Music for the Very Young: Music, Movement and Literacy provides Trenton’s pre-K children with a joyful and interesting first music education experience. The program weaves music, movement and reading basics into the fabric of the preschool day, trains preschool teachers in creating a musical classroom, and engages children's families in their learning.
A Well-Designed Approach
Our founders adapted the well-researched and respected Music Together® program from The Center for Music & Young Children in Princeton, NJ to bring the model to schools. The same approach that helps children learn together with their “significant adult” family can be applied to the relationship between students and teachers. We worked closely with the Office of Early Childhood Programs of the Trenton Board of Education to design programs for their preschool classes that provide meaningful musical experiences that add movement into the flow of the day and help prepare young readers for kindergarten.
To date, Music for the Very Young has been a central part of life for the children in 31 preschools throughout Trenton. Since 2000, 3600 families have been singing the songs and dancing along with their preschoolers at home and at school at our Family Music Parties.
And here’s the important thing: we don’t drop in and then leave.
For every one of our partners, we commit to two years of a weekly presence. During this time we work closely with the classroom teachers to help increase their confidence and skills to integrate the Music for the Very Young program into their daily routines and across the curriculum. As their confidence grows and they become more independent, we drop back to a monthly presence, to support and refresh their approach. About 250 preschool teachers and assistants have participated in this on-the-job professional training. These partnerships are powerful and are self-sustaining over time.
Weaving Music Into a Day . . . and Community
The children in our partner preschools experience music & movement throughout the school day, not just during “music time.” Children sing as they form a line, as they clean up their toys, as they sit down to snack – any time that the teachers feel that music & movement lend harmony to the school day.
The joyful energy the program creates in the classroom is infectious. It is a constant demonstration of the human instinct to make music. As we grow into so many district classrooms, we see a community network developing, based on shared music. Trenton’s families are often in transition and preschoolers move between schools. They often find an unexpected comfort when they are greeted with the beloved "Hello Song" from the Music for the Very Young repertoire. Their new teachers describe a heartwarming release of tension as the children join in the familiar rituals of music making.
In 2011 we discovered a way to double the value of these programs, and we piloted our first “Intergenerational Music for the Very Young” in partnership with the Trenton Office on Aging. Children from four preschools have walk to nearby senior centers and share their music class with the members from the community. Not only have the children built warm and affectionate relationships with community seniors through music making, but the senior centers have reported dramatically higher participation rates on the days when the children are expected.
Since its inception, Music for the Very Young has received the support of some very generous institutional funders. The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has funded us in the Trenton Public Schools' preschool classes since 2002. In 2003, we were awarded a Federal Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination grant, in partnership with the Trenton Board of Education, to provide services to all 23 of the district's preschool classes housed in the elementary schools, over three years. This was one of 34 awards in the country, and the only one for a pre-K program. In 2006 we were honored by an award from the Mattel Foundation -- chosen from 1200 proposals to receive one of 38 on-line community grants program. Other important funders include the PNC Foundation (since 2005), the Nordson Corporation Foundation (since 2008), the Albin Family Foundation (since 2008), and new this year, the George H. and Estelle M. Sands Foundation.