By: Dr Jason Tye Kong Chiang

The Music and movement classes at the School of the Arts in USM are part of an innovative program designed to develop the music potential of young children from two to six-year-olds. The goal of the program is to help children increase their music aptitudes and develop initial music skills that prepare them for a lifetime of music enjoyment and appreciation.

Music is best learned if informal music guidance is introduced as early in life as possible. In 2019, eight children were guided by their teachers (comprising music major university students), parents, and caregivers to develop music skills through fun, playful, socially interactive music activities that included singing, chanting, storytelling, and moving. Older children were introduced to a variety of music instruments. The underlying foundation and philosophy of this program are based on the premise that children will respond to music when they are ready to respond to music.

As children begin to develop their music vocabularies, the most obvious and immediate music responses observers may notice after their initial looking responses will be movement responses. Naturally, and especially for very young children, those movement responses may not seem to be coordinated with the music they are hearing or making. That is okay! We need to demonstrate free-flowing continuous movements for all children, in order to help them avoid music and movement rigidity. In this unique program (a first in Malaysia), instructors improvise short songs around the children’s tonal babbling. This reinforces their vocal participation in music, and it is a necessary step to draw them into our musical syntax.

Children who are exposed to informal music-making experiences in USM’s innovative early childhood program have the opportunity of experiencing the idea that the right to participate in music activities does not belong to a chosen few.