The education programme of the London Symphony Orchestra starts from as early as just a year old. While working with world class performers and its audience, it also works constantly with very young children who have just encountered the world, let alone the music. What is the session for the young children like? Let us take a look at the music workshop for children under five.
--- Event information---
Title: Early Years Music Workshop
Target: 1-5 years old
Session: Weekly on Monday, 10 sessions, 3 terms a year
Time:10:00-10:45 12-18 months／11:00-11:45 18months to 3 years／12:00-12:45 3-5 years
Venue: The LSO St Luke's
, Clore Room
Fee: ￡77.50 per term（10 sessions）
Artist: Vanessa King／LSO Players
Ten-week-workshop with young children and their parents
Mini xylophones, egg-shakers
One day, a small Clore Room at LSO St Luke's welcomed babies in their parent's arms. Entering the room, the babies started to crawl curiously, toddle about, or look around, holding onto their parents' hands. When 15 to 20 pairs gathered in a circle, Vanessa King, the animateur of the workshop, started to play a recorder very quietly. Then, the babies faced where the sound came from, or approached Vanessa, fascinated.
Finishing a short tune, Vanessa sang 'Wave Hallo', and the parents joined in, waving the hands of their baby on the knees. Then they patted their knees, patted the floor, clapped their hands loudly and quietly. To the same tune, she sang 'Hello ~', calling the individual names of the babies, using a doll on her hand, and the baby who was greeted answered 'Hello'.
Vanessa is in charge of the workshop throughout the ten weeks. She works as a presenter of some of the LSO's workshops and concerts for children, as well as providing workshops for schools, hospitals and children's centres using music and puppets for over 15 years, and also working as a French horn player and piano teacher. The first five weeks are led by Vanessa, and one of the LSO players joins in the last five sessions.
Talk to the children in song
'Where has the bee stopped!?'
Vanessa's workshop flows quite fluently and musically. She does not shout 'Gather together! Let's start!' or explain explicitly 'Next we are going to do ~~'; however, she eventually attracted the children's attention and led them to listen to the song and move their body along with her. She says, 'Children come from outside, which is filled with noisy sounds and voices, so it is more effective to play the recorder and focus their attention on a musical sound, rather than to raise my voice'.
After starting like this, Vanessa keeps singing throughout the session, during and between the activities. The activities are not just laid out in order, but are connected smoothly with each other. For example, the song for the activity of patting the knees provided the rhythm for the next song, 'I went to visit the Zoo one day. What did I find?', then she took out a picture book of animals. She listened to the children's answer, 'A parrot!', and took the mimicing sound that the children made into the song.
Many puppets are used for music making
Once, having the children find the Teddy Bear hidden somewhere in the room, she sang a song about a Teddy with them, 'Look at Teddy, he can turn around...', and the children turned around with Teddy. Singing 'He can jump so high', the parents lifted the children up high. She says, 'It's important to tell the story while doing the activities, rather than doing them separately. They can feel the connection between the songs and movements, and also with themselves through their imagination'. These songs were collected over 15 years of experience, changed to fit the activities, or devised from scratch.
She continues, 'By singing and telling the story, the children and parents can remember them after they go back home. It is very important that parents attend the session together. Children in their early years need attachment and communication with their parents, so doing the activities, feeling their parents touching and enjoying them together, helps them to build a relationship between them. By sharing the same experience, they can take the songs and activities home. It is one of my aims that they enjoy the activities not only here but also at home, making music a part of their daily lives'.
Children exploring the instruments (c)LSO
Becca Linton, the Community Projects Manager within LSO Discovery, told me that, 'One of the advantages of this workshop is that it is weekly. One-off sessions tend to end up with just throwing things into the children, but here we can build on things each week. Using the same basic scheme, we can develop the contents gradually. I hear from the parents that they sing the songs together at home, and I can notice that the way in which the children engage in the activities gets deeper week after week'.
In fact, when I went back to the session some weeks later, it was clear that the children's attitude towards the workshop became much more active. In the first session, the children were just following Vanessa's song and imitating the movement, but later, they sang along and told the story with her. In the song about making a snowman, when she asked the children, 'What do you make next?', they remembered the lyrics and said, 'Buttons!', and sang the song together.
Activities that cover all the areas of development
There are many other factors in this workshop that help the development of children through music. One of them is physical development. Children aged one to five year olds start to toddle, and then gradually are able to run, jump, skip, clap hands to a rhythm, and throw and catch something. Vanessa cleverly changed the physical movement of the music activity according to three age groups. In the 12 to 18 month old class, the children stamped, patted their knees, and walked around the room holding their parent's hands. In the middle class, they knelt down, stood on one foot, and ran. In the three to five year old class, they ran and skipped to the rhythm of the piano or xylophone, and stopped when the music stopped.
Lots of colorful instruments!
Mini drums in different size
Language development is also achieved. Shaking small maracas to the music, they touched their head, nose, and toes, according to the cue, and learnt the words for the parts of the body. Vanessa fitted many words and numbers into the lyrics of the songs; for example, by singing the song 'Ten Indians', they learnt to count the dolls. She said, 'Songs are sung at a slower pace than speech. By repeating the words, children learn words and speech quickly'.
In the latter half of the workshop, she brought toy boxes into the middle of the circle, and scattered lots of music toys on the floor: colourful maracas, egg-shaped shakers, mini xylophones, animal-shaped castanets, mini drums, guiros, and so on. Younger children rushed to the toys, grabbed them and tried to make sounds. Older children stared at the mountain of toys, but did not rush to it. When she told them, 'If you are wearing green, choose the instrument', the children in other coloured clothes waited for their turn. Children in this stage start to learn sharing, turn-taking, and helping to tidy up.
Then she put on some music and let them play the music instruments freely. Except for the rule: to stop playing when the music stops, start when the music starts, they can explore whatever instruments they like, by shaking, beating, dancing to the music or however they like. She said, 'Free play may look chaotic, but it is quite a valuable time. By exploring the instruments as they like, they discover how the instruments make noise, find out how they can make sounds that they like, and create their own music. It is the starting point for fostering their creativity, curiosity, satisfaction and confidence'.
Both live performance and recorded music have merit
LSO violinist: Matthew Gardner
After playing the instruments freely, Vanessa put on quiet music and lay down on the floor with the children and parents. She said, 'It is rather easy to excite children; it is far more difficult to settle them down, so I also show how to calm them down by using music. In fact, if the children are all excited at the end of the session, it would be very tough for the parents'. She used some recorded music in the first five sessions. She selected the music carefully according to the state of the child. She said, 'Of course, live music is excellent, but it is not that you cannot listen to anything else but live music. You cannot listen to live music every day. Through my demonstration, the parents learn how to use recorded music, and it will make it easier to play music at home'.
In the latter five sessions, one of the LSO players joined her. There, the children had precious experience of marching, dancing and lying down accompanied by live music. They can also access the players and instruments at close hand, by guessing the number of hidden strings on the violin, and looking at how to play the instrument. She told me that, 'When the instruments are played in front of their faces, feeling the music with all of their body, the children's reaction is clearly different. It is also so for the parents, who are too busy to listen to the music, let alone live music, during the child-rearing years. I try to have one from each instrument family. In this season, we have a violin, a flute, a bassoon, and one from the brass family. The players of the LSO are so busy that we don't know who is available until the last minute, but, because they have rich experience of outreach, it is easy to work with them. With only a brief meeting on the day, they can jump into the activities with the music, following my cue or their instinct spontaneously. It is a privilege that I can work with skilled players who also have this kind of ability'.
The attention span that children in their early years have for one activity is very limited, and the range of areas that children develop in this period is quite broad. So a 45-minute-session is dynamically composed of lots of different activities; lifting up and calming down their tension, moving their body and sitting, making and listening to the music. Even if the excellent players of the LSO come, they do not play the whole piece. What is expected there is the ability to provide the best music for the activity on the spot.
'How many strings are there?'
＊Example of the schedule of the workshop（12-18 month）
10:00 Gather in a circle: Vanessa plays the recorder
10:03 Hello song: Greeting to everyone
10:05 Picture book: Sing a song about zoo
10:08 Teddy bear: Sing and move with Teddy
10:10 Stamp, clap to the song 'London bridge is falling down'
10:15 March to the rhythm of the xylophone
10:18 'Let's make a snowman': Words and movement
10:23 Shake maracas!: Learn about body parts
10:27 Sing 'Twinkle star' with star-shaped bells
10:30 Toy box: Free play with musical instruments
10:35 Tidy up
10:38 Sing a story about animals
10:40 Stretch, lay down on the floop listening to the music
10:43 Good-bye song: Greeting to everyone
Report: Chigusa Futako