One step, Two step…

One of the elements of our music classes that is most important to me is that our music has the opportunity to extend beyond our 45 minute classes. It means a lot to me that the young mothers attending can take the songs and rhymes and rhythms back home with them to use with their children. In our most recent class we engaged in the rhyme that goes, “Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear. One step, two step, tickle you under there!” Our moms used their fingers to trace a circle around their babies’ bellies and then made their fingers take “one step, two step” up towards their necks for a little tickle. We talked about how their babies’ reactions will change as they repeat the rhyme over and over, that the babies will quickly learn to anticipate the tickle under the neck and will get excited as they wait for it to come. Even after just doing this rhyme three times in a row, some of our youngest toddlers had caught on to the story of the rhyme and were in fits of giggles by the end. It was a wonderful sound to hear!

Goodbye My Friends, Goodbye … See you in 2013!

Today was my last day at Robertson House, which admittedly felt odd because there were a lot of NEW faces today. Isn’t that always the way??

I started the class with a different hello song (We’re All Here Today) because the majority of the group was older and I knew immediately that getting to know each child as quickly as possible was important for remaining in control. I also recognized that it was going to be important to be assertive and detailed when explaining our expectations for the class.
We started off with Sleeping Bunnies, which was inspired by one participant who decided that throwing pillows around the room would be a good idea. I LOVE when I can turn negative behaviour into an inspiration for a song! After that I decided to risk it and try a rather lengthy song that gave the participants a chance to think about what animal they would like to be today (Johnny Didn’t Have Any Breakfast). It is a wonderful song that allows you to see somewhat of a glimpse of each person’s identity … or if not, what animal they would like to be! LOL. I tried to convince them to stand up for Elephants Have Wrinkles and unfortunately that is where I lost slight control so I switched gears and we tried Roll The Ball and I Have The Beanbag. Both of these refocusing activities worked in a positive way and led us to the IOTW.
I decided to bring Wooden Frogs from Thailand and after showing them how to run the mallet along the spine to make a rriiibbbiiiittt sound, we sang Little Green Frog all together.
After putting away the instrument, we brought out the Jam Bag and a took a moment to go over each instrument making sure that they knew how to play it safely and properly. I got them to play a “heartbeat” for The Lion Sleeps Tonight and caught some of the moms sitting on the side singing and playing along without a care in the world. It was wonderful to see and FEEL the happiness in the room!
Unfortunately it was my last day and when I announced that I would see them in the new year, I was met with a series of groans but I made sure to assure them that I would be back in the new year … Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013! Auld Lang Syne! 

Dance Party: Going out with a Bang

We had an action packed end to our fall session. Beginning on time and with a full house, we sang through many of the children’s favourites. We stood and moved and danced until I finally brought out the Djembe, a hand drum from West Africa. We played several movement games to the sound of the drum, and the children took turns making sounds on the instrument. The grown-ups also seemed to really enjoy the rhythmic beats, as many of them were dancing enthusiastically.

We had 20 children and 11 mothers as well as 1 staff on hand. The Shelter worker, who took attendance for me, left me a note saying “I swear I did not put up any flyers this week”. The kids were participating wonderfully. The class started on time and everyone was geared up and ready from the very first Hello to the last Goodbye.

After class, another supervisor mentioned that people had been calling the office since 5 o’clock to ask whether there would be Rainbow Songs this evening. It is clear that these kids love the program. Most of the mothers love the program and more and more are participating each week. I feel like we have made some important breakthroughs despite any difficulties this term. While there have been some ups and downs, it is clear that this program is a success and that they do not have any other programs that encourage mother-child bonding in the way that we do. M asked me about the new year and said that she would try to find a student to come in to facilitate. I would love to continue with it in the New Year.

We’ve Got Rhythm!

Another great class at Jessie’s Centre! This week we had a few babies and a slightly older four year old guest. Our four year old was a blast to have join us! She sang along to everything, even if she didn’t know it, and made lots of great suggestions. For instance, after singing the first verse of The Itsy Bitsy Spider, this joyful girl immediately called out, “And now the great, big spider!” And after that verse she called out “And now the teeny tiny spider!” She knew all the actions and exactly how to make her voice sound very big or very small. She was an excellent role model for our babies who were caught up in her exuberance. One of the babies attending had us all laughing with his well-developed dance moves; whenever he stood and had someone hold his hands, his hips were automatically swinging from side to side and he had a huge smile on his face. It’s no wonder, however, once you meet his mom, who has incredible rhythm! During our jam session she took hold of a tambourine and really brought our session to life with some perfectly-timed rhythms. Hopefully they’ll all be back next week to continue to lend their excellent singing, dancing and playing to our class!

A Private Lesson

Something rather strange happened at Robertson House today. I entered and it was very quiet … TOO quiet. Usually it is bustling with activity but today there was literally NO noise. I asked my friend Marcia at the front desk what was going on and she said that a number of residents had moved out over the weekend and new ones were staying in their rooms, perhaps feeling a little shy and overwhelmed. I felt my heart fall slightly only because I knew that some of my participants were gone however I was excited to see if there would be any new faces!

I set up the room and sat down with my guitar, taking my time to tune properly. My friend and staff member Lisa decided to go knock on doors to let new families know that there was a music class happening at 2 pm. Unfortunately as the time passed I was uncertain as to if ANYONE was going to be brave enough to attend! I spotted a little boy sitting in the cafeteria with his mom and I approached them introducing myself. The mom looked quite shy and simply said, “maybe”.
I returned to my room and waited. Lisa returned with a long face and said that she couldn’t convince anyone new to join her. At that moment I looked into the hallway and saw the little boy staring at my guitar. I knew by the look in his eyes that even if his mom didn’t want to come to class, HE would make sure of it. She started to put on his jacket to leave and he pointed at me. The mom looked at me and then back at her son and asked, “How about we go….” Before she finished her sentence he was sitting beside me looking up at her. It was SO funny! I decided in that moment to run the class with only one participant. I had to read him very carefully because when I started the Hello Song he suddenly got very shy and looked like he wanted to leave. I decided to bring out a prop to divert his attention and used a turtle puppet named Henry. It worked like a charm. I taught him a chant called Turtle In My Shell which allowed him to practice peek-a-booing out of the shell, tickling different body parts. I kept things flowing with other easy tunes to learn (Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old MacDonald, Mr. Sun, If You’re Happy And You Know It) and when I saw him getting a little antsy we moved around the room to another familiar tune, I’ve Been Working On The Railroad. 

IOTW was the Agogo. Even though it was a tiny class it was still fun to move around the room as I taught the basic meringue step to the two participating grownups while having the little boy accompany us with the Brazilian instrument. He was GOOD at it too!
For the jam, I asked him if he had a favourite song and he said “Doe A Dear” which thankfully I knew so we sang it a couple of times all together. I ended up showing his mom the signs before hand so she should could try the actions.
I was happy to have done the class with just one participant because he seemed to have a wonderful time and responded amazingly to the private lesson experience!

Who wants to play a Sruti Box?

We had a great group this evening. We started off singing some familiar songs and I had the children wiggling their toes and putting their fingers in the air. Some songs were requested and we made sure to get the kids jumping to “Five Little Monkeys” and “Sleeping Bunnies”. We even made up a quick ditty about cheetahs running around the room. Then I brought out the instrument of the week. This week we learned about the Sruti Box from South India. We sang a song together as a group to demonstrate the droning chord and then the children took turns experimenting with different sounds.

There were 15 children this week with 9 mothers and 1 staff member. I have been arriving just before 6:30 and planning on starting a bit late if necessary. However, this week we had 6 children in the room at 6:30, so I started on time and the others trickled in over the next 10 minutes or so. This term I have really been working on trying to involve the grown ups which I have found to be a real challenge for some of them. But I found it absolutely imperative with the Sruti box to have the children sit with the grown up that brought them there. The nature of the instrument is quite delicate and when 10 children are all turning knobs and grabbing at the same time it doesn’t quite work. So, I brought the instrument around to children who were sitting with their caregivers and it seemed to help not only to get the grown ups more involved but also to get the children to try the instrument one at a time.

“Who’s this Magic Guy?”

It was a treat for me to fill in for Rebecca at Jessie’s Centre. It’s been eight months since I taught an RSF class, and it was a lot of fun to sing with these babies and mothers. The room the class is in is called the Parent Child Centre, and it is such a bright and sunny place. The staff were super warm and welcoming, and while some of the mothers were a little shy at first, I think I earned their trust, and soon had them singing along and joining in with the actions.

Before class started, I asked what some of their favorite songs were so far, so I was sure to include “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom,” and “Roly Poly.” I thought it might be fun to try out some songs they might not have learned yet, such as “That is the Right Hand,” and “Clap Your Hands and Sing 1 2 3.” And while we were up on our feet, we sang “the Hokey Pokey.”

I brought with me a special instrument, the Tibetan Singing Bowl. When I pulled it out of its bag, one of the mothers burst out, “I know what that is!” So I followed her enthusiasm and asked her to demonstrate for us how to play the bowl. One boy was more interested in putting a toy cow in the bowl than trying to play it. While everyone was having a try, I told them that if you put water in the bowl, the water will bubble and fizz. “No way!” They didn’t believe me. So I asked Barb if I could use the kitchen sink in the centre. I quickly ran to fill the bowl. The mothers were stunned! They joked it was some kind of magic trick or illusion. Science! I couldn’t explain what was going on, but it was fun to be able to show them unpredictable phenomenon. Here’s YouTube video that demonstrates water in a Singing Bowl.

After class, I was leaving the centre and a different staff member was sitting with a five year old girl in the front foyer. They asked what was in my bag, so I took the opportunity to give a mini demonstration of the singing bowl. I took it out and showed the girl how to hold the bowl and make it sing with the wooden mallet.

It was my pleasure to fill in for Rebecca. I had a lot of fun singing with the families at Jessie’s June Callwood Centre.

Who Are The Beatles??

I had a question poised to me this week by a mom in my class.

“Danica … Who are the Beatles?” – MOM
“Ummm … ONE OF THE GREATEST BANDS OF ALL TIME!” – ME (rather loudly)
“Ohhhhh … ” – MOM
We both looked slightly wide-eyed at my reaction and laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes. I tried to explain myself, insisting that they were one of MY favourite bands but it is, as always, up to the listener to decide wether they like the music or not! She had been in my class the week we sang Yellow Submarine and Twist And Shout and apparently had been very confused by my introduction to the tune where I mentioned it was written and played by the Beatles. It was an A-HA! moment where I realized that indeed my group at Robertson House was very diverse with backgrounds stemming from all over the world. Even so, she had LOVED the song and insisted that we play it again.
I kept with a kind of “water theme” for this class and to Yellow Submarine we added Listen To The Water, Rain Rain Go Away, If All The Raindrops and The Itsy Bitsy Spider. For movement we tried a new song called Chee Chee Chaw which pairs actions using different body parts with both the melody and words from Singing In The Rain. Brilliant tune!
We ran out of time for IOTW but had a quick jam reviewing a couple of our favourites with variations using the instruments; If You’re Happy And You Know It Play The Drum, and I’m In The Mood For Jamming. 

More Rain

The children came together on another rainy November evening to sing some of their favourite songs. Many of those who have been coming for some time wanted to sing particular songs, so we sang their suggestions, including “Sleeping Bunnies”, “Do the Monkey”, “Boom Chicka Boom” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. I brought out a rainstick near the end of the class and we made our own rain sounds.

We had 16 children with 8 mothers and 1 staff. Apparently, there were no posters put up to promote the class and some people had asked Miriam about it. Nevertheless, the room was full!

Musical Growth

Today’s class had a different, but wonderful, feel from our usual classes at Jessie’s Centre. Our group of just 3 babies and a toddler was a very calm and easy-going group. Now, it may sound like the class was uninterested, but quite the opposite! Our moms and shelter staff were very eager to sing and help the babies do every action to every song. Everyone participated from the first guitar strum right to the last! We enjoyed seeing many baby smiles and our one little toddler was quite content to sit right in front of the guitar and give his own little strum once in awhile. He was also a great drummer and used a djembe–one of our hand drums–for a lot of our class. It’s incredible to see such strong musical interest from kids at such a young age! It makes me glad to know that our class gave that little guy an opportunity to show off his musicality and drumming skills–there was definitely a future drummer in our midst! And, of course, it’s always wonderful to watch the babies grow and develop and become more engaged with our classes each week. One of the babies first joined us at 4 months old. His response to his first class was almost horror–the volume and stimulation was too much. Now we watch him revel in doing actions, cooing to his mom and kicking up a storm when the parachute soars over his head. What a great class!