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Music Together {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

September 27, 2012

Music Together

When my oldest two were toddler and infant respectively, we attended music classes together as a family.  There were rhythm sticks and scarves and activities all planned by a trained teacher.  It was a comprehensive music experience for my little ones that we all enjoyed.  Eventually the teacher moved away and the classes dispersed and we were left with a CD and a host of wonderful ideas of how to incorporate music into the lives of our children.  We had such a splendid time with this program that I was excited to get to review Music Together with all four of my children!

Music Together is a preschool/early elementary music program that supports all learning:  language, cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development.  Written by Kenneth K. Guilmartin, Lili M. Levinowitz, Ph.D, and Lyn Ransom, D.M.A., Music Together is based on sound research. Brought to the public scene in 1987, Music Together is an internationally recognized, award-winning music program.  The program encourages parental involvement and wishes to instill the pleasure of informal music into the daily lives of children.   It works off the idea that every individual is musical and children need “a stimulating, supportive music environment to achieve basic competence in the wonderful human capacity for music-making.”  

Affectionately known in my house as “silly songs”, Music Together Family Favorites is a delightful set of 19 of the most-loved songs from the 9 Music Together song collections. This CD comes with a 32-page booklet with fun ideas for activities that make every song special and enjoyable.  The only things missing are your kids and a few instruments (rhythm sticks, egg shakers, etc.) – available from Music Together or easily made at home using miscellaneous supplies.

Additionally, to complete my review I was also sent the Music Together Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers.  The Songbook was 112 spiral-bound pages.  At the beginning of the songbook was detailed information on how to use the book.  The book included an introduction to the philosophy, types of songs and activities, instruments and props, and classroom adaptations for special needs children.  The four-point philosophy that follows was discussed in detail:

  1. All children are musical.
  2. Therefore, all children can achieve basic music competence; that is they can learn to sing and move with accurate rhythm.
  3. The participation and modeling of parents and other primary caregivers is essential to a child’s musical growth.
  4. This growth is best achieved in a playful, musically rich, and non-performance-oriented learning environment.

Music Together

The middle of the songbook had every song on the CD written out along with activities to enhance the song.  There was background information on each song, what skill would be covered in that song, how to introduce the song, what to do with preschoolers and older children, what to do with infants, extra extension activities, special items to note, and how to incorporate children with special needs.  It was a truly amazing book – full of photographs of children enjoying musical activities and artwork to accompany each song.

The end of the songbook included more information about the Music Together program, a glossary, and a guitar reference chart.

We used this program with all four of my children ages 4, 7, 9 and 11.  From the 5th grader down to the preschooler, they all loved it!  I wasn’t sure at first what my eldest would say because the music was designed for a younger crowd (birth to age 7), but she wound up being the one shushing the others when she wanted to hear a certain song!  We listened at home and in the car – it has become the favored car listening music.  There is one song that sings about riding in the car and has beeps and screeches and zooms (not distracting for the driver, I promise) but it also says “sleepin’ in the car”.  My kids thought it was funny to joke with me about this one because mommy had better not sleep while driving in the car!

When the program arrived at our home, it was so nice to open the package only to find that there was really no prep work needed to explore this music system.  We did need a few instruments, as I mentioned earlier, but those were easy to round up.  (A pair – or four – of wooden spoons for rhythm sticks and a few plastic eggs with uncooked rice in them taped shut got us started.)  I thoroughly read all the information provided in the songbook and felt more than adequately prepared to start teaching my children.  I do have a little music background but I don’t think it would be necessary to be successful using Music Together.  Everything was laid out so easy to understand.

Due to timing, we first listened to the CD in the car.  We had lots of errands to run and I was anxious to get started with the program.  It was amazing how my kids perked up to the new sounds.  I didn’t tell them we got a new CD, but the songs were captivating and they listened and laughed to the entire CD.  My daughter said she didn’t like one song but couldn’t explain to me why.   Then she smiled and said that it made her want to dance, so I consider that a musical success whether she likes it or not!

As time went on, we would choose a few songs for the time allotted and work with those few songs in depth with rhythm, movement, and discussion.  My 7 year old was the most energetic about our Music Together experience.  He would dance around and ham it up the entire time.  The 11 year old tolerated her younger brothers’ antics and enjoyed her own involvement.  She had no problem finding the beats and finding creative ways to keep the time.  She also really enjoyed singing along with the songs and learned a lot of the words.  She did well when I would sing a harmony; she could keep the melody for the most part.  The 4 year old was mostly giggles.  He is still in the learning stages of rhythm and movement but he could play with the instruments with no problems.  The 9 year old was the quirky one.  Every now and then I’d catch a smile from him, but he was harder to get motivated during our instruction time.  I couldn’t figure out if he thought the movement was too immature for him or if it was just his bashful personality shining through.  The funniest thing was that he totally enjoyed the CD when we weren’t focusing on the activities.

Some of our favorite songs were:

  • “Mississippi Cats” – they loved the fast beat and trying to spell with the singers.   The song is jazzy and full of scats.
  • “She Sells Sea Shells” – the older three liked the tongue twisting challenge.
  • “Allee Galloo” – I think because we have a little friend named Allie the kids thought these nonsense sounds were fun surrounding her name.

Music Together Awards

My opinion?  My kids (and I) adored the vast array of music, sounds and rhythms they heard on this CD.  A music class of this caliber would cost me a mere fortune for all of my children to participate and the oldest two would already be too old for the classes.  The option of having this CD and accompanying songbook for teachers is phenomenal!  Definitely worth the money!  Just one word of warning – you will be singing these songs around the house so be prepared to be hassled by loved ones.  🙂

You may sample the songs available for $0.99 each, buy the CD alone for $14.95 or download the music in an MP3 version for $9.95.  The Music Together Family Favorites Songbook and CD are available as a set for $39.95 ($5 cheaper than buying them separately).  Enter the code SCHOOLHOUSE at checkout and receive an additional $2 off your purchase of this set.

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DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of Music Together Family Favorites Songbook and CD for the purpose of completing this review. All the opinions expressed here are my own and are offered honestly in exchange for the product. The receipt of the product in no way influenced my honest assessment.
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