music curriculum for children
Chamber Music Series for Children
by Alison Maerker Garner
Violettes by Becky, a Gifts for Musicians company, enjoys giving you an introduction to Ms. Garner. Ms. Garner has arranged a series of Chamber Music Books for children, which she writes about in this article. Purchase her books and CDs at: http://garnerstudio2.com/publications.
Chamber playing encompasses the whole musician. It demands of its players technical precision, sensory and empathetic response, and improvisational skill that gives breath to the ebb and flow of a communal work of art. No other musical performance medium quite does that and, as it is in my mind, the epitome of musical excellence. As an educator and as a musician, I aim to attain these qualities to the best of my ability, and guide my students to do the same, for the sake of the art. Musical Minds grew out of this passion after years of performing as a soloist, orchestral violinist, and chamber musician; teaching; writing; and research in child development, aesthetics, and cognitive science…particularly the work on mirror neurons and their role in learning. How to teach the aesthetic sense? Anyone can learn technique, but to perform from the head and the heart is a rarer find.
Musical Minds is a curriculum for children ages 2 through 18 that presents and practices music
concepts through sensory perception, empathetic response, and cognitive functioning as applied to chamber performance. Young children are introduced to musical elements through sensory experience such as language, visual art, texture, song, and movement, providing a necessary context through which to understand and eventually articulate abstract musical ideas. Such experience lays the foundation for audiation, a term coined from Edwin Gordon that describes the complex ability to hear from within oneself rather than through the external environment. Sensory experience also prepares the way for empathy and responding to others in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
As children develop themselves on a chosen instrument privately, these building blocks of musicianship are integrated into a musical setting first, through rhythmic and melodic patterns and later, through folk and classical repertoire. These aesthetic responses include imitation, transposition, improvisation, composition, arranging, and ultimately, chamber performance. Intermediate and advanced instrumentalists learn critical listening skills and how to analyze a score, ways to practice individually and within a group, and perform works stylistically and musically appropriate to the composer’s intentions.
I firmly believe music can cleanse the soul, renew the spirit, and heal the body. Musical Minds provides a way a child can achieve musical excellence and a higher state of being through his/her own individual journey.
We hope you enjoy learning about this music curriculum for children. If you purchase it, please tell us how you like it! And let us know if you are a teacher involved in music education or a parent. Please send comments to RMChaffee@comcast.net.
"Musical Minds" Series -New Music Curriculum for Children
Both my children had the good fortune of having Suzuki lessons from the very fine musician and teacher, Alison Maerker Garner. Ms. Garner is involved in so much more than teaching Suzuki students. She has taught Music and Movement using Orff, Dalcroze and Kodaly methods in addition to producing fine violin recordings available on CD’s. She is currently publishing a Chamber Music Series music curriculum for children titled “Musical Minds”. "The volumes develop audiation through symbol, art, language, and movement applied to performance". They include music activities for kids starting with preschool themes on up to older advanced musicians.
Interview with Alison Maerker Garner
1. Violettes: You were a child prodigy in music with the luck to be educated by William Starr, Founder of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, amongst others. You travelled internationally with his Suzuki group at age 6 and played twice for Mr. Suzuki himself! What stands out in your memory in those years? Link to Alison's Bio.
Alison: The closeness between parents, teachers, and students. We were truly a family. As an only child, my early Suzuki experiences were critical to my social and emotional development. Being part of a community dedicated to nurturing the talent of every child provided a sound foundation for me from which to grow. That is the original vision Suzuki had…nourishing the child spiritually and emotionally through music talent education.
2. Violettes: You didn’t speak until age 8, similar to several other prodigies such as Mozart. Were your parents in terror over your lack of verbal skills, or did they understand just how much must have been developing in your head at that time? How did they discover your musical gift? Does this childhood scenario contribute to your interest in children’s musical development?
Alison: Truthfully, I was never a prodigy. I showed great interest in dance, art, and music from an early age, and immersed myself in all three since I can remember. Neither of my parents were musicians---my father was a nuclear physicist and my mother a bio-physicist---so my passion for the arts mystified them. I began violin and dance at four primarily because my parents felt I needed the discipline, but also because I demonstrated a love for them.
My parents did worry about my unwillingness to speak English. I talked fluently at two and three, but in my own language. My mother understood it, so why speak anything else? Once I started school a couple years later (around 5 and 6), I had to speak to be understood and rapidly did so. I don’t think my slowness in acquiring language was a sign of intelligence. It was more likely I was obstinate and a bit lazy. My mother did march me to a doctor or two over the course of several years thinking I might be stupid, but they all felt I would talk when I wanted to, and that’s exactly what happened.
My interest in music education comes from my own experience as a musical child and my training. The Suzuki Method developed my ear and skill for music, but it didn’t develop my mind. I believe we are innately musical, but express that ability in vastly different ways. For example, note-reading was barely touched on when I was coming through the program, so I felt I was way behind in theory, orchestra, and chamber music skills. What I realized later, is that I had such a highly developed ear for music that the other skills came easily. It was simply a matter of putting a label to a concept I was already intimately familiar with. I want my students to have the opportunity to explore their musical gifts in many ways early on, such as performance, improvisation, composition, arranging, reading, analyzing, and listening. Not everyone takes to performance. There are many other ways to be musical.
3. Violettes: How is your new “Musical Minds” publication different than what currently exists on the market? (I don’t think there is any other chamber music curriculum for children on the market?)
Alison: Musical Minds is a response to my own experiences as a student, performer, and teacher. It has within it the multiple ways a student can discover his/her musical self. Current research in cognitive science, memory, and particularly the work done on mirror neurons emphasize that multi-sensory, imitative, and memory-based learning is the most effective for long-term recall and creative thinking. Musical Minds is founded on that premise.
Volume 1 introduces the concepts of rhythm, melody, tempo, form, and dynamics through sensory experience: visual art, movement, singing, conducting, listening, feeling, and playing. Pre-reading symbols are introduced for young violinists, violists, cellists, and pianists as a way to name concepts learned. Volume 2 is for intermediate violin, piano, viola, and cello students. In volume 2, I use chamber music as a focus to develop both aesthetic and artistic facets of music performance. In presenting a musical concept, I introduce it first in isolation and then within the context of a musical work. For instance, a rhythmic pattern is prepared through imitation, memorization, improvisation on that pattern, placing it within a form, reading, writing it down by ear, composing a simple tune with the pattern, listening/reading/playing the pattern in a folk tune, and listening/reading/playing the pattern within a piece. Only then can it be integrated into a work to be performed, placing it within the context of form, history, theory, dynamics, melody, texture, and tempo. The literature is accompanied by six CDs that rehearse the concepts with the student and illustrate them in poetry, rhyme, folk music, and the chamber repertoire. Manipulating all these musical elements in a chamber group is an added challenge, and my Musical Minds Volumes 3 and 4 set up ways students can learn to listen/study/practice chamber music by themselves and in a group. I haven’t seen such a book on the market that not only brings together language, visual art, and movement to teach music, but does it with chamber music as its goal.
To find out more, visit Alison's web site.
Please read more about this series at this LINK.