All singing, all dancing

25th May 2007 at 01:00
A new course licenses teachers to run their own pre-school music classes.

AFTER MATERNITY leave, Cathy McCallum, music graduate and former primary school teacher, wanted to return to work but also wanted to spend time with her son, so she set up her own business using her teaching experience and musical talent.

Five years later, Musical Steps, which provides music and activity classes for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, is launching its first teacher training course for those, who like her, want to combine parenting with a flexible career.

The courses have been set up following the growing popularity in Scotland and England of the classes which are based on a blend of back to basics songs, percussion, musical games, movement and listening activities.

The classes, which aim to give parents and children the confidence to make music together, are based on methods used by world-renowned music educationists Zoltan Kodaly, Shinichi Suzuki and Emile Jaques-Dalcroze.

Composer Kodaly believed that singing should be the foundation of all music education. He revolutionised the teaching of music in Hungarian schools and his technique improved levels of attainment as well.

Ms McCallum, who taught in primary schools in London and Glasgow for eight years, is also keen to get more families singing. "Music is not in the home as it was, so children are missing out on that, she says. "Unless you go to church or are a football fan, you don't sing."

Not only does singing together offer great opportunities for family bonding, according to research, music is also good for children's development.

"Music has been shown to be one of the most powerful ways of helping children develop emotionally, socially and neurologically - and the earlier you start the better," says Ms McCallum.

The mother-of-two from St Andrews also believes, like Kodaly, that music is for everyone and is a talent which can be developed in all children. The key, she explains, is about introducing them to simple songs using one or two notes to develop pitch awareness, in-tune singing and rhythm before moving on to more complicated ones.

"A lot of the songs taught in school are too hard," says Ms McCallum, who also plays the piano. "When you teach reading in school, you start with a book with one or two words in it. The songs children sing in assembly are difficult to pitch. It is like starting with reading The Times and wondering why you can't do it.

"It is about listening and imitating, the same way you learn a language.

For some reason, people think music and art is something you can or can't do, but everyone can learn to read."

However, to teach the classes you have to have some musical experience and a strong singing voice.

The first training course, which covers every aspect of setting up, running and teaching baby and toddler classes, will be taught in Glasgow this summer by Ms McCallum and her sister Sarah McCallum, a former lecturer at Jordanhill Teacher Training College. Among those who have already shown interest in the course are former teachers and nursery nurses as well as a couple of dads.

IN FINE VOICE

The course is being offered at a special introductory rate of pound;550 plus VAT (normally pound;750 plus VAT). Once trainees receive their certificate they pay pound;50 plus VAT a month for a Musical Steps teaching licence which includes class plans, permission to use the Musical Steps name and ongoing help and support. The course will be held at Glasgow Caledonian University on June 23, July 28 and August 25. The deadline for registration for the 20 available places is June 8.

* www.musicalsteps.co.uk

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