciate playing them, we are very thankful that the teachers still introduce different string instruments occasionally and letting the children have a go in trying some of them.
While other children displayed little interest in the big brother Cello, because of its low pitch (children are drawn to higher pitches), Little E was completely fascinated by it. Look at how delighted she was after playing it!
Towards the end of each class, the children get together for an ensemble, be it playing percussion instruments to a rhythm, or having fun with the rainbow parachute as a concerted team. It was delightful to watch them simply enjoy!
Little E was the only one fully focused on her teacher, playing the drum as instructed, while the other children in her group had lost interest or were distracted away…
At the end of the class, a box of board books will be placed in the centre of the classroom, for the toddlers to pick their books.
They were left to explore the colourful pages by themselves, or with their parents…
And this is followed by the teacher choosing at least 2 books for the last session i.e. Storytime! As these are usually musical or rhythm books, the teachers proceed to sing out the stories to the toddlers.
Little E has always enjoyed the storytelling session by her beloved teacher Sher Lyn. We certainly find the Medley Toddlers program to be a good foundational training for future instrumental learning and lessons using the Suzuki Method. Today is our last day of Term 2, but we are not stopping! We will continue attending Medley Music School when the new term reopens!
Medley Music School
SAFRA Toa Payoh, 293 Toa Payoh Lorong 6, #02-02, Singapore 319387
Tel: 6353 4881