Fun is a bridge – No assembly required

One of the things I’ve been most concerned about these past few days is my demeanor.  I find it very difficult to contain my enthusiasm for making music and teaching music.  I’m aware that this doesn’t appeal to every single parent or child the same way.

In a class where parents are paying for their children to attend, I tend to not worry about this quite so much. I’m large and in charge – I’m ok with that. I have no problem being silly around children – I’m ok with that, too.

Being an exuberant male in a women’s shelter?  The different context deserves some consideration.

Further, the nature of Rainbow Songs classes is participatory – we want parents and children to be as active as possible throughout the whole class. Who wouldn’t be timid the first time they were asked to sing and dance in front of their peers? It takes a lot of guts to let your inner-silly hang out! Some people never find that kind of courage.

These young women were so very, very brave.

Even while they looked at me with wide eyes, clearly not sure where the class was going or if they were going to like it, they got right down on the floor with me and sang out. Young mothers who had begun the lesson sitting in a chair – clearly separating themselves in a small way from the group –  quickly joined us on the floor.

I asked them to be loud and proud throughout the lesson – boy, were they ever!

The circular nature of just having fun couldn’t have been clearer: the more fun they had, the more fun I had; the more fun I had, the more fun they had. More than that, fun can also connect us, crossing over our fears of ourselves and of others.

Fun is a bridge – No assembly required.

This morning I was really nervous about this class.

This afternoon, I can’t wait to go back.

This Little Light Of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine!

I returned to Robertson House this week for our second week of class, arriving about a half hour early to set up the room and prepare. To my surprise upon arriving, I realized that the room was full of people ready to sing. It was such an amazing sight to see! Most faces were familiar but there were 3 new little ones and 2 moms to meet, so I spent the next 20 minutes or so introducing myself. One new mom was sitting in the corner quietly with a stroller and as I went over to say hello I noticed that her baby was SO small. I asked, “how old is your little one?” to which is replied, “three days”. I WAS SHOCKED! I have NEVER had a baby so new to world in my class! The mom asked if I knew the song “This Little Light Of Mine”. I told her I did. She asked shyly if I would be able to sing it to her new baby, because “I have never been more in love with anything in my entire life, its incredible”. I was so touched by her candidness that I said “of COURSE we can, what a beautiful song to sing to your new baby!” All of the older kids started to become very curious of the new little addition to our class and as we started to sing “the Hello Song,” I saw that this class was indeed going to be very special.

We did a mix of familiar songs from last week and some new ones to deepen the learning, building on what the group already knew: “Roly Poly,” “Wheels On The Bus,” “I Wake Up My Hands,” “Head And Shoulders,” “Mr. Sun,” “Itsby Bitsy Spider,” “6 Little Ducks,” “Old MacDonald,” and “Elephants Marching.” I also decided to try the “Roll The Ball” activity for the first time today. It was somewhat successful, but we will have to practice this idea of ‘sharing’ each and every week so we may improve.

The IOTW was the tambourine. I led the group through a demonstration and sing-along using Bob Dylan’s tune “Tambourine Man”. We then brought out all the instruments and sang “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “De-Oh,” and “This Little Light Of Mine.” It was so amazing to see the group singing and playing in harmony, welcoming a new life into the world and I know that it is a day I will remember for years to come.

Welcome One, Welcome All!

I was very excited to be teaching my very first class at Roberston House this past week. If you haven’t passed by Robertson House before, it is a beautiful heritage home with quite an amazing history, and needless to say is stunning inside! We decided to hold the class in a large room off the main hallway so that we would be easily accessible to the moms and children strolling in and out of the residence. I met some of the volunteers and staff before setting up and tuning my guitar as I eagerly awaited for the arrival of my participants. I was extremely fortunate to have Jo Tamming (RSF volunteer) with me to help facilitate the first day of programming.

The first boy to enter the room literally made my heart melt. Honestly, I am not lying. He was beyond adorable, smiling from ear to ear and snacking on not one but two cookies! Unfortunately his mom had a previous appointment and wasn’t able to stay for the entire class, but luckily Robertson House staff member Lisa was able to comfort him throughout the class. He had a particular talent for drumming, dancing and clapping so when choosing my repertoire I decided to focus on songs that explored those types of self expression (“I Wake Up My Hands,” “If You’re Happy And You Know It”).

Another mom attended class with her THREE children. This woman deserves a medal as she constantly juggled their needs throughout the class. As tired as I could tell she was, she smiled so beautifully and made every effort to sing and connect with each one of her children. They seemed to really enjoy the music and by the end one boy sat in my lap for the entire goodbye song. It was really very touching, and in that moment I felt (not for the first time) that this program is EXACTLY what these children need; a chance to have an amazingly positive bonding experience with one another through MUSIC.

Our smallest participant was about 2 months old, and slept for the majority of the class but I could tell that his momma was LOVING the music. Along with the two songs listed above we sang “Old MacDonald,” “Wheels On The Bus,” “Roly Poly,” “Six Little Ducks,” “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” and an encore performance of “Mr. Sun” at the very end following “the Goodbye Song.” They simply couldn’t get enough!

I was able to stay and chat with a couple of moms who came into class last minute and took a couple of song requests for the following week. They were amazing women, both personable and friendly. And I must say, I love feeling like I have connected with people, and that’s part of way the RSF experience is so personally rewarding for me. I feel like Robertson House is quickly going to feel like home to me. What an amazing start!