A story and interview from the MusicianCorps Seattle pilot year.
In winter 2010—part way through the pilot year—MusicianCorps Fellow Carla Moreno debuted a new class, Early Childhood Education. Up until that time, Carla had been working with (and continued to work with) youth, aged 9-14, at the Low Income Housing Institute, exposing students to world music, new instruments and songwriting. (Read Carla’s blog about her journey with the youth, who wrote a new song and performed at a senior center, Seattle Center and the Triple Door).
The new class, Early Childhood Education, introduced Carla to a different population at the Low Income Housing Institute: parents and young children. Her weekly class included interactive music games, group singing, and exploration—activities which encouraged music appreciation at an early age, and family bonding through music and movement. When I visited Early Childhood Education, I found smiles on mothers, one father and children.
WATCH THE VIDEO of Carla Moreno’s Early Childhood Education class.
To me, these smiles were remarkable given the context of Carla’s work. Her MusicianCorps service site, Meadowbrook View Apartments, is part of the Low Income Housing Institute (or LIHI), an organization that develops and manages “housing for low-income, homeless and formerly homeless people in Washington State; advocates for just housing policies; and administers a range of supportive service programs.” Most families enter LIHI out of arduous situations, such as being homeless or indigent, or immigrating from war-torn countries.
As a MusicianCorps Fellow at Arts Corps, Carla had been charged with creating vibrant communities at LIHI through intergenerational and cross-cultural music exchanges, and performances that celebrate the diversity and cultures of all resident families. Through her Early Childhood Education class, Carla did this by bridging the diverse families of Meadowbrook through engaging music and games, and teaching these families to bring that music into their homes. Carla approached this community, and her year of service as a MusicianCorps Fellow, with persistence, respect and love.
“Carla is very disciplined; she is very focused, she knows what she wants to do,” said Lynn DeMarco, Property Manager at Meadowbrook View Apartments. “She raised the bar and [the kids] came up and paid attention and had fun in class. She demands a lot—which I think is really important—she lets them know that they can do well but that they have to give a lot to get want they want.”
On the last day of the Early Childhood Education class, Diana Shomstein, our MusicianCorps Mentor, interviewed a parent who had been in the class. “Her children sing the songs at home, and Shana does especially,” Diana said.” “Her kids love it, especially being able to play the different instruments and hear the different sounds they make.”
I interviewed Carla to find out more about Early Childhood Education. Her answers follow.
JASMINE: How did the idea to form this class come about?
CARLA: The Early Childhood Music class was an idea I had at the beginning of the year, but we didn’t have enough children and parents were busy working during the day. A few months ago, a few families with toddlers, happened to move into the transitional units and the timing was perfect to start the class.
JASMINE: How have you chosen your lessons? What needs do they meet?
CARLA: The lessons are quite simple, yet complex. It’s all about play, exploration, and self discovery all done through a variety of music activities including, singing, listening, and movement. Similar to language, music must be nurtured from very young. Research shows that a child’s best music learning potential, or music aptitude, is from birth to age eight.
JASMINE: What have some challenges been?
CARLA: Attendance has always been a challenge. Many of these mothers not only work, but are attending school; therefore, this poses lots of scheduling conflicts. Consistency is important, but this is the reality of our community. We’ve had to learn to work through it.
JASMINE: What have some successes been?
CARLA: The kids AND parents are indeed learning and actively engaging in the music making process! Research was right!
JASMINE: How has teaching this class strengthened the LIHI community?
CARLA: I believe community is about relationships and that it starts at home with family. To see parents bond with their children is a testimony to the power of music in helping build those solid relationships that last a lifetime. I’ve already witnessed the parents bonding before and after class. It’s great to see them want to stick around and talk, joke around, and just be in a happy place!
JASMINE: What have you learned from your students and parents?
CARLA: I’ve learned that no matter what the situation may be or whatever background these families may come from, everyone deserves the chance to be a part of successful and loving community and have all the opportunities and offerings available to them just like any other community. I’ve also learned that they want to keep the Early Childhood Music program on going! Yeah!