Being a freshman in college is an exciting time. For me, as a young music student, it was especially thrilling and though there were many highs and good times, I also found my musical education challenging and perhaps more than it needed to be. I came in as a vocalist who could read music and was mostly self taught on the piano, though I could hold my own. I knew solfege (do-re-mi-fa-sol) and had a grasp of scales, but had very little music literacy in terms of theory and aural skills. When I arrived on campus as a student accepted into BYU’s school of music, before I was allowed to register for my core music classes I was required to take an aural (listening) exam so that the school could be assured that I was qualified to be a music student. Essentially the test consisted of listening to tones, melodies, patterns and rhythms and then translating them to the page. This is called music dictation. For those of us who are literate in our native tongue, when someone speaks to us we can easily write down their words or see them in our head in addition to being able to read or understand the written words. Musical literacy requires the same thing, but as it turned out, I was not as musically literate as I had believed. I only had to achieve a score of approximately 60% accuracy on the test to pass and I failed by one point. The second time I took the exam I failed by 3 points. The third time I took the exam I passed with one more correct answer than was required to pass. I was thrilled and felt like I was in the clear.
I then proceeded to take 4 semesters of this thing called dictation and I cried nearly every time I had to study or do an assignment. The entire concept was so foreign to me. Each semester (save one, with a very kind teacher who lead a small study group) I earned a C- grade, the bare minimum required to not have to re-take the class for my degree. I had one teacher who would walk around the room, look at my exam paper and say, “Let’s listen to this again.” I am pretty sure I was the worst student in my class. Fast forward several years. I earned my music degree and my MRS. degree (I’d gotten married) and was proudly wearing the badge of motherhood. We moved to Duvall with our young family and I met my now business partner, Carmen Nemeth as well as Kari Cullimore who started Snoqualmie Valley Music. Carmen and I hit it off because of our mutual love of music and singing and she began to tell me about the Musikgarten program. The things she told me triggered my memories of my struggles in music school and I knew instantly that I wanted MY children to learn music in this way. What she explained to me was this: that Musikgarten takes an aural approaches and teaches music literacy along the same pathway as spoken languages are taught. As babies we hear words, then we speak them as toddlers and eventually we learn to read and write. In Musikgarten classes, babies hear the music, they begin to sing as toddlers and when they get to the keyboard, they learn to play by ear at first until eventually they are shown how to read the music. By the time students are at they keyboard, the patterns they have sung in class are so innate inside of them that translating them to the piano is a simple process. Taking those patterns to the written page comes as naturally as learning to read a language you already speak. Traditional piano lessons on the other hand, start at the very end– students like myself are taught to read the notes without being able to “speak them” first– leaving them short of true music literacy.
I signed my son up for the Music Makers at Home class for kindergarteners as soon as I was able. Ms. Kari used to have to trick him into singing, but I am happy to say at nearly 12 years old, he not only has a beautiful singing voice, but is excellent on the keyboard. He is brilliant musician, playing the piano as well as the clarinet and the recorder and he transitions easily between each instrument. It is the Musikgarten program that has gotten him here. I have no doubt he could walk in and take the same aural exam I took 15 years ago and ace it with flying colors. I also know that I would do a lot better on that test today as well because of the way I have re-trained my musical ears while being a teacher of this progressive curriculum for it wasn’t long after I saw my son soaring in the program that I realized I believed in it enough to teach it. I absolutely love the Musikgarten approach to creating musical students. I love the musicians my children are becoming, and I love the bonding time I have had with them in babies, toddlers and cycle of seasons classes. I love teaching the children in our community and my heart soars the first time a toddler repeats a pattern in class for me. I get special delight from parents telling me about how their child sings and dances outside of class. Seeing keyboard students make the connection between what they hear and what they can play is inspiring. This is a fantastic curriculum regardless of where your child wants to end up in their musical careers because Musikgarten operates on a belief that music is for everyone and that all children are musical. Music and movement does benefit the whole child and making music as a family is a fulfilling experience. So that’s why I chose Musikgarten and why I continue to choose it as a teacher and a parent. We would love to have you try a class and experience the difference. Come for the fun and stay for the education!