Wednesdays With Wendy - Music Together with Music and Me

Music Together® at Home, once a Goal, now the Starting Line!
By Wendy DeAngelis on October 21, 2020

Imagine a time before smart phones, computers, itunes, television, radio, air planes, cars, and even electricity!  There was much to take care of, but free time looked very different.

There were families with voices, and bodies, and musical instruments. Music making in the home was a major pastime. People would harmonize, play instruments for each other, with each other, and of course there was the lullaby. Where there was music, there has always been learning.

Fast forward to 2003, when I became a Music Together Center Director, my goal was to bring early childhood music and movement education to as many famiies as possible, apprenticie new teachers, and be true to the philosophy and training of Music Together. Our classes were always high energy, highly interactive, filled with joy, song, laughter, and of course movement.  The greatest compliment was when a parent didn't realize that I used a lesson plan. It was so much fun, that the experience for many grown-ups and definitly the children, was that of spontanious play.  That was the environment we created, because that is how children learn best. I can assure you that every single element of our classes was based in years of research, practice, concept and response evaluation, and play.

OUR GOAL: was always to have the families in our classes bring the music back their homes.  We could model and suggest using the songs throughout the day, but with so many other demands, and so many other things to do, could there be room for spontanious music making at home? Would families actually sing in their living room, during bath time, diaper changes, while building blocks, while cooking in their kitchen, or jumping on their beds?

HERE WE ARE TODAY: Our classes ARE STILL high energy, highly interactive, filled with joy, song, laughter, and of course movement.  Via ZOOM I see the fun, the experience for many grown-ups and definitly the children, is still that of spontanious play.  This is the environment we still create, because this is still how children learn best. I can assure you that every single element of Music Together Online class is based on years of research and months of continued examination of what is working best and how we can keep engaging your family and children in learning and growth. I celebrate what we are all able to do together.

SO...in short, I never imagined that we would have this much time to practice and enjoy making Music Together Online at home, BUT I can say that you are definitely each ROCK STARS when it comes to creating musical experiences at HOME with your children, pets, and multi-generations of family! Until we hug again in person, it is an honor to be able to do so at the end of every class. Thank you. ~Wendy

Your Child Will Likely Ask: What Did We Do In 2020?
By Wendy DeAngelis on October 14, 2020

We are living through a time that will  be written about in History for decades to come. Your children will likely ask, what did we do? What was it like?

I remember asking my parents if they remember where they were and how they felt when specific historical events took place. What was life like for them during wars that had great impact on societies and especially the brave military and families where communities have come together, to work together in every way possible for the greater good? Both of my parents were born in America, but my Grandparents and many Aunts and Uncles were immigrants who travelled to America and entered their new Country through Ellis Island.  What was that like? 

In my lifetime a sample of what stands out is: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights, Watergate, AIDS, 9/11, the Recession, and now THIS.  All of THIS. Regardless of anyones politics, there is alot of THIS in 2020!

So when your children ask you, "What did we do in 2020 during the Covid-19 Global Pandemic and all THIS?", you will be able to tell them that you looked into each other's eyes, and made sure to spend some time singing, playing, and dancing.  We connected with other families using computers and a thing called Zoom! We wore masks ouside, and always found ways to keep growing, and learning, and laughing. You changed from a tiny baby, to a toddler, and preschooler before our very eyes.  You found your inner drummer!  It was singing together that gave us the joy and strength to do all the other things we had to do in new and different ways.  ...And you my child, gave us all hope and reason to do the absolute best we could to make things better for everyone!

I know that you will be able to say that, because I am fortunate enough to be both a witness to this music making, and an instigator.

It is with extraordinary gratitude that I thank you for choosing to welcome us into your homes with joy and music at these extraordinary times. I thank Nini, Dulce, Adrienne, Alexandra, Joy, and Ginny, each instigators with their unique talents. As small businesses continue to close, we are able to be here because you have joined us.  Thank you. ~Wendy

Is Grown-up "performance anxiety" FOR my child a thing?
By Wendy DeAngelis on October 07, 2020

I must confess that when our daughter was the ONLY 14-16  months old child sitting outside the circle play area of our Mommy and Me class, I did ask the teacher what she thought was going on.  I had not yet begun my initial Music Together training and was a first time Mom, with only the other kids in class with whom to compare. She wisely assured me that our daughter was an observer, and was choosing to sit on the step for an overview of all that was going on. Looking back I can light heartedly say that I had performance anxiety about my child's type of participation in class. I had performance anxiety about my child's performance. After all these years, it feels good to confess!

At the time, I did not understand that observing is an active part of early childhood development. Today, with so much documentation about visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners, along with 17+ years with over 10,000 families, it is easy for me to recognize different learning styles and assure families that their participation with music will truly support all learning.  These years also provide invaluable insight into the type of learner your child is. 

I also fell into the trap of comparing my child's behavior to others.  There is a WIDE RANGE OF NORMAL! In terms of musical behaviors, to those enrolled in our classes, please take a look at your Red four page handout: Growing and Learning with Music Together®. You will see the range of musical behaviors to look for and see how what you are doing in class supports and builds upon those behaviors.

So to answer my own question, Is Grown-up "performance anxiety" FOR my child a thing? Yes, it was for me at that moment, and I am so grateful to the teacher who pointed out that I was witnessing the power of early childhood observation as part of their learning style.  I encourage you to ask yourself the same question, take a deep breath, refrain from moving your child's arms for them if they are able to clap, and enjoy the time making musicwith your child. 

Of course, if you have any concerns or questions about your child, I encourage you to contact your Pediatrician. Thank you. ~Wendy

 

Lullaby's are for Grownups and Children!
By Wendy DeAngelis on September 30, 2020

It is Wednesday and I am cranky, tired, and overwhelmed with what is going on in this world.  Usually, I know what I want to discuss and all I could think of is - what it must feel like for an infant, baby, toddler or preschooler to be held, and sung to by their beloved Grown-up.  

The gentle power of the lullaby.  Dr, Lili Levinowitz, co-writer of Music Together with Kenneth G. Guilmartin, has said that bringing back the lullaby to families has always been her guiding force.

Most Grown-ups know two or three lullabys: Rockabye Baby (with gruesome lyrics, I recommend singing  -"...and I will catch you, cradle and all"), a cultural specific lullaby sung to you by someone you loved, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  

If you are a Music Together family, you learn at least 2 new lullabys every semester and learn how to make any song you love to be a lullaby, by slowing down the tempo.Slowing down the tempo, slows down breathing, heart rate, and calms down the nervous system.  Grown-ups, I encourage you to enjoy the lullaby youself.  Let it sink into your own body as you sing with your child.  

Many of you are now working from home, juggling childcare, work, online learning, inperson learning, without a moment of personal time.  

Take a few deep breaths, sing yourself a lullaby, and see what happens. I'd love to hear about your experience.

I plan on taking my own advice. Thank you. ~Wendy

Early Childhood Musical Development = My Child does _______!
By Wendy DeAngelis on September 23, 2020

Good Morning! Today is Wednesday and I begin with a heartfelt THANK YOU to every family who welcomes us into their homes via zoom for Music Together with Music and Me classes. You see, for me, and I know Nini, Dulce, Adrienne, Joy, and Alexandra agree, we take the curriculum of MUSICAL PLAY very seriously.  Yes, the Bongos song collection is based in INFORMAL music and movement education because that is developmentally appropriate, and it is also very DELIBERATE! Deliberately fun, deliberately based on the modelling and engagement of primary caregivers, encourages free movement, and literally helps build pathways in your child's brain on which information may then travel.  

I see it in your child's eyes, I see it in their movements, I hear it in their voices. 

You see it too! So, what to look for? What is a musical behaviour?  Look at how their bodies move to the music, listen for when they sing the resting tone. Play with them musically throughout your day.

Your child's rhythmic development and tonal development, are uniquely their own.  You, are actively nurturing that development towards - basic music competence, the ability to sing in tune with accurate rhythm, every time you make music with them.  I encourage you to read chapter 3, Music and Your Child, A Guide for Parents and Caregivers by Kenneth K. Guilmartin and Lili M. Levinowitz, Ph.D. You already have this book if you have been taking our classes.

Today, after class, a Mom stayed on Zoom to talk to Dulce and me about how their child started to match the slower rhythm of the lullaby in class with their gentler sway side to side, while holding their shakers.  Brava to Mom for noticing and recognizing that that is a major milestone in the shift of rhythmic development that happens separately from tonal development.  It is thrilling to behold.  It is organic. Your child initially is stimulated and excited by music which is the the time you may first notice their characteristic gesture. Do they bounce, move their arms, bop their head, kick their legs, shake their torso? Rhythmic development will then reveal itself  as your child moves more in time to the music for part of the song, or are able to feel the tempo and slow down or speed up. That is the beginning of feeling rhythm.  During class notice all the different ways we help you support your child's rhythmic development through your actions!

What is your child's characteristic gesture? Thank you. ~Wendy

Wednesdays are busier than I thought and Grandparents!
By Wendy DeAngelis on September 17, 2020

Hello Everybody!  So here I am on Thursday, writing my Wednesdays with Wendy Blog and what does that say about me? Wednesdays are busier than I thought and yet I am determined to keep this to Wednesday.  Why? Well, my grandparents, rest their souls, only spoke Yiddish. I have some vivid memories of their home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn-not VA. I was 7 yrs old when they both passed away.  My grandmother would call me Vendsday, as her "W's" sounded like "V's", and she had learned the day of the week Wednesday...well sort of.  So my Bubbie lovingly called me Vendsday.  This is why I am determined to keep this Blog-Wednesday with Wendy, as I smile to myself thinking Vendsday mit Vendsday.  Hey, if I called it what I was thinking I could write it any day.

So, what does this have to do with Music Together with Music and Me?  We create memories while making music.  A rich tapestry of music.  My memories of my grandparents involve the sound of my grandfather, my Zayde praying, or davening which is very rhythmic and the smell of my grandmother's cooking.  Today, in one of our Zoom classes it was beautiful to see a grandmother dancing in the kitchen with her 4 yr old grandson.  So today, I honour the grandparents and the grandchildren who are blessed to have them near and be able to sing, dance and play with them, in the blanket of sheer love and joy! Thank You. ~Wendy

"Together, Wherever We Go" by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim
By Wendy DeAngelis on September 09, 2020

I don't remember how old I was when I was first introduced to the brilliant musical, "GYPSY", by the great Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim. It must have been the movie version, because Natalie Wood and Rosalind Russell are still the first faces I see in my mind's eye as Louise and Mama Rose.  My next fond memories surround a Summer Stock production where I got to play the role of Louise, and years later when my daughter, a 2020 Theater Performance Graduate of Wagner College, played the role of Tessie Tura at her beloved Summer Camp, USDAN. Next favorite memory seeing Patti Lapone and Laura Benanti on Broadway in the most recent revival. I highly recommend exploring as many versions of "Gypsy" as possible!

So why am I thinking about this song "Together, Wherever We Go", from one of the greatest musicals of all time, that is based on the real life story of a stripper?...And what does that have to do with Music Together, an internationally beloved early childhood music and movement program?

Well... I was talking to a Music Together Mom earlier today about different ways to participate in class with an infant and a nursery/preschooler.  I was blessed with one child, so I never experienced first hand as a parent the joys and demands of multiple children.  As a center diretor and teacher, I have witnessed thousands of parents and caregivers do their best to address the needs and desires of their multiple children as they sang while smiling, laughing, dancing, playing, and laughing and crying at the same time. Children, for the most part unintentionally, manage to grab onto parts of your body, inhibit movement, while climbing on us without the understanding that us grown-ups have bones and limits in range of motion. YOU are theirs and only theirs. In my humble opinion, being that for a child is to be cherished time.

If you as a parent/caregiver have ever tried to go to the restroom, shower, or even stand up, you may now be starting to see the song: "Together, Wherever We Go" in a whole new light.  I hope you are smiling with recognition!

So what is one to do during class, possibly pulled in many different directions? Well first keep singing whenever possible as that will help your child know that this is indeed family music making time.  If you have an infant hold them close so that they feel the rhythm through your body, or place them in your lap as you sit across from your older child, focusing on interacting with them.  You and your older child can make music WITH the baby, or make MUSIC for the baby.  The focus is on the activity of family music making.  Since you are currently in your own space at home, it is not only OK, but encouraged to use everything possible to make music.  Yes, your voice and bodies are your first instrument, and then reach out for the instruments/home items your teacher suggests, and any of your child's favorite toys.  Children's "work" is play, many grown-ups listen to music while they "work", if your child loves to draw, or build, or dance, or daydream and imagine during class, let them, they are always processing and doing the "work" of play.  Your job is to keep singing and have fun! Thank you. ~Wendy

What Day Is It? - A Game enjoyed by Nini and Wendy
By Wendy DeAngelis on September 06, 2020

What Day Is It?  I am writing Wednesday's with Wendy today which is Sunday.  Finding my rhythm as a new blogger while acknowledging a newfound way to interject humour every time Nini and I joke on Zoom, reflects the subject of this weeks post.  Despite class schedules, we laugh reminding each other of what day of the week it is. I treasure the laughter we share. I treasure the ability we have had to truly keep our community of music makers thriving through the Music Together song collections of Maracas, Kazoo, and now Bongos. Thank you for trusting us that your time with us will be valuable, will still be Music Together, and for your awesome family participation that is guided through the window of your screens.

Pre-Covid 19, and further back for me, pre-Feb. 26, 2016 the date of a car accident that changed my daily life, I was juggling many hats as they say.  I knew what day of the week it was based on what was on my calendar. Days had routines, rituals, tasks, driving routes, lunch dates, gatherings, and significant life events to gather, memorialise, mourn, and yes celebrate.

So without all those touch stones, anchors, that used to be my life and all of our lives, how the heck are we supposed to know the answer to WHAT DAY IS IT?  

The good news is that for those with musical bouncing babies, dancing toddlers, creative preschoolers, and drumming Rhythm Kids, we do what we do for them to thrive.  Guess what? The answer to: What Day Is It?, is irrelevant because we do it every day, 24 hrs a day.  Every parent knows this.  It isn't about the day, but about what we do with our precious time. Time is also for rest, and recharging when possible.  I hope that experiencing music with your child/ren serves as a recharging of your heart and soul.  To focus on your amazing children in play and allowing yourself to play in that moment.

Time does not feel the same for me, it hasn't since 2016, and yet I know that time remains my greatest gift from G-d. I open my eyes each day in deep gratitude. Yes, I get sidetracked by world events. All I will say is please exercise your right to vote!

I have refrained from any political discussion in my business since opening in 2003.  What can be more pure than every single family coming together through music to support their child/rens growth?  Music heals the world and brings the world together. Music Learning Supports All Learning®!

What we do everyday, regardless of "What Day Is It?", is sing together in support of every child. Thank you for sharing your children with us, thank you for showing up, thank you to those that were able to meet with Nini and I on Thurs. to pick up your materials. My husband enjoyed meeting you all as Nini and I delighted in getting to talk with you outside, (albeit socially distanced and masked), and say hello to your children, even if they were in the midst of a peaceful nap. Thank you. ~Wendy

Music Relaxes Grown-ups and Children
By Wendy DeAngelis on August 26, 2020

Good Wednesday to You All! I am blessed with one child who is now a young adult, so my experience is that of raising one child at one time. I love and adore our daughter, and relished at every stage of raising a strong willed, curious, human who loved to learn and had questions and often answers about EVERYTHING!  

I remember other parents explaining that two children increased efforts ten fold, not double.  It has also been said that one child takes up 100% of your time,  two children take up 100% of your time, three children take 100% of your time, and you see the pattern. Pre-motherhood I could time getting out the door down to the minute.  As a mother of an infant, getting out the door first took three hours.

As a new Mommy, I remember wanting to make sure I was doing everything right! I didn't want to make a mistake, and yet as a Mommy I always explained to our daughter that mistakes were OK. Mistakes are how we learn.  

Imagine, as a parent instead of LOOKING for what we may be doing wrong, we focus on what we are doing right! What are we doing that is nurturing, loving, supportive, nourishing, fun, essential, sustaining? What am I modelling for my child that will serve them well?  What am I doing right? 

Congratulations on showing up for your child/ren, regardless of being sleep deprived, or having piles of unfolded laundry, or work piling up, or a myriad of factors specific to your life.  Congratulations for showing up.  

In short, I encourage every parent to be gentle with yourselves, and use the music we provide in class and for your continued use of song throughout your day.  Breathe for yourself during the lullaby as well. Breathe deep, stretch and sing, laugh with your child and have fun.  Have fun and let us lead for you during class so you can BE.  Brava and Bravo to You! Thank you. ~Wendy

Why blog now, why today?
By Wendy DeAngelis on August 19, 2020

Well, today teacher Adrienne was subbing for teacher Joy's 8:30 AM Music Together Online mixed ages class via Zoom.  

When one of our Dads joined the class with his toddler daughter and said: 

" You remember Adrienne, she was your teacher when we used to go places."

The enormity of that perfect, succinct, age appropriate statement for his beloved little girl, resonated like a trumpets blare throughout my being.

In that moment, when that awesome Dad struck that chord in me, I realized that it may resonate for you too.

We have all been so busy getting through this time, that this may be the perfect time to take a minute, and reflect on how you are doing today.

Being my first post, I guess this works with me going first.

I am filled with gratitude that we have been able to switch to Music Together Online, to all of the families who have made this transition with all of us, and to Nini, Dulce, Adrienne, Joy, Alexandra, and Ginny who too, were determined to keep our Community of Music Makers - Making Music! There have been times of great joy, seeing you and your children together, singing, dancing, making hearts, waving, and blowing kisses at the end of each class.  

I truly can not imagine what the world would be like if all the music stopped. I am grateful for food, clothing and shelter, for my family, friends, clergy, and hope that each of you have a support system that you are able to reach out to and that reaches out to you.  

There have also been days, hours, minutes, and moments when I have been terrified about this world, about the future, about the young, the old, and all people around the globe. 

Those of us with children in our daily lives, or who have children we love dearly, are extremely fortunate to have that grounding focus. We may be exhausted and yet for me, children are the greatest motivation to keep making this world a better place, while giving them all the music, stimuli, and love that they need to thrive. Thank you. ~Wendy