How the early years benefit from music making

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Junior Jam is a monthly music workshop delivered at Band on the Wall in Manchester’s Northern Quarter by Brighter Sound aimed at 4-8 year olds. It was set up following the success of Brighter Sound’s weekly Shake Rattle ‘n’ Roll session aimed at 0-4 year olds. These sessions were extremely popular but that there was nowhere to signpost these young children when they outgrew the SRR sessions.

Brighter Sound commissioned Manchester-based world music collective “Kabantu” to facilitate a monthly workshop for this older age group; the sessions are based on themes from around the globe and building on the participant’s musical skills, whilst exposing them to new sounds and genres.

This is where I come in, as the percussionist in Kabantu and one of the practitioners; we have been running these sessions for about a year now and themes have included rewriting the music to scenes from the movies, taiko drumming from Japan, popstars, drawing with music, rock’n’roll, African voices, salsa, junk percussion..the possibilities are endless.

I’ve put together a few thoughts about what sessions like this have to offer young people and their families:

  • Community – music by its very nature brings people together; it requires performers and an audience.  Musicians work together to create something beautiful for their listeners and attending a session like Junior Jam is a wonderful opportunity to meet new people outside your immediate environment, interact in new ways through the discovery of music and bond as a family by working together to a shared goal.

  • Inspiration – catching children at an early age and exposure might spark an interest in something magical. Some people play Mozart to babies in the womb, and although this might be taking it to the extreme, from our experience as professional classical musicians, the earlier you start, the better. For example, perfect pitch – the ability to name the pitch of any note without any prior reference is a skill that can only be learnt via exposure to music at an early age whilst the brain is still developing.

  • Confidence – the mixture of performing alone, in a pair, interacting with parents and other children. Music requires you to be a leader, a creator, a follower, a team player, a listener, a performer..and although it can take a while to perfect, you do get the instant gratification of creating live sound.

  • Inventiveness – children are so playful and creative by their very nature and exploring the world around them via music can yield amazing results and build on shaping these skills to create a very positive output.

  • Improvement in concentration – music can be completely absorbing; it has the potential to be totally engaging as it is simultaneously visual, physical and audible, and is even used as a distraction technique to divert your attention from pain in hospital settings.

  • Communication – a chance for children to create, express themselves and interact with each other using an alternative to speaking or writing which can often overcome many barriers. Music is an incredible “glue” that can bring people together, regardless of background, language, disability. It is a wonderful tool that can change the atmosphere in the room immediately and encourage conversations (be they musical or verbal) which otherwise might never have happened. Our work in hospitals, special needs schools, in Kenya, in dementia homes reaffirms this over and over again.

  • Fun – music is so satisfying, engaging and entertaining that there simply couldn’t be a better way to spend your Saturday morning as a family!

If you would like to join Junior Jam and become a mini pop-star, drummer, singer or composer find out more here.


10 tracks from Spotify:

  1. Mustt Mustt

    Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn

    Kabantu have taken a lot of influence from Indian music recently, penning our own song inspired by the music of this culture for our upcoming album. The production on this song is amazing, giving it a 3D effect through the use of call and answer and balancing the blasé chorus with the energetic solos. The vocal solo using a technique used to learn the rhythms of the tabla called “Konnokol” is absolutely insane.

  2. Tout le monde pense

    DjeuhDjoah and Lieutenant Nicholson

    A really beautiful groove in this song – every instrument enters adds a beautiful lift, remaining relaxed throughout but making you want to move your body.

  3. Mean Old City Part 2

    Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro

    Martin Harley is a recent absolute gem of a discovery. He has a smoky voice combined with stunning slide guitar and Kimbro’s sensitive bass playing, creating a mature sound which never tries too hard but is comfortable in its tasteful simplicity.

  4. Wayfaring Stranger

    Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys

    A beautiful version of a classic folk song with great gusto which made us buy the album when we heard it played on the BBC Radio 2 Folk Show. A force to be reckoned with, Sam’s voice really conveys true musicality, soul and shape, accompanied by a simply brilliant band.

  5. Listen to the Breeze

    Chiwoniso

    Sunshine captured in music.

  6. Oedipus, King of Thebes, Music for a While

    Henry Purcell, arr. Christina Pluhar

    An amazing fusion of Henry Purcell’s Baroque music with jazz full of panache to create a truly expressive hybrid showing that you can mix two completely different styles and to make a new, amazing sound world out of something almost 400 years old.

  7. Dat Dere

    Rickie Lee Jones

    A very cool use of scatting and jazz singing to imitate baby language and seeing life from the endlessly curious and self-centred perspective of a toddler.

  8. Old Reinlender from Sonndala

    Traditional arr. Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen, The Danish String Quartet

    The innovative Danish String Quartet using their instruments to rework old Norwegian folk tunes taken from their album Woodworks – “You don't own folk music, the band believes, you simply borrow it for a while.”

  9. The Mistral Noir

    Daniel Herskedal

    Stunning use of brass, and the lyricism of the euphonium – an unusual instrument pulls at the heart strings in the same way that a cello or tenor at the top of its range does.

  10. Senorita

    Chick Corea, Bela Fleck

    A really cheeky take on Latin music between two of the greats – the legendary pianist Chick Corea and virtuoso banjo player, Bela Fleck.