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Key principles for the project coordinator to think about
- Support the building of respectful relationships between all parties and build in time for this to happen.
- Facilitate the development of open and effective communication and build in time for this to happen.
- Make sure the views of those working at the setting(s) are heard within the planning for the project. This will ensure that the settings have a better sense of ownership of the project.
- Plan CPD carefully to respond to the needs of the musicians and early years practitioners involved in the project.
- Share information about past work, the settings (their routines and approaches) and the community with the musicians.
- Enable all parties to share expectations as to the aims and objectives of the project.
- Bring clarity so that everyone understands his or her role in the project.
- Build in time for the whole group to come together, reflect, share and deepen knowledge and understanding.
- Make available cameras to document the work and ensure the project team know how to use it.
- Visit the project to monitor progress and be a new, fresh pair of eyes and ears.
Key principles for the musician to think about
- Build relationships with children, early years practitioners and parents(if present) as a first priority.
Building relationships with the early years practitioners, parents(if present) and children needs to be the first priority for the musician and time spent doing this is never wasted. This might mean playing with the children in non-musical activity, chatting and drinking tea with parents or spending time discovering the practitioners views on music and learning what is going on already.
- Gain knowledge about the group, the early years setting and the wider community.
The sharing of the early years practitioner’s expert knowledge of the wider community context with the musician on a regular basis is vital. This will help the musician to be sensitive to the settings social dynamics, priorities, values and aims.
- Respect differing boundaries and values.
The musician cannot assume, for example, what they might be happy for a child to do with a musical instrument, their parent or early years practitioner may not be, and vice versa.
- Create an unthreatening environment.
It can take time for children to build trust in a new person visiting the group. The musician needs to make themselves part of the session, allowing the children to access the musical instruments in their own time and at their own pace. In sessions with parents, low seating for parents next to the music area may coax shyer children to come and join in.
- Find out about and support music activity already happening.
In some settings singing time may be well established when the project starts. Taking over this time may disempower the early years practitioner rather than empower them. Instead, the musician needs to find ways of supporting what is already happening and when trust is established help develop and extend it.
- Respect the early years practitioners’ and parents’ expert knowledge of the children and their relationships.
- Understand that the early years practitioners’ own music practice may be inhibited by the presence of the musician.
- See early years practitioners as the thread of continuity between musician visits.
- Respect other purposes of the group (Stay and Plays and informal settings)
In the instance of working in Stay and Plays and other informal settings, the musician needs to recognise that these are times for parents/carers to meet others who are in similar situations to their own and where important information about services is shared. It is therefore important that whatever music activity takes place respects the multiple purposes of the session.
- Understand that some parents may find the ‘playmate’ role one they are not used to adopting and may feel that it is childish or inappropriate (the Music One 2 One report [link] suggests that this is sometimes the case).
- Empower parents and demystify the expert and music-making (Stay and Plays and other informal settings)
Playing musically with children is often about ‘tuning in’, something which parents are ideally equipped to do, as they know their children better than anyone else does. Musical play is often an extension of pre-verbal conversation parents already have with their children. They may however be inhibited by the presence of an ‘expert’, worried about the musician’s expectations and when they see their children using what may be perceived as very expensive instruments they might be extra nervous. They will often want their child to get it right because the musician is watching or might put beaters into their children’s hands to get them to ‘perform’. In these situations rather than telling the parent what (s)he should be doing, reassure, talk out loud about what you doing and the ways in which you are responding, point out interesting musical things their children are doing with or without adult intervention, and gently find a way of saying the child will find its own way and just needs time.
- Work to hand back ownership to the group (Stay and Plays and other informal settings)
Sometimes it is good to remember that this is the parents’ space as much as the children’s and they may not have invited the musician or the project. Handled well, parents will take ownership of it. This way the project and music-making will sustain themselves past the duration of the project.
- Invite and use contributions from parents (Stay and Plays and other informal settings)
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‘I think that’s another lesson I’ve learnt that tuning into their level is not getting your instrument out and playing it straight away. For instance, last week we were at Exmouth Market and there was a child who I was trying to create a link with somehow. I was trying to play with the toys that he was playing with and he wasn’t interested. He kept on taking the toys over to his mother and getting her to approve of what he was doing. So I went and spoke to the mother, and I sat with the mother and gradually, as I was talking to the mother, he realized I was all right and wasn’t going to be terrifying. He would show the toy to the mother and then to me, and then I could relate to the boy and then I could go back to the table with his toys on, play with him directly and then I was able to get the instrument out and introduce music making in that way and that was a very good lesson in how you can tune in.’ Matthew, double bass player London Symphony Orchestra
Key principles for the setting manager or head to think about
- Think carefully what you and your setting would like to get out of the project.
Having a clear idea about what you would like your staff and your setting to get out of the project and sharing this information with the project coordinator is very important. This will allow you to have more ownership of the project and allow you to address your own priorities as well as those of the project.
- Choose carefully which early years practitioner will be the key practitioner.
This needs to be a member of staff who will be confident to share their knowledge of the children with the musician and confident to share music knowledge gained with other staff. This will ensure greater impact throughout your setting. You will need to consider whether the early years practitioner has the capacity to continue and extend what the musician has started with the children. It will be useful if the early years practitioner has IT experience to help with documentation, or is supported to do this. Especially important, is that the early years practitioner is playful and good at listening and responding to the children. It may be tempting to choose the practitioner with the most musical experience; however, this may not be the best decision.
- Allow for ‘tuning in’ time for the musician.
More and more musicians have experience of working in education and community settings. However, every early years setting is different. Therefore, visits which allow the musician to ‘tune in’ to the setting, understand its rhythms, play with the children and observe how they learn and how their existing musicality manifests itself in their play, are an essential part of any project, not a luxury and can prevent difficulties happening further along.
- Think about where the musician and key practitioner will work.
Depending on the kind of music activity, different spaces will be suitable or not suitable. Children’s musicality can be supported in all areas of a setting but if a more specific focus is required, for example, with a small group, consider spaces where the noise will not disturb others, and which do not have other distractions. Above all the space needs to be warm, clean and attractive.
- Make time for reflection and planning.
Make sure that time is made for reflection and planning between the musician and the key practitioner and that the practitioner has time and cover for this. As mentioned before, reflection is important to ensure that the music activity can be sustained beyond the life of the project. Sometimes, your help will be needed here to establish a reflective framework for the musician and early years practitioner. Your involvement as a mentor or critical friend, will strengthen this process. This could involve participating in reflection sessions, discussing potential developments and monitoring progress. It may also involve supporting the relationship between the musician and early years practitioner.
- Understand that the musician and practitioner will not always work with all children.
The musician’s involvement in the life of the setting will have an ongoing affect on all children through raising awareness, understanding and the aspirations of the whole staff team. Documentation, reflection and discussion will support the whole staff team deepening their understanding of children’s musicality and their role in this. This is how what is learnt in the project will become embedded and sustained. However, this may mean that the musician and key practitioner do not work with all the children.
- Plan how you will continue the work once the project has finished and how its findings can be shared more widely with staff and other settings.
- Think how the work can be continued between the visits of the musician.
- Welcome the musician’s eyes and ears as bringing another perspective on children’s learning and thinking.
- Address any difficulties as early as you can.
If you feel the project is going off course or difficulties begin to emerge in the relationship between the musician and early years practitioner, it is important that you contact the project co-ordinator as soon as possible. The key to a happy and healthy project is to have an ongoing discussion and review with the project coordinator, keeping each other up to date with progress. Having said all this, with the best will in the world, personality conflicts can arise and it is best if they are quickly addressed.
Key principles for the Early Years practitioner to think about
- Recognise that you have immense expertise to share with the musician.
- Recognise that you are the link between the musician and the children, and also other staff members who do not experience these sessions but see the children’s development, and may not be able to make the relevant connections without you.
- Share your knowledge about the children, their families, and the community context with the musician.
- Share and change roles with the musician.
- Make time with the children to follow up ideas that have come out of your time with the musician. In particular, practice being a musical partner for the children and support their continued learning between sessions.
- Document musical behaviour which may or may not connect to the ‘music sessions’ that occurs between the musician’s visits.
- Help facilitate discussion and/or offer support to the musician, particularly when they are discussing ideas and reflecting with the children.
- Use established channels of communication or think of new ones to engage parents. For example, invite them to contribute to children’s learning journals.