Family Music Time brings parents and children together
Maranatha School of Dance, located off of Del Prado Boulevard, came alive Saturday morning as parents and grandparents gathered in Kim Setser’s classroom for 45-minutes of singing, dancing and playing instruments.
The families gathered around a mat with their children in their laps, ready for the class to begin. The grownups, as well as some of the children, began tapping their lap while rocking as “Hello Everybody” broke into song as each of the children’s names were sung in between the verse “so glad to see you.”
Every class follows a pattern due to research the founders of Music Together discovered, which shows the importance of having rituals incorporated with a focus when everyone gathers.
Family Music Time, which provides classes in Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Estero, features three music together classes: up to 8 months old, up to 5 years old and Rhythm Kid classes for ages 6 to 8.
Monique Creus has brought both of her girls – Penelope, 9 months, and Olivia, 2, – to Family Music time for a few semesters. She said Penelope was only 3 months old when she first introduced her to the classes.
Olivia sat on her mother’s lap as the class went through a variety of songs smiling and clearly enjoying the activity, while her sister sat on the ground. also becoming involved.
“It’s part of our daily routines,” she said of the songs from the class. “It helps with behavior and meltdowns.”
Olivia asks for the music at home and does all the actions modeled in class, as well as sings the words.
Each class always includes the “Hello Song” and the “Goodbye, So Long, Farewell” song, as well as a lullaby. Three prop songs are also incorporated into the 45-minutes, which are followed by the “toys away, toys away, time to put toys away” song.
Valeria Voisin said she uses the “toys away” song at home with her daughter Nina, who is 2 . She said it is such an amazing place to come because of the excitement her daughter showcases when hearing a song.
“It is tremendously helpful when you are raising a small person to have a tool to be able to put your toys away. That is worth the price of admission,” Setser said. “Those are rituals we do because we know it helps moms and dads and it helps us in class. Music has that power to be able to help us to transition. Transitions are hard, so if we can musically make that happen it is so much easier. It is almost like a dance.”
After the “Hello Song,” two songs are done sitting on the floor, followed by standing up and doing a large movement song because youngsters need to get up. The instruments follow.
“The whole time we are raising the energy up. After we do the instrument we have another focus and come back down and try to ground ourselves as a class. Then we do another big movement, another instrument or prop song. Then we do free dance,” she said.
A big box of instruments is then slowly dumped in a circle for the families.
“That is pretty much the climax of the class right there. Then we have to come back down because we have to say goodbye,” Setser said. “That’s when we throw in the lullaby and that lets everybody cool down after this crazy, awesome class. Then we have our ritual and say goodbye.”
The teachers have the flexibility to feed off of the children and change the flow of the class if need be.
“We have a framework for how the class should flow, but then we get to play as teachers of how we want songs to fit into those placements,” Setser said.
Each semester is 10 weeks long and has a collection of songs incorporated into the classes. The classes have a maximum of 12 students.
The Spring Semester starts at the end of March with the collection focusing on triangles. Once the parents register for the class they receive materials, as well as two CDs of the collection.
In addition to the songs and chants, there are short numbers focusing on tonality on the CDs.
“I tell parents forego the inclination to fast forward through those parts. That is when you are going to hear your kids sing for the first time,” Setser said of short verses encouraging the kids to sing such phrases as “bah bah bah bah bah.”
She said individuals are not born with the ability to hear things in their head, which is called audiation.
“They have to develop it over time. When we do those tonal patterns it gives them the opportunity to build that bridge of audiation so they can hear it. Once they can hear stuff in their head then they can sing,” she explained. “That takes more time for some kids than others. To be able to sing something back accurately you have to be able to sing it in your head.”
Setser began teaching with Family Music Time seven years ago. She initially attended one of LouAnne Dunfee’s classes, who is the director.
“I was blown away,” she said.
With a music degree and doing music professionally, she instantly picked up on Family Music Time not being a regular kiddy music program.
“The music was very vast and it had a lot of different tonalities and different rhythms,” Sester said adding that certain tones and rhythms she did not personally hear until college. “Some of the rhythm patterns and tonalities I was geeking out on the complexity of it. The fact that we were doing this really complex stuff for babies . . . I loved that. I thought that was really cool and I wanted to find out more about it.”
She said Dunfee opened up the program to her and told her she should teach.
“She is a very generous boss. She is very understanding about life and being a mom and performer,” Setser said. “She is very giving. She took me under her wing and I just kept up because I love it.”
Before stumbling upon Family Music time, she was doing theater, with a couple of shows at Broadway Palm.
“This lent itself to my schedule because it was super flexible with what classes I wanted to teach,” she said. “After having my kids I was able to build it back up and build my classes.”
Family Music Time provides exposure to music, which Setser said is great because 99 percent of kids music is in a major key and it is in duple metre.
“You are talking about one, two, three, four, la, la, la, la,” Setser sang. “It’s boring. You can only do so much with that. You are talking about really basic kiddy stuff. There’s got to be so much more to kid’s music.”
She said she had to personally seek out the different sounds in middle, high school and college in Kansas where the sounds were basically country and church music.
“This, in turn, is doing the exact opposite of that. We are going to do songs from all over the world, all different cultures, all different tonalities and all different metres,” Setser said.
Her Saturday class explored music that Setser did not experience until college. Some of the metres the class touched upon were asymmetrical, which were hard for her to master in college because she had never internalized them before.
“I had to work hard to make it happen. Now I have kids in here where it is not a problem,” Setser said. “I have these little 4- and 5-year-olds that are like, oh yeah that is seven and eight. They are cool with it because they have listened to it since they were 6 months old. It’s not hard, it’s not weird, it’s just music.”
One of the chants that the group sang, “Splishing and Splashing,” is an example of putting two things side-by-side to see how different they are.
“I like to tell my parents that you can have a pastel pink and a fuchsia. They are both pink, but they are very different. You can really tell the difference when they are side-by-side,” she said.
The chant, “Oh, I like to sit in a nice hot tub, splishing and splashing,” follows the beat, one, two, three, four . . . one two three one two three one two three one two three.
“When you do a large movement with it you can physically feel the push and pull of each one. Kids pick it up right away. They see the difference and feel the difference,” Setser said. “It’s great for their brain development. It’s great for them to see the contrast.”
Family Music Time provides the youngsters with the opportunity to soak in the class on their own level. Some of the kids are doing the movements with the teacher and parents, while others sit and watch everything. Setser said the parents tell her all the time that their kids duplicate all of the motions once they are listening to the CDs in the comfort of their own home, or car.
“Your job is to follow me and do the best you can and their job is to have fun and that is it,” she said of the parents and children. “I say that because this is a model based program meaning I am not here to teach your kids how to do music. I am here to model it for them and then you, in turn, as a parent, or caregiver will model it for them. Kids don’t care about my resume, or care that I am a great singer. What they care about is Mom and Dad, so if Mom and Dad are doing it, they will do it. That is the beauty of having fun.”
Setser said if a child is up walking around the room, or running that is fine because half of the time they are looking over their shoulder watching if Mom and Dad are paying attention to them.
“Then there’s Mom tapping her legs and singing along and they always come back. If the Mom and Dad are participating they will always come back,” she said. “The more you participate, the more the child will participate.”
The program is research based by the founders of Music Together with studies in child development and music development in children. Setser had a first-hand experience of how “wicked smart” the founders are when she was first being taught about Family Music Time.
“My trainer, Lili M. Levinowitz, created the program. She was here just training me to be a teacher. I was like, what kind of lottery did I win? It was amazing. I didn’t realize how deep I was in at that point until I was done and I could have soaked so much more from her and gain so much more knowledge from her,”Setser said. “She’s amazing.”
Ken Guilmartin is the other founder of the program. Together, she said, they are musical geniuses.
The Spring Family Music time semester begins the week of March 26 with weekdays and weekend classes. For more information, visit www.familymusictime.com.