BC Parent Newsmagazine logo

Can All Kids Become Musical (How Can We Best Support Them To Develop These Skills?)

November 17, 2023

12 min read
Music instruments

As each child is unique, exposing them to explore many genres of music and types of instruments in the early years can play an instrumental role in sparking that connection for them to music.

Today we have had the pleasure of speaking with two authorities: Expressive Arts Therapist and Director of North Shore Music Together, Heidi McCurdy, and Regional Lessons Manager of Long & McQuade Musical Instruments, Doug Beer, on how to best provide your children with the opportunities to connect with music and here are their interviews.

BC PARENT: Can you tell me how you approach teaching children music?  

group in music class

HEIDI: My approach to teaching music to children is open-ended, playful, and creative. I believe that we are all born with the gift of music, and it needs to be encouraged in a safe space – and the earlier we can start, the better! 

When children are offered a non-judgmental, playful space to experience music-making and explore participating in their own way, it helps develop their innate skills. This is how children all over the world learn to sing, dance and drum. They develop rhythm by observing people in their family and community dancing and drumming to the beat, and having opportunities to try joining in. They develop the ability to sing in tune when their loved ones sing to them and with them, and by having a lot of exposure to music-making over time. It’s very similar to how children learn language.

mom daughter support

From my perspective, it is also important to include opportunities to create original music rather than only copying the teacher or learning songs that already exist. Encouraging people to improvise and make up their own tunes, patterns, and sounds expands their confidence, offers a means of healthy self-expression, and helps them to learn to value their own voice as they grow. 

mom son playing music

BC PARENT: Where do you start – do you start with the connection between the child (young student) and the music?

HEIDI: Our body is our first and primary instrument. We experience music through our ears (hearing the sounds), eyes (observing how it is made and seeing the beat), bodies (moving to the music and feeling how it affects us), and our hearts (the emotions that music stirs up and helps us to express). So all positive experiences with music – listening to meaningful albums, watching live concerts, having caregivers sing lullabies and silly songs – are a valuable part of music education. These ways of enjoying music foster that personal connection and appreciation, and allow us to understand internally how music works. 

family listening to music

For children to discover and develop their own music-making abilities, we really want to give them fun experiences where they can participate by singing and dancing along in their own way. So we start with the primary instrument – the body – with playful singing and dancing. All other musical skills that develop later on, need to be rooted in that primary awareness of how music is made. 

-Heidi McCurdy

BC PARENT: Can you explain how this works as an expressive art therapist and how much fits into this.

HEIDI: One of the principles of Expressive Arts Therapy that really resonates with me is that we all have an innate drive that leads us towards happiness, wholeness and fulfillment (called “self-actualization” in psychology terms.) I often call this sense our “inner wisdom.” This inner wisdom is activated when we listen to our heart and express ourselves creatively. Especially when we express ourselves in ways that feel good, rather than trying to impress others. 

girl dancing

Creative expression is very natural for children. But it can be oppressed in so many ways by well-meaning people who only know what they’ve been taught. Lots of people have the belief that someone is either born with or without a singing voice, or talent as a painter, the ability to dance, or write beautiful poetry. Certainly some things come easier to some than others, but the skills of creative expression through different art forms can be learned (through safe exploratory spaces as noted above). Sadly, many are shut down at a young age by caregivers who tell them they are not “good enough.” These negative voices become internalized as the inner critic, and show up as blocks in many areas of life. 

When people grow up ashamed or embarrassed about their voice for example, they stop singing, and often feel like they are missing a genuine part of themselves. Expressive Arts Therapy helps people to reconnect with their inner child – their sense of self that is able to play and explore and create without worrying what others think. They then feel more able to express their emotions, have true self-esteem, and reach their potential. 

Music also has many other therapeutic benefits that humans have known about for thousands of years, and scientists are just catching up. Participating in music through singing and drumming has been shown to increase health, reduce pain, improve depression and anxiety, and generally enhance quality of life and well-being. Creating music in group settings also promotes a sense of connection and belonging, which are vital for a healthy world.

Imagine a world where all children (and adults) are encouraged to be musical and express their beautiful voices and creativity! Everyone would be emotionally and physically healthier and happier. They would feel more connected, valued, resilient and confident. Expressive arts would be a normal part of life, and we wouldn’t collectively need as much therapy.

group playing music

The important thing is to never, ever shut down or discourage children from singing and exploring music and the arts.  Encouraging them helps them to learn how to make themselves happy and calm through creative expression. These are life skills that will support them their whole lives.

Heidi McCurdy is a singer, songwriter, sound healer, voice coach and Expressive Arts Therapist. She helps others to free their voice, and bring the healing joys of music into their daily life. She also runs North Shore Music Together family classes for 0-5. Learn more about Heidi’s expressive arts and voice coaching here: www.heidimccurdy.com.

CONNECTING THE CHILD TO THEIR INSTRUMENT OF CHOICE

So, where do we begin to support our kiddos and their connections to their music instrument(s) of choice? There are many factors to consider including budget, and fitting another activity and practice time into an already busy schedule. We often will be asked the question, what instrument should we start with? There really is no one correct answer to this, and there are various factors involved in deciding.

According to Doug Beer, Regional Lessons Manager of Long & McQuade Musical Instruments, “there really is no one correct answer to this, and there are various factors involved in deciding. One of the best places to start is the instrument the child expresses the most interest in. The genre of music they find most appealing can also play a part.  And of course, physical size of both the child, and the instrument need to be taken into consideration. It would be almost impossible for a 5-year-old to try to hold, or have the developed breath and diaphragm control needed, to play a tuba! There are always exceptions to every rule, but size definitely plays a determining factor. A variety of instruments are available in fractionable sizes to better accommodate different physical needs.

Some examples of these include violins, guitars, and drum sets. If a young child shows a definite interest in the violin, we can make that happen! Keyboards could potentially be an optional starting point for those without the space, or budget for a piano, however, getting fingers onto weighted, full-size keys is also important for proper technical development.”

girl playing music on drums

Doug continues with, “If a young child has been exposed to a number of different instruments, either via video, or live performances, they may have a genuine interest in an instrument they have heard or seen. Perhaps a child is not really sure of the instrument they would like to learn. This is perfectly normal as well. We do not need to make a lifetime choice for them. Most instruments can be rented short term, or on a monthly or yearly basis so you can have your child try a number of different instruments to help discover where their connection really lies, without making a big commitment.

Piano is always a great choice as a beginner instrument as we learn the basics of melody and harmony, and can be a great jumping off point to another instrument if interests change.”

-Doug Beer

piano

Doug Beer is the Lessons Regional Manager for Long & McQuade Western Canada and as such he works to ensure that every L&M lesson centre from Manitoba to BC provides a fun and professional learning experience for all students. His past includes being both a full time music instructor and L&M Lesson Centre Coordinator, granting him the knowledge required for this unique position.

7 GREAT MUSIC PROGRAMS TO LEARN ABOUT!

From Orff to Kodály, Suzuki to Dalcroze, the following programs offer a perfect blend of methods and environments that support the diverse needs of each student.

COLOURSTRINGS CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC

129 East 8th Avenue, Vancouver, BC

www.colourstrings.ca

ColourStrings provides an innovative Kodály-inspired music curriculum, guiding children seamlessly from playful exploration to music literacy and onto instrumental lessons. Age-specific classes integrate multi-sensory experiences such as singing, instrument play, creative movement, and listening games. Expert musicians with specialist training lead children from sounds to symbols, imitation to improvisation – from the simplest to the most advanced musicianship. Imaginative games, parachutes and world instruments bring the music alive!

Can All Kids Become Musical (How Can We Best Support Them To Develop These Skills?) - BC Parent Newsmagazine

EVERGREEN CULTURAL CENTRE

129 East 8th Avenue, Vancouver, BC

www.evergreenculturalcentre.ca

We believe that access to the arts is the foundation for healthy kids and a vibrant community. Join us for a show and explore music in a welcoming, accessible space! Our dedicated Family Series features special $10/person, pay-more-if-you-can admission to help more families experience the arts together, close to home.

Can All Kids Become Musical (How Can We Best Support Them To Develop These Skills?) - BC Parent Newsmagazine

LIGHTS UP MUSICAL THEATRE

Locations throughout the lower mainland.

www.lightsuptheatre.ca

At Lights Up Musical Theatre Schools, we see music as a key to unlocking the power of a child’s creativity – and once that door is open, a world of possibilities is in reach! Music is a language that speaks to the soul, a medium through which emotions are expressed and a gateway to imagination. Join us after school, at weekends or at seasonal camps throughout the year and let your kid’s confidence be centre stage! 

Can All Kids Become Musical (How Can We Best Support Them To Develop These Skills?) - BC Parent Newsmagazine

LONG & MCQUADE MUSIC LESSON CENTRE

Locations include: Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Courtenay, Kamloops, Langley, Nanaimo, North Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Prince George, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria, White Rock.

www.long-mcquade.com/lessons/

We offer private one-on-one lessons custom-tailored to the needs and goals of the individual student as well as a variety of group lessons. Our students range from children just beginning their journey in music to those preparing for university. From young adults who just like to sing, to seniors who enjoy music and the social aspect, we offer affordable rates and a wide variety of lessons. More importantly, we are a home for anyone who loves music and wants to explore it.

guiter

MUSIC TOGETHER NORTH SHORE

  • Highlands Church in Edgemont Village
  • RNB Dance in Lynn Valley
  • Lindbjerg Academy in Coquitlam

www.northshoremusictogether.com

Sing, Dance, Play & Learn! Music Together® is a joyful music & movement class for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and the grown ups who love them. Our curriculum is fun, playful and rooted in developmental research. Classes include singing, dancing, drumming and playing a variety of instruments. Take home music is also included. North Vancouver & Coquitlam locations.

Can All Kids Become Musical (How Can We Best Support Them To Develop These Skills?) - BC Parent Newsmagazine

PLACE DES ARTS

1120 Brunette Avenue, Coquitlam, BC

www.placedesarts.ca

Place des Arts music programs offer a warm, friendly learning environment where experienced instructors teach a variety of instruments and styles. Over 40 faculty members offer group classes and private lessons to accommodate a variety of schedules. Classes (6 months to 18 years).

Can All Kids Become Musical (How Can We Best Support Them To Develop These Skills?) - BC Parent Newsmagazine

WESTSIDE MUSIC TOGETHER

Multiple locations as listed below.

www.westsidemusictogther.ca/demo-request.html

At Music Together®….the whole family is welcome – parents, grandparents, caregivers – for this important family music experience.  45 minutes of pure fun each week singing, dancing, and hands-on instrument play! Find a spot of your family in West Van, UBC, Kits, Kerrisdale, Cambie, Yaletown or East Van. 

Can All Kids Become Musical (How Can We Best Support Them To Develop These Skills?) - BC Parent Newsmagazine

What are your thoughts?

Lorrie Holmes

Related Stories