Reflections from my recent invitation to present my musical play philosophy in North China. Julie Wylie. Copyright 2017.
I have worked with many children, families and teachers in different parts of the world, and once again my trip to China demonstrated clearly how music can brings families, communities, society and cultures together. It doesn’t matter if we can’t speak the same language, when we sing, dance and play together, we are all united through the infectious, universal, emotional, joyful language of music.
Children everywhere have the same wonderful response to music, especially when they can participate freely responding to the predictable structure of musical form and the expressive elements of music which unite us as a group. The children I worked with in two very large pre schools were so excited when we sat around the rainbow ring and bounced in time singing echo songs and improvising with sounds, gestures and movement. Some children went into the middle of the circle and were so full of joy when I copied their actions. Teachers were amazed that there clearly was no right or wrong way to play. The secret was total enjoyment through predictable songs with a clear beginning, middle and end. Every child responded to our play and stop games with the extended pauses. Every child responded to our improvisations, that incorporate elements of surprise, anticipation and stop! Soon many of the children were singing their versions of “Bop it in the Rocket”.
I used playful music games with pitch and rhythmic patterning designed to help the children to read the words, to experience the melodic shape of the pitches through pitch games and to sing the tune from the simple notation. Although we are from different cultures,these children in China, like ours in New Zealand, were using creative and analytical thinking, coding and simple reading/literacy skills to read the pitch, notation and words. We focus so much on literacy and numeracy in our schools, but music helps memory and is the only language that helps children to decode three symbolic languages simultaneously!
At the end of one large music session, every single child came up and one by one they hugged me. I looked around at all the parents and grandparents and they we all nodding and smiling at me. I was invited to people’s homes and experienced wonderful hospitality. Two distinct cultural groups came together to sing, dance, say and play together. Many of the children were experiencing a range of rhythmic songs, dances and words from the English language. We were altogether in the moment and they were singing, clapping and dancing along, even though the words were strange.
Every time I presented music sessions in China, whether it was for families, children or teachers, something magical happened. We were all connected in a very powerful way. We experienced how music naturally brings a strong sense of harmony, of connection and well being. Music activates our brains and releases feel-good hormones like dopamine. Music is a natural part of our humanity and draws us together in incredible ways. When I was sharing my music in China I felt completely at home. Regardless of our culture, our backgrounds, music binds us together, breaking down barriers, opening up rich experiences of creativity, imagination, communication and love.