Since childhood, I have been involved with music in some way. From lessons, to choirs and even bands. After completing my degree in music education from Western University, I taught in public schools for a number of years before finding my dream job at Music Together of Kitchener-Waterloo. Here is where I can teach with passion in an environment that I love.
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KiDS NEWS & REViEWS: Tell us why you chose to get involved with Music Together.
JODIE:I have been a centre director since 2003 when I opened the first Music Together centre in Ontario. I really felt like a pioneer! Thankfully, there were other directors in Toronto and out west who started very shortly thereafter. This allowed us to support each other at a time when Music Together was completely unknown in Canada, though we continue to do so even today. The program spoke to my love for the innocent beauty of early childhood and playful music-making. The research behind the program and the respect it pays to a child’s natural learning process is extraordinary. The quality of the music in the Music Together collections is second to none. I love it!
KiDS NEWS & REViEWS: That all sounds amazing! Can you tell us how your program has changed since COVID? Are you offering all of your programs online currently or are you also offering studio based programs?
JODIE:It’s been a series of changes since the spring, adapting to regulations around the virus as well as what families are looking for in a family program. This fall, we offered a variety of class options. Families could choose between a hybrid of Outdoor/Online classes, Online Only, or Outdoor All-Season. Due to the beautiful autumn we’ve had here in south-western Ontario, we’ve actually been able to offer almost 7 full weeks of classes outdoors, much to everyone’s pleasant surprise. Those families who chose Outdoor/Online are really pushing for as much outdoor as possible. They’ve been willing to meet outside so long as it’s not pouring rain or below 0. They’re dedicated!
KiDS NEWS & REViEWS: The dedication of your families sounds representative of their happiness with your program. Is this something you plan to continue to offer – outdoor classes?
JODIE: Looking forward, we originally planned to move our program back online for winter, looking forward to providing our hybrid classes in the spring again. Outdoor socially distanced classes, while looking much like our indoor classes, aren’t quite the same and pose a few challenges from a teaching perspective – namely that families are really far apart, and difficult to hear and see clearly, both from the teacher’s perspective and between families. There are also a number of activities we can’t do which are normally great for building connection and community within our circles. There are also a lot of positives in teaching outside which outweigh of these challenge and we look forward to continuing to evolve this option for our program.
Surprisingly, we had so many people tell us that they really valued the opportunity to meet outdoors, in-person, even if it meant dressing in their snow pants. It seems that some people’s threshold for what feels “too cold” for music class has been lowered! For this reason, at Week 7 of our current program, we’ve decided to actually offer Outdoor/Online again for winter, in addition to Online only!
KiDS NEWS & REViEWS: Taking things back indoors, let’s talk about the online delivery of your program. It sounds like a major undertaking to take a studio based music program as enriched as yours which sounds very in-depth in it’s approaches and curriculum, and offering it through an online platform. Can you comment on how this has worked out for your families.
JODIE:Truly, this was a most unexpected challenge. Like many businesses and individuals faced with this situation, it took creativity and flexibility beyond anything we had attempted before. We worked hard to come up with a program that met all our families needs and I’m very happy with the results.
Facing this challenge, our main goal was to ensure that we were still providing the same level of excellence that our families had always expected of us. And so, we worked tirelessly to look at each and every aspect of our routine to see how it would be affected by moving online.
JODIE CONT’D:In the end, we are proud of what we were able to do. In a very short amount of time, we were able to pivot our years of training and experience to support our families during an unprecedented time, and maintain the connections we have made. In some cases, these relationships expanded over the course of many years – we have a number of families who have been making music with us for over 9 years!
KiDS NEWS & REViEWS: Did you discover anything new in this experience that you have added to your program?
JODIE: Though we are excited about the prospect of moving back to a more familiar and normal format of making music indoors in a circle TOGETHER, there are aspects of this new format that we will likely keep forever, so there is a silver lining to be found!
JODIE CONT’D: We were able to stretch beyond the classroom experience and facilitate music making in our families’ homes like never before and show them in the most hands on and obvious ways how they could use the curriculum throughout the week. We also began to introduce live music sessions online, and novel pre-recorded videos. This allowed us to take advantage of the opportunity to produce one-bite musical experiences, and in many cases, to be able to include our families in these small videos. And of course, we were able to work together as a team to support our community of families and highlight the TOGETHER in Music Together.
In some cases, the online platform was too difficult a transition and some families took a pause from the program. We are excited to welcome those families back into our circles when they are ready; online or in person. In other cases, many of our families expressed that during a time of social isolation and uncertainty, this allowed them a window of normalcy, routine and connection. We still hear stories of incredible musical growth and see now more than ever (through this new online connection) snapshots into home life and music throughout the week that are monumental!
KiDS NEWS & REViEWS: Those are all very positive results. What factors stand out in your mind that contributed to the success of your transition to online?
JODIE:There is much to be said about the work of the MTofKW team here, but it is the support of the families who were continually open with their feedback, praise and advice that made this entire transition possible.
KiDS NEWS & REViEWS: There seems to be different types of support that are offered in your programs that I haven’t seen in many other programs. Are you able to break down the uniqueness in your program focusing on the Parent To Child Connection.
JODIE:It’s not hard to find music centred children’s programs. What *IS* hard to find, is a program that is well-researched, thoughtful, and pays respect to children and how they learn, which is through PLAY.
Decades ago, during his work in the community, Kenneth Guilmartin discovered that parent participation was KEY to a child’s learning, and that was transferred into the MT program and became one of the core principles.
JODIE CONT’D:As a program we believe that the model of the PARENT is what is going to drive it all home for the children. So, our teachers go beyond providing a musically rich, dynamic music-making experience. This includes accessibility to the music, inclusivity to all comfort levels and physical abilities, empathy, and support to everyone in the room, whether adult or child.
KiDS NEWS & REViEWS: That sounds incredible – what does this look like?
JODIE: This style of facilitation starts with our teachers being well prepared and familiar with the material, so that we can not only offer a musically accurate and well-rounded lesson plan, but can also focus on the people in the circle. As teachers, we feel we’ve done a good job when we see smiles around the circle, or as families leave at the end of class. It lets us know that we’ve created a welcoming and comfortable place for a family to explore music.
The most important connection though, is the one created through music, between parent/caregiver and child.This is created in part by offering a wide variety of experiences within a class. Some of the songs are rambunctious and silly and play to a child’s exploratory and dramatic side, while other moments, create connection and establish rituals. Often, when more than one caregiver joins a class, an entire family is bonding over the simple yet powerful act of singing a lullaby together or bouncing a child on a lap. These create life-long memories for a child.
-Jodie Fera, Director
JODIE CONT’D:The other little piece, that almost feels a bit magical, is the hormonal effect that music has on us. There are real chemical changes that occur when we make music, including a rise in dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin (also called the “bonding” hormone). So music actually makes us feel better and more connected to those with whom we share it.
Beyond this, our teachers are always staying connected to the current research, relating to early childhood and music development so that we can answer for the parents in our circles the ever important, “But why?” Helping our families understand why we are doing what we do in class and pointing out the wonderful intricacies of their child’s growth allows them to see even more clearly, how amazing their child really is! All of this works towards parents who are engaged and enthusiastic about being a musical model for their child.
Once we have parents in the room who are ready to model, support, and PLAY! with their child, we begin to see these magical connections form around the circle. We are often lucky enough to see a child ’s first little boogie move, egg shake, or hear their first phrase of music. If we are looking, at just the right moment, we can see their parents’ eyes LIGHT UP at this purely wonderful moment and observe their child respond to the joy in their parents’ eye – often with MORE MUSIC!
Thank you Jodie, for taking the time to share so much positivity with us today about this very unique early learning music curriculum. We look forward to keeping in touch and seeing what you get up to over the winter and spring. To learn more about Jodie’s programs at Music Together Kitchener-Waterloo, you can visit her website at www.musictogetherofkw.com and follower her on Instagram and Facebook.
EXPLORING THE PARENT-TO-CHILD CONNECTION IN MUSIC WITH MUSIC TOGETHER KITCHENER-WATERLOO was last modified: November 20th, 2020 by Lorrie Holmes