At the Top of Their Lungs

Kids young and old make a joyful noise at Music Together classes

| January-February 2008

  • Music Together

    illustration by Ryan Cox

  • Music Together

In the West African country of Ghana there is no word for performance. The act of sharing music is instead called play. Children spend their days crafting elaborate clapping and singing games, and their nights watching adults offer traditional songs to each other. Drumming is common. Singing accompanies most daily activities. Music generates togetherness.

Not so in our modern society, where many people have grown up feeling that they can’t carry a tune or keep time to a beat. They feel that music is something for the gifted to make, while they pay to take in its mystery.

The truth is that making music and exploring movement is for everyone. It’s not about performance; it’s about expression, celebration, growth, fun, emotional honesty, and community.

This is the spirit behind the groundbreaking program called Music Together. In a time when music education budgets are being slashed in public schools, Music Together cultivates children’s musical development from infancy through kindergarten with classes where parents and kids sing, dance, chant, and play instruments together. Specially trained teachers, exposed to the latest research in early childhood music development, encourage the native ability in all human beings to make music and dance.

Callie Hershey is a new teacher at Mid-Hudson Valley Music Together in New York. When her daughter Reina was 15 months old, they attended their first Music Together class, and Hershey was blown away. She had been teaching in elementary schools for 10 years, but she had never seen a program do so much to unite parents and children in open, cheerful exploration.

The program gives families a new way to communicate, says Kelleigh McKenzie, director of Mid-­Hudson Valley Music Together. Children are respected and their caretakers are empowered. Parents get to watch children learn, but in the end, they are the real students. They are the role models for their children, the ones who will weave the richness of music and dance into their family’s everyday life.

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