Mr. Mark's Musings

What Did You Say Dear?
By Mark Adamczyk on April 10, 2018

A stage of child development that I encounter on a regular basis is one that is both a) super-frustrating and b) one that we’ve all experienced—or are soon to experience. It’s that period in your child’s growth where he or she has discovered that they can “converse”, that they can mouth strings of words in rapid succession and grownups take notice. Not only do we notice and smile with delight, but we also respond back, with more strings of words. The frustrating part is that this is the time that follows the point where your child has developed a simple vocabulary and gotten you to understand some of their “words”, but before the time when they are skilled enough to make their sentences intelligible. They are literally babbling. It sounds like the cadence of speech, but what the heck are they babbling about?! It’s going to take a few weeks to get real conversations going, but in the meantime, they are so sweetly earnest about imparting their opinions and describing their activities and getting adults to understand what they say. I’m elated when I encounter one of these babblers in our classes who approaches to tell me something very important, and then I deflate when I verbally respond to what I think they said (“Yes, I love the stamp on your hand!”) and I get a confused look back, as if to say “No, you don’t get it, Mr. Mark. Your response is not making sense to me!” In gatherings (like a Music Together® class), all the adults in earshot will try to help translate the babble sentences into something like sense. “It sounded like she said she her brother fed an orange to the cat?”

Of course, children improve their vocabulary, diction, sentence structure, etc. in short order, and the frustrations on both sides (not being understood and not understanding) fade, to be replaced by intelligent discourse between adult and child. (“I have to go poopie!”) Why? Because we adults keep talking back to our children, praising their efforts, modeling conversational behavior with other family members, friends, and store cashiers. Our children observe these interactions, keep practicing, and they eventually get it right. Children start linguistic communication with simple words and progress to sentences and grammar, but—Important development milestone distinction—through a hazy time of verbal babble! We recognize the babble for what it is: Progress! We encourage and promote it and voila, sentences.

Since this is Mr. Mark writing, you might have guessed where this is going two paragraphs back. Yes, child development in music follows a similar trajectory—infant vocables (coos and chirps and la-las and animal sounds) leading to what is clearly identifiable as toddler singing. (Simple songs like “Happy Birthday”, “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”) But in between all that is a period of, ta da, Musical Babble! (Researchers call it “Primary Musical Development Period” because “Musical Babble Period” looks silly in grant proposals, but that’s what it is!) And, analogous with language development—where there is a period where a child’s language efforts kinda, sorta, um maybe, sound like words but actually more like gibberish—there is a period in your child’s musical development where their efforts to revisit what they just heard on the stereo or from the singing of the person behind the wheel in the car, or from Mr. Mark and his minions (that would be you or nanny, dear reader) sound, well, unrelated to what just came before. Those cooing sounds and yelps that an infant makes at the end of song, those nonsense syllables that a toddler makes while walking (supposedly) aimlessly around the room while recorded music is playing, that seemingly random humming that preschoolers engage in while, among other pursuits, staring out a window: those are examples of musical babble. How can we adults help that babble turn into the rudiments of musical behavior (with all the inherent benefits to brain and body develop that follow)? By singing back to our children, praising their efforts, modeling musical behavior with other family members, friends, and—maybe—store cashiers.

Changing Music Collections - Parent and Child Perspectives
By Mark Adamczyk on March 14, 2018

The Winter Session is heading toward its inevitable conclusion, so one more week of songs from the Bells Collection in class. Coming up, the Triangle song collection for the Spring Session, more wonderful songs and musical experiences for you and your child. As my families (um, that’s you, dear reader) get ready to make the switch to a new collection, I am reminded of some of the amusing stories I have heard from parents in the past about being so-o-o-o ready for new songs—but, the youngest member of the family is not on-board with that switch and so the previous song collection stays on top rotation far into the new session. Most children fall in love with a Music Together song collection, and some have a hard time parting with it, even temporarily until they end up falling in love with the new collection. Those songs become very “real” and important to your child, just as a favorite stuffed/plastic animal/doll/train engine has to be taken EVERYWHERE, or a favorite picture book has to be re-revisited (“Read it AGAIN!”). It’s a comfort thing, as your child literally “grows” (develops) familiar with each song experience (some more, some less—but don’t try skipping the ones that you like less!) All people—especially children--are musical, capable of taking in music from the outside world (your car, our classes, lullaby time) and using it to develop their brain’s musicalness. But all people don’t develop the same musical vocabulary, because musical style is cultural. We are most comfortable with the musical styles we experience from infancy as we grow up. Fortunately, the Music Together songs cover a spectrum of musical styles (leaning toward Western Musical traditions, but also a bit beyond to other cultures). Children get a healthy variety of musical styles with our songs, especially when you start adding up the different collections of songs (“Bongos”, “Bells”, “Triangle”, etc.) over extended participation in Music Together classes.

Sometimes, though, your toddler doesn’t seem to consider a breadth of musical experience to be the utmost priority, and wants to sticks (hah, hah, get it? “Stick?”) with his or her favorite. (And CDs and streaming, unlike the vinyl LPs of yesteryear, don’t physically wear out.)

Hey, parents who have done more than one Music Together session so far, do you have any stories about making the song collection switch with your child? Did it go smoothly with your young music critic? Did it take some finessing and negotiating? Are you still singing to the Flutes collection from last Spring? I’d love to hear your story!

Looking Back at the Importance of Early Music
By Mark Adamczyk on March 03, 2018

I was carrying instruments into the Park District building the other day and I met up with a dad, whom I knew through Music Together, who was also heading in to use the fitness facility. His daughter (and mom and dad) had been in my Music Togther classes a few years before. We chit-chatted about his family and job (he has what I think is an exciting job—airplane pilot) and how his daughter is doing in grade school. He told me that recently the students in her class started recorder lessons in music class (a recorder is that wind instrument that many schools use with young children). She, of course, was loving it, but what most impressed her dad was the way she could pick out tunes that she knew in her head (old Music Together songs or songs on tv) and play them on the recorder. He said he sure wouldn’t know how to do that.

Because of many musical experiences in her early childhood (I was there for a lot of them!), this dad’s child has developed musicality in her brain (and ears, voice, body movement, etc.) that allows her to interact with abstract musical attributes, like pitch and rhythm, and use them—in simple ways for now—to her advantage. She has more facilities in her brain—because she has developed the rudiments of music, in addition to language, logical thinking, socializing, etc.—to draw upon to learn, to explore, to amuse herself. Musicalness is one more aspect of her personality and will stay with her and flourish in the years ahead of her.

Your serious hard-working child
By Mark Adamczyk on May 08, 2017

I just finished reading an article by Paul G. Morehouse, an early childhood music specialist on the West Coast that reminds me of just how hard young children--toddlers, preschoolers--work and how serious they are about the work they do. We adults, in our contrariness, call our children's energetic work "play".

Young children are not solely music learners. After all, the music they make is real. Spontaneously and naturally, young children produce sounds and rhythms that conform to a song’s structure. For them, neither melodic nor rhythmic inaccuracies detract from the authenticity of music-making experiences.

Paul G. Morehouse,  PhD, director of The Institute for the Study of Music-Making Behavior.




Professor Morehouse is talking about musical activities, but the same "work-ethic" of youngsters holds true for all their various and sundry activities. We adults call it playing, and wish we could do more of it ourselves, but for your young child, playing is hard work. (Play is really the work of childhood." - Fred Rogers) All children, your child, don't experience play as, well, child's play. For them, it's what they do, with all their focus, all their heart, all their being.

Watch your child play. He or she isn't pretending, at least not the way we adults think of pretending--going through actions meant to look like we're doing something, while we aren't really doing it. Your child is really doing it, as far as he or she's concerned.

When adults (myself included) watch children playing instruments in one of our "play-along" jam sessions in music class, for example, we're watching children really playing instruments. Oh, sure, they don't necessarily sound so polished to our grown-up ears, but each child is not thinking that he or she is learning how to play an instrument ("Gosh, I don't sound very polished."), or how to make music ("I'm glad I'm in a music class learning how to play music better!"). He or she is really doing it ("I'm awesome!"), as far as they are concerned ("I'm playing the drum just the way Mom does!"). As Mr. Morehouse says, each child's performance is authentic, each is sincerely doing the best he or she knows how to do. Luckily, a child's temperament allows him or her to instantly--and more or less constantly--adjust and accept that he or she could do better. That's where the learning comes in. Although, mostly, your child is going to play it his or her way, over and over again. That's learning, too.

I've just described a music-activity situation, but of course your child is serious (not pretending) about everything he or she does. Reading a picture-book (that your child has memorized from hearing you read it to him or her so many times), giving "baby" (a doll or stuffed animal) a bath and putting "baby" to bed, sharing a simple activity with a sibling, "talking" to you in what comes out, unfortunately, as an unintelligible mumble. Even given that a very young child's speech is often unintelligible, you can be certain that your child is never mumbling the sentence "I'm just pretending/learning to talk to you." To them, the implied message is always, "I'm talking to you" or "I'm actually reading this book" or "I'm really making music".

(original post date 9/7/14)

It doesn't matter how well you (think you) sing
By Mark Adamczyk on April 07, 2015

 Children love music, children thrive with music, children are missing out if they don't get music in their lives! And we're talking (singing?) about music as an active activity, not some electronics playing in the background 

Sing to your baby. It doesn't matter how well you sing! Hearing your voice helps your baby begin to learn language. Babies love the patterns and rhythms of songs. And even young babies can recognize specific melodies once they've heard them.

Diane Bales, Ph.D
Building Baby's Brain: The Role of Music. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

You (yes, YOU, Mom and Dad!) can make music with your child! I'm not talking about performance-quality stuff, that's something else we adults all can enjoy. I'm referring to just plain old tapping and clapping and yapping. Singing and moving and grooving and all that music stuff makes us feel good, and it can make our children feel good as well. Makes them smarter, too, but that's just icing on the cake.

Sing with your child. As children grow, they enjoy singing with you. And setting words to music actually helps the brain learn them more quickly and retain them longer. That's why we remember the lyrics of songs we sang as children, even if we haven't heard them in years..

 Diane Bales

You can do that! Lullabys at bed-time, pop songs in the car, boistrous sea-chanties at bath-time, opera arias after dinner (NOT during, of course, that would be gouche).

You are (probably) not a professional actor, but you can do the meanest wolf and the silliest three little pigs when you read to your child. And that's totally fine because it's all about the story and sharing that story--sharing that moment--with you child. Same with singing a song: you aren't a pop star (are you?) put you can share a song--any song--with your child.

It's those shared experiences with you child that help her or his brain do the best developing!

Make some time to make music with your child every day!  

I wonder if she sings to her eagle?
By Mark Adamczyk on April 17, 2014

This is a photo-essay about a 13-year-old girl who uses an eagle to hunt, just as her ancestors did. Plus she lives at the top of the world. The bird looks almost as large as the girl.

Not really anything to do with music, I wanted to share. I found these pictures emotionally touching.

Music is Better for your Child than Spinach!
By Mark Adamczyk on March 28, 2014

Music is Better for your Child than Spinach!

Here's a quote from a research paper by Professor Susan Hallam, Institute of Education, University of London.

[There is] a strong case for the benefits of active engagement with music
throughout the lifespan. In early childhood there seem to be benefits for the development of
perceptual skills which effect learning language subsequently impacting on literacy which is
also enhanced by opportunities to develop rhythmic co-ordination. Fine motor co-ordination
is improved through learning to play an instrument. Music also seems to improve spatial
reasoning, one aspect of general intelligence which is related to some of the skills required in

You can read the whole paper, The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people or look for references and articles about it on the web, there are plenty. Or just read on and take away the point I want to make: Musical playtime is a vital part of your young child's daily routine. Like spinach, even more so, musical activities shared between you and your child are wonderful ways to bond with your child and to help your child's developing mind and developing body. Plus, music-making is a lot less messy than, say, creamed spinach and a LOT less green.

Make some time to make music with your child every day! (And consider a music-inspiring Music Together class every week!)

I'm sharing a music video with you
By Mark Adamczyk on December 13, 2013

I am sharing a music video with you that I put together for Halloween (although it wasn't done by Halloween, but that was the plan!) It is me singing a "round", a simple song that has built-in harmonies and counterpoint, if you get a bunch of people to sing it starting at different times. I didn't have a bunch of people with me at the moment, so I started singing it at different times myself. I put in some Halloween-themed pictures, none of them very scary. So, if you want to see how a musical round works and look at a bunch of not-very-scary Halloween-themed pictures, then the video link below will be just your cup of tea!


(have you seen) the Ghost of John from mark adamczyk on Vimeo.

Mission Statement
By Mark Adamczyk on March 30, 2013

I came across this quote from a famous and admirable music teacher, from whom I derive much inspiration and insight. These words, on a good day, match what I feel about the work I do. (The not-so-good days are few and far between, fortunately!)

“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”
Shinichi Suzuki

Music and Empathy
By Mark Adamczyk on September 25, 2012

Music affects the emotional well-being of children, research finds

Exposure to music can makes kids more empathetic, a recent study has found.

The University of Cambridge research, though preliminary, may affect how school systems, policymakers and educators view music and its relationship to a child's development.

Read the whole article here.