ABC’s of Do Re Mi

(or…answers to questions you might have)

How is Funderful World of Music different from other music schools?

-Our Philosophy: Contrary to conventional Western thought, we believe that musical expressiveness is a universal feature of being human, and is therefore, for everyone, not just for the exceptionally gifted or talented. We would never tell a person that, because they were not capable of running like an Olympian, they should not run at all. Everyone should know the joy of running; everyone should know the joy of making music. We do not believe that music should be only a spectator activity; we believe it is a language of the soul, and as such, should be exercised as freely as spoken language.

Because of this, our students are encouraged to develop their musicality to the fullness of their potential. Some excel as the “Olympians”, some find careers in music, many just integrate it into the pleasures of their daily lives. At any given point, many levels of skill can be found in the school; every accomplishment is celebrated, no matter how big or small.

Based on research, we also believe that music is vital to the health and development of the brain, and central nervous system. Even if a person never becomes a “musician”, there are so many collateral benefits to musical training that we believe it is one of the best investments that can be made.

-The age of our students: We have music education from birth up. Our Kindermusik programs are designed to use music and movement to stimulate all the developing systems of the baby/toddler in a gentle and nurturing environment. At age 3, a child can move into the keyboard preparatory program; the nurturing of developing systems continues, but with the added component of introducing fundamentals of music and piano. At age 4, children move into our core program, the Harmony Road Music course. This is a “PIANO-PLUS” program, which saturates the student with music by engaging every possible avenue of experiencing pitch and pulse, including basic singing instruction.

-The way our lessons run: We work in group classes, no more than 12 students to a class. Each student has an adult learning partner with them in class, who learns everything the student does (that’s like two lessons for the price of one!). Even though our classes run 45 minutes (once a week), we are in perpetual motion. The activities are designed to meet the student’s attention span, so while we may only be working on three or four songs during one class period, we will experience them in many different ways and locations in the classroom: singing, dancing, rhythmic movement with or without props, reading and playing rhythms from the board, etc. Unlike a traditional lesson, that requires a student to sit on a bench for 30 minutes, we encourage our students to “move” and respond to the music with their entire bodies. It is typical to hear lots of giggles and see lots of smiles during class.

Why do you work in group classes instead of “one-on-one”? Research has shown that children in these age groups do much better in the stimulating environment of a peer group. Plus, because we ARE working in a group, there are so many more musical activities we can address (e.g., ensemble playing, learning how to accompany other performers) than could be accomplished in a “one on one” setting.

Are these piano lessons or keyboard lessons? Piano lessons, but we work on full-size keyboards in the classroom. The skills are interchangeable. We have students who practice at home on pianos and others who practice on keyboards; they all do equally well.

Then why do you use keyboards? 1) a huge part of this program is the ear-training. Research has shown that between the ages of 3-7, the aural capacity of the brain is wide open and ready to be programmed. Our students develop a keen sense of pitch awareness/recognition. The electronic keyboards give us guaranteed pitch, whereas acoustical pianos can have pitch fluctuations with the change of temperature/humidity in a room. 2) The non-weighted keys are a little easier for these tiny hands to deal with. Their small motor skills are still being refined, and sometimes, a “weighted” key is just too much for them. 3) The keyboards give us the ability to set up orchestral type situations for ensemble playing (more than one part being played simultaneously). The advantage of this kind of musical expression, besides being aesthetically gratifying, is the development of auditory discrimination (the ability to “choose” what to give aural attention to)—a very valuable skill for life!

Do your students learn to read music or just play by ear? Both.
At first, the “reading” is done as a reinforcement of what they have sung (solfege notes)and played by ear. (research shows that the visual processing center of the brain does not begin to fully open until about age 6 or 7), but as they develop neurologically, the program shifts to more visual processing, but always with the “ear” engaged for guidance.

What is Solfege? It is a system of reading musical notes developed by an 11th century Italian Monk (popularized by the song from “The Sound of Music”, “Do, a Deer”). It has been recognized as the international music language. The students also learn the system used in America (alphabetical system) in their graduate year, and become, essentially, bi-lingual.

How long can a child stay in the program? A student can stay in the group classes for 6 years. They have an excellent foundation from which they can “spring-board” into many other musical activities. Some will move to other instruments (guitar, drum, violin, etc.), and do exceptionally well in school band situations (perhaps because they are SO comfortable making music with a group!). Others discover that they love to sing, so they go into school chorus programs, and always take honors. There are those who will continue their piano training, but now it is time for them to have the intensive “one-on-one” technical development and refinement that a traditional lesson provides. (Most of our Grads enter traditional piano lessons at a middle school to early high school level repertoire, in spite of the average grad only being 10 years old!)

Do you have recitals for your students? Two a year—right before Thanksgiving and at the end of the year. They are not your typical “dry, boring” recitals. The format is very relaxed, with multiple demonstrations of the students’ musical accomplishments. The Fall recital is our “dress up” performance, and is done at the studio in an intimate setting. The Spring recital is always theme based, so we have costumes and sets and props and a LOT of fun; this recital is moved to a larger venue so more guests can be invited.

Our students do not participate in festivals or competitions. We use contests , prizes and games to motivate them to continue practicing, and the recitals to give them something extra to work for.