Monday, May 19, 2014

Spring 2014

Dear blog followers,

For the time being, I will only be writing on my two preschool blogs. I felt the need to let parents know what was happening in music class. A blog was the easiest way to do this. Since there are only 24 hours in a day, I will suspend writing on "Raising Musical Children."

Most of the ideas in my school blogs are similar to what I have written on this blog, so I think you will enjoy following either of my school blogs. Please click on one of the links below to find the other blogs. Who knows, maybe someday I will get back to writing on this link. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I hope you will join me at a blog below:

Towson Presbyterian Preschool Blog

Ashland Preschool Center Blog

Happy music making.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Halloween Music Resource List

My October posts from October 2010 and 2011 talk about Halloween songs and ideas. I thought it would be helpful if I just listed the recordings, books and videos that I’ve found over the years to corral them all in one place. Let me know if they are helpful to you.


Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman can be found in hard back, paperback or even on the Kindle. If you go on You Tube you can find my very favorite recording sung in opera style complete with recitatives. I use it every year in the nursery school and it is a hit with all classes. You’ll need to have the book to see all of the pages, though, since only the cover is shown.

I also found it in e book format
5 Little Pumpkins board book by Dan Yaccarino can be found on Amazon. It is also on the shelves at Target. 

Monster Mash book by Hallmark is out of print but you can find it on Ebay and other online stores. I think I bought mine at Giant last year. Should have bought a bunch, but who knew?

Dem Bones by Bob Barner – a version of the old favorite told by dancing skeletons. I also found a video that is well done on You Tube. It is also in the Baltimore County Library.


Chiller recorded by Eric Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops. Contains many classical recordings such as Danse Macabre, Night on Bald Mountain and In the Hall of the Mountain King (which the kids always tell me is on Little Einstein) and many more. Just remember that this CD has sound effects which are scary to little ones.

Elmo Says Boo! – a great recording for small children. This can be found at the library. Plenty of videos of this on You Tube. There is a DVD on Amazon of this. Great, non- scary songs for tots.

Halloween; Monster Mix by Manheim Steamroller – If you like New Age music, this is the one for you. Beware the scary sounds are not for little ones, though.

The Purple People Eater – Great dance music

The Monster Mash

Ghost Busters Theme

Witchcraft –  by Frank Sinatra. The skeleton in the movie, Hocus Pocus, sings another version. 

I Put a Spell on you – of course the best is Bette Midler’s version in Hocus Pocus. Sung with Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker. Here is the You Tube version, but it might scare the wee ones.

Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for organ

We have a song in Music Together called One Little Owl which works as a Halloween song too.


The Sorcerer’s Apprentice starring Mickey from Fantasia

These are just a few suggestions. I haven’t had small children for some time. Let me know if you have any suggestions of things that have worked for your family. I’d love to hear about them.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October Music Fun

October has always been one of my favorite music months.  It might have been having to learn Halloween songs in order to receive our treats on Halloween night.  Really, we had to perform in order to get our candy in the town where I grew up. I thought it was that way everywhere. Music teachers always had it easy during the month of October because the children were so attentive.

Think about how exciting Halloween was when you were small - trying to figure out what to be, creating faces on Jack-o-lanterns, and so many spooky things to do.  For songs there is always the old standby, "Five Little Pumpkins".  You can sing it or just say the poem.  There is even a nice board book out with great pictures. I picked mine up at Target.

For recorded music there is always the classical pieces, "Danse Macabre", "In the Hall of the Mountain King" , or "The Sorcerer's Apprentice".   If you are in more of a rock and roll mood there is always the "Purple People Eater" and the "Monster Mash".  Put them on in the kitchen and rock while you cook dinner. It makes the time go much faster.  For older Elementary kids there is the CD "Chiller" by Eric Kunzel, an entire CD of recorded music.

If you are looking for a Halloween book,  there is always "The Big Pumpkin" by Erica Silverman. Scholastic used to carry a great musical recording complete with recitatives, just like real opera.  If all of us send in our emails, maybe they'd bring the version back.  A book with Halloween Sounds is always a good idea to practice your howling and Booing.

These are just a few suggestions.  I'd love to hear some of your ideas.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Effect of Live Music on Infants

The effect that live music has on infants was brought home to me last weekend as my family was rehearsing for our annual family sing together at church. Each summer we gather the troupes from far and wide, pick some music suitable for us and the service, and provide the music for a church service. As we gathered in my daughter's living room and practiced our accapella arrangement of "Yonder Come Day", my 5 month old grandson just couldn't get enough of our rehearsal. He smiled and cooed the entire time.

The next morning we met at church to warm up and my daughter was trying to give him a quick nosh before the service. As soon as we started singing, the baby's head snapped around again and again to listen to the music. He was much more attentive to our singing, than eating, to the chagrin of his mom.

Do we have to be wonderful performers to attract baby's attention? I don't think so. My grandson also quiets down if we sing or play the recording of "John, the Rabbit". He also enjoys listening to his mom play the clarinet. However, it is nice to have some useful songs in your head to pull out at moments notice to distract a crying child, though.

I would love to hear any stories that you might have about music quieting or distracting a child or even one that really captured a baby's attention. Please post them to my blog.

Happy music making!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Ideas

I love teaching music during the month of November. There are so many wonderful songs, games and books to use.

Songs can range from table graces to Native American Songs to songs about turkeys. Thanksgiving is a great time to sing a grace around your Thanksgiving table. Even preschoolers can participate and teach guests and family of all ages how to sing the song. When was the last time everyone in your household sang a song together? We just don’t do that anymore.

Two of my favorite Thanksgiving games are “Shoo Turkey” and “Oats, Peas, Beans”. “Shoo Turkey” is a call-response game in which the leader asks a question and the others respond “Yes, Ma’am” to almost all of the questions asked. It is a song from South Sea Island in Georgia, popularized by Bessie Jones. It can be found on her album, Put Your Hand on Your Hip and Let Your Backbone Slip or seen in the video by Linda Goss on You Tube . Her version is closest to my version.

“Oats, Peas, Beans” is a circle game about farming, another good subject for Harvest Time. It puts a farmer in the middle with the circle rotating around. The farmer gets to pick a partner and the partner then becomes the farmer. Let me know if you’d like the lyrics. There are plenty on You Tube.

My favorite Thanksgiving books are:
1. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, a take-off on the classic lady who swallowed a fly except in this version she turns into a balloon in the Thanksgiving Parade.
2. One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims, using the old favorite about 10 little Indians tune but telling the story about the first Thanksgiving instead. You know the tune, don’t you?
3. Over the River a classic about going to grandfather’s house. You can pick from three books using a classic Currier and Ives illustrations, the story using turkeys instead of humans or a modern family traveling in the family mini-van.

1. “Harvest Home” by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, who provided music for the PBS Burns epic about the Civil War. I bought it for the harvest cover and my family pretty much wore it out every November. Yee haw! Barn dance anyone?
2. Any Native American recordings.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halloween Music

Halloween is a great time to explore music with your child. There is suitable music in almost every genre; classical, folk, popular, or rock. Think of the Halloween songs you sang in your elementary music classes. In our town growing up no one would give us candy unless we sang a song or told a joke so we all paid really close attention in music class. Feel free to teach your children the Halloween songs of your youth.

The songs we learned in elementary music are fine for preschoolers. Of course we need to be careful when choosing music for younger children since we don’t want to scare them. Some young children are really sensitive to music in minor keys. I think it’s mostly a cultural phenomenon. Other cultures use minor melodies more frequently in folk and happy songs. In our culture we tend to use the minor modes to denote sad or scary moods. Some children pick up on this at an early age and minor music will really upset them.

When my kids were elementary school age we would get out all the spooky classical recordings. You have probably heard some of them in old movies. One of our favorite albums was Chiller, conducted by Erich Kunzel with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. There are many great songs in the album from this CD. The collection has everything from “Phantom of the Opera” to “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saens to “Funeral of a Marionette” which was the music on Alfred Hitchcock’s show. Now you can buy the MP3 versions of these recordings on Amazon.

Lately, I’ve seen many more popular collections of Halloween music in stores. A few years back I bought a recording of Halloween songs in Wal-Mart containing songs like “The Monster Mash” and the “Purple People Eater”. These are great to play when it’s raining outside and the kids and adults need to blow off some steam without wrecking the house. Put these recordings on and dance while you’re making dinner. If you know the Mashed Potatoes dance, teach it to the kids. It’s so good for kids to see parents dancing and singing. Dads I don’t want to hear that you’re sitting the dances out. It’s especially good for the kids to see that it’s okay for dads to move to music too.

One more thing – don’t forget to go through your recordings and see what you can use as Halloween music. I’ll just bet that there is something in there that you can use.

Now, put on some recordings and rock away. I’d love to hear what music you have used during October for your family.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snowy Day Idea #1 - The Kitchen Band.

It's the third day into a 30 inch snowstorm in Baltimore and I'm sure that many parents are losing their minds. Now is a great time to get the kids together and make some music.

Idea number one: Put on one of your favorite recordings and gather anything in the kitchen that is unbreakable. Put all of the kitchen implements into a large plastic container and take it into a room with a lot of space. Now you can have a kitchen band. Really! You can even have the kids help you choose what should go into the container. Metal measuring spoons work well. Plastic or wooden spoons make great drum sticks. Old pots and pans make great drums. Empty oatmeal containers also make good drums but they just aren't as substantial as they used to be. Don't forget cardboard boxes. Tape them back together and bang away.

If you have taken the kids to a Music Together class you may use "Playin' in the Kitchen" as your accompaniment. I'm sure that other preschool music classes have recordings for kitchen bands, too.

I'd love to hear about your kitchen band experiences. Tell us about your instruments and recordings.