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Music Together: Be a hit at home

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Music is soothing, healing, and inspirational; and children love to sing tunes, move to rhythm, and tap on objects to make sound. Make music a uniformed part of their lives at Music Together (386 1st Street and 426 15th Street; 718-369-3099 or www.mtparkslope.com). Music Together provides the highest quality music and movement experiences to young children, involving their parents and other adult caregivers in the process. It’s all done in a playful, developmentally appropriate learning environment that is musically rich and welcoming. Owner Theresa Wozunk says the Park Slope Music Together locations were “the first in the neighborhood,” bringing parents and youngsters together musically for about 12 years. “There’s been lots of copycats,” she says. “But we’re the original. We take pride in that.” Music Together is committed to helping families, caregivers, and early childhood providers rediscover the pleasure and educational value of informal musical experiences. It uses the latest research in early childhood music development to achieve this goal. Teachers have completed a special training program, taught by professionals in over 50 locations worldwide. But it certainly doesn’t end there. Each teacher enjoys ongoing training, skill development, and support, and they become part of this international teaching and learning community on the cutting edge of music education. A number of different types of classes are offered. For example, a Music Together Mixed Age Class brings together a community of children, their families, and teachers They share songs, instruments, rhythm chants, and movement activities in a relaxed, playful setting. Children participate at their own levels in mixed-age family-style groups. Parents and caregivers contribute to the enrichment of their child’s musical experience, regardless of their own musical abilities. Mixing younger children with older children is instructional because “younger children enjoy watching and imitating older ones,” is the philosophy. It also allows families with children of various ages to enjoy the classes together. Babies may attend the mixed age classes with their siblings, or they may attend one of the special “Babies’ Classes.” Here, the latest research in music development for infants is applied. There are also preschool classes that range in length from 30 to 45 minutes. Children enjoy songs, nursery rhymes, instrumental jam sessions, finger play, and movement activities. The combination and types of activities are research-based on developing competence in tonality and rhythm. Activities involve vocal play, animal sounds, language play, and lots of fun. They can further develop these skills at home with the family through CDs and songbooks. “Big Kids Family Music” is for children ages 5 and 6. Activities include dance, jam sessions, dramatic play, and more structured work with rhythm and tone. Families still play a vital role. “At Music Together we believe that music ability is as much a basic life skill as walking and talking,” says Theresa. “All children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat, and participate with pleasure and confidence in the music of our culture.” By introducing children to the joys of making music, they take an active role, she notes. This is so much better than being passively involved through radio, CDs, or television. Research shows that young children learn best through play, “so our teachers are specially trained to foster an enjoyable, easy atmosphere where adults can relax as they play musically with their children,” she says. Some families have been coming to Music Together for years, says Theresa, with different children of all ages. “There are babysitters who have been attending for 12 years, in the care of multiple children, and different families.” Information and schedule of classes may be found at the website www.mtparkslope.com. For those outside the Park Slope community, log on to the national website www.musictogether.com. At the homepage, simply click on “city locator” and enter your zip code to find a Music Together near you. “We are a very supportive, grass-roots organization that prides itself in building musical communities,” says Theresa. “In fact, families move from other New York neighborhoods and from out of sate, and always find us quickly—they don’t like to miss a beat!”

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