Performing music in early years settings

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    Wednesday, 16 September, 2015 - 16:02

This section is intended for both musicians and early years practitioners. For musicians it will give pointers for performing to children and suggest ways of using their musical instrument or voice within both adult-initiated group activities and child-initiated play. For early years practitioners it will enable them to effectively use a musician’s performance skills to link to music play observed in the children and add something extra to adult-initiated group activities. It also gives suggestions for how performances can be followed up with the children.  ‘You’ here is used to mean the musician.
Click on the dots for more information.

Waypointwaypoint/introduction-1Introduction545.0166.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/how-can-performing-be-interwoven-visit-settingHow can performing be interwoven into a visit to a setting?624.0301.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/how-longHow long for?663.0396.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/will-children-be-able-explore-your-musical-instrumentWill the children be able to explore your musical instrument505.0454.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/which-repertoireWhich repertoire?640.0552.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/how-will-you-talk-about-your-music-childrenHow will you talk about your music with the children?362.0616.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/linking-performances-other-activity-settingLinking performances with other activity in the setting491.0751.0""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/go-back-27Go back2.010.0""#0000002

This section is intended for both musicians and early years practitioners. For musicians it will give pointers for performing to children and suggest ways of using their musical instrument or voice within both adult-initiated group activities and child-initiated play. For early years practitioners it will enable them to effectively use a musician’s performance skills to link to music play observed in the children and add something extra to adult-initiated group activities. It also gives suggestions for how performances can be followed up with the children.  ‘You’ here is used to mean the musician.
Click on the dots for more information.

Questions:

  • How can we work together to make the live performance of music fun, engaging and relevant to children?
  • How can the skills of a highly trained musician be most effectively used within early years settings?
  • Outside of the nursery, what other possibilities are there for the children to experience live music from a range of cultures in a range of contexts both professional and non-professional?

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Introduction

Performing Music to Children

One of the many roles the musician might take when visiting the early years setting is to perform to the children. Visiting musicians performing to the children is an important and valuable experience. However, this needs to be well planned in advance to make sure the most is made of the opportunity and that it is a positive experience. Also, some judgement needs to be made about the children at the setting, for example, how long they would be able to sit and listen. It may be a good idea to spend time with the group of children before taking in your instrument and performing. Below you will find questions and suggestions which will help you to plan effectively and make sure you and the children enjoy a positive experience.

How can performing be interwoven into a visit to a setting?

There many ways in which playing an instrument or singing can be interwoven into a visit. Do not feel that the only model for this happening is with a large group of children sitting in rows in front of you. Different ages of children, whether parents are there too, the type of musical instrument and the nature of the group mean that it is impossible to have a one-size-fits-all approach. Think about appropriate ways of integrating performance into a visit and discuss these with the individual setting.

The musician could move around the different parts of the setting both inside and out, performing to small groups of children. These groups can be gathered specially to listen or may just emerge. You could become a pied piper with the children following you around the nursery or play to the parents and children as they arrive at the setting. In the London Symphony Orchestra pilot project a double bass player set himself up inside the room and sensitively waited for the children to discover him; letting the children build a relationship with him on their own terms.

How long for?

Some children will sit and listen to music for short lengths of time. Of course, the children could also listen moving or lying down instead of sitting (sitting still on a hard cold floor for very long is torture for anyone). In some instances, very young children will remain engaged in listening to an instrument being played or someone singing for a long while. The musician needs to be sensitive to their audience to judge timings appropriately. This will also depend on the repertoire chosen, how comfortably they are sitting, the nature of the performance and level of interactivity. The children could also draw to the music.

Will the children be able to explore your musical instrument

The children will be fascinated by the musical instruments and how they work. So making sure the children can see the musician as well as hear them is very important.  Children will desperately want to have a go on your musical instrument and will try, try and try again to make it sound even if it is quite difficult. If you are not happy with them touching your instrument, think about taking along a spare old one. If not, you could improvise by finding materials the children could use to create their own versions – if they make a sound, even better!

Which repertoire?

Play the music you feel passionate about as well as including music that the children will recognise such as lullabies, play songs, nursery rhymes and TV songs. Find out the cultural make up of the group or setting – can you find a repertoire to reflect the different cultures?

How will you talk about your music with the children?

Sometimes it will be better to just play rather than talk too much about the music.
You could talk about:

  • what you like about it
  • who wrote it and what they were thinking about
  • which country it is from
  • which occasion it was written for
  • a visual image linked to the music
  • something special to listen out for
  • any interesting ways that you are going to play your instrument or sing
  • anything you want the children to look out for or listen for and to tell you at the end.

There is a fine balance between using words the children will understand and encouraging new vocabulary through using rich and imaginative words. There is also a fine balance between giving the children something to hold onto and letting the children form their own images, responses and ways of describing the music. If you  use technical words make sure you explain them. And, after you have played to the children you could ask the children questions, such as:

  • What did you hear?
  • How did the music make you feel?
  • How could you or would you move to the music? Can you show me?

Linking performances with other activity in the setting

It can be a good idea to link performances with activity the children are already involved in and to think about how the performance can be followed up. Below are some scenarios of performances that have either happened as a result of observations of children’s play or have been effectively followed up after the performance.

  • The children have been observed making music in pairs and so, the visiting musicians are asked to perform some duets. Two musicians visited the nursery and performed some duets – following this, a low table with two sets of instruments opposite each other is set up to encourage the children to create their own duets together.
  • A group of children have been observed using sticks to try out the sounds of different materials in the playground. This has led them to explore different drums in the nursery but they would like to take it further so a percussionist is invited to perform to the children. A percussionist visits the nursery and gives a performance. An area is set up with different found objects which make interesting and contrasting sounds (a bucket, a selection of saucepans, some different sized plant pots) together with a selection of real beaters and found object beaters.
  • A trumpeter performs to the children; the children are fascinated and would all like a go. It is noticed the children are using their hands to make trumpets and their voices to make trumpet sounds. A selection of pipes of different lengths and funnels is provided for the children to create their own trumpets. [insert trumpets picture]
  • The children have decided they want to be a band and a group of them have been observed regularly imitating pop stars. A student rock band from the local college is invited to play to the children and later on, the children are taken to watch the local orchestra rehearse.
  • As part of the Baby Stay and Play, the babies are swung in hammocks to a soothing selection of recorded music. A flautist is invited to improvise or perform music for this time instead of the recordings.
  • The children have been celebrating Divali. One of the members of staff is a Hindu and meets regularly with a group of Hindu women to sing and make music in each other’s homes. One of the songs is shared with the children and the visiting musician learns the melody to accompany the song.
  • The children have recently had some visiting dancers at the nursery and have been dressing up and creating their own dances. Subtly, without taking over the activity, the visiting musician improvises music or plays some repertoire to accompany their dance play.
  • The children have been listening to the music of a particular composer or style on a CD player in a comfy corner of the setting. The musician is told about this and finds some music in this style or by that composer to perform to the children.
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