NORTH KINGSTOWN – Beginning this week, Radiance Yoga will be offering a special music program for toddlers, allowing young children to practice rhythmic movement and pitch awareness. The program, called Yoga and Music for Toddlers, will run every Thursday from February through April.
Classes will allow participating toddlers–ages two through four–to learn traditional children’s music, fingerplays and echo songs, all while exploring pitch and rhythm through instruments and large motor dancing, yoga, and games.
Radiance Yoga’s program director, Julie Andrews, who will also be instructing the class, said that Yoga and Music for Toddlers taps into a musical skill that children are innately born with. Andrews herself developed the early childhood music program and has taught the course at the Philharmonic Music School, the Hyde Park Jewish Community Center in Chicago and South County Montessori School.
“I hope to reach children at this very important developmental stage because numerous studies support the theory we are born with musical skills that drop off rapidly during toddlerhood,” Andrews said. “Allowing young children to practice rhythmic movement and pitch awareness early on prevents loss of these important skills which cannot be easily regained later on.”
“We’re born with a certain amount of musical ability and [...] that talent walks very quickly out the door,” she continued. “And by age 5, it’s very hard to recapture what you were born with. It’s the importance of early childhood exposure to music making. Not reading notes, but music making–the active process of learning how to explore pitch and rhythm.”
Studies have long concluded that the innate musical skills we are born with begin to atrophy slowly but steadily from birth, according to a Radiance Yoga press release.
“Skills, like the ability to discriminate pitch and rhythm, are strong among preschool-aged children and drop off dramatically at age five or six. A further gradual decline continues until about fourth grade, at which point musical abilities level off, but regaining what has been lost is difficult and rare. The mathematical/logical process involved in decoding or reading music is a very different and separate skill and ought to be deferred until a child is of reading age.”
And in order to maintain their innate gifts, preschool children need to participate in musical activities like singing, dancing and tapping out rhythms on percussion instruments, long before formal instruction begins.
Toddler music classes, where children are allowed to revel in the joy of music-making with their parents or caregivers and other children, “offer many benefits beyond learning to sing and keep a beat,” the press release continues. “Non-musical competencies like early speech development, large motor coordination, and social skills building are more evidence that musical exposure offers multiple visible rewards at a very early age.”
Andrews, a professional opera singer who has also taught at Roger Williams University and Salve Regina University in their music programs, said she came up with the idea for what would become Yoga and Music for Toddlers after working with another instructor, Vivian Paley, who developed a children’s program focused on storytelling and imaginative play.
“She taught this method about how to engage children in all kinds of storytelling and imaginative play, and how to use that to give them a sense of how to live in the world and move in the world,” Andrews said. “And then I created my version of that in music. I think music touches every part of our lives–in rhythm and all sorts of things, and it certainly touches on math and reading on some very, very important levels.”
Andrews first taught the program at the Hyde Park Jewish Community Center in Chicago, before bringing the program to Providence at the Philharmonic Music School. Now, Yoga and Music for Toddlers will live on at Radiance Yoga, which is owned by Andrews’ daughter, Eliza Richmond.
Classes will begin today, Thursday, Feb. 6 from 10 to 10:45 a.m., with more classes to follow every Thursday at the same time through April. To register, visit www.radianceyogari.com/workshops/, or register at Radiance Yoga, located at 1 W. Main St., North Kingstown.