Music Together in Barcelona
Piero Faustini is a Music and Performing Arts Sciences Graduate from the University of Bologna, and has a PhD in Music Science from the University of Ferrara. He has been Teaching Fellow in a few Music Education Methodology courses for the University of Aosta and for the University of Turin, and has also taught Music in many different primary and secondary schools in Italy and Catalonia. He founded Music Together Assieme (Barcelona) in 2012.
Music Together was originally founded in America in 1987. Can you tell us a bit about its history?
It’s a long story. It all started in 1893, when sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill composed a song which later became Happy Birthday to You, and which became the most popular kids song ever. By the 1980s, the royalties of the song belonged to the family of musician Ken Guilmartin, who then decided to found the Center for Music and Young Children of Princeton, New Jersey. The CMYC developed studies about music learning in early infanthood, and – amongst others – reached the conclusion that kids achieve the most music skills by actually experiencing active music with their parents or main caregivers. After joining forces with researcher Lili Levinowitz, expert in modern and contemporary music education, Ken founded Music Together in 1987, delivering the revolutionary early infanthood family music program to the Princeton area, from where it has now spread to dozens of countries around the world!
What inspired you to start Music Together in Barcelona?
Back in Italy in 2010, I was a music pedagogist and opera expert and a music teacher for older kids, but I was struggling to find something for my own toddler, Alexandra. One day, I found a leaflet in the kindergarten: “Music Together – try a music class with your kid!” I was quite skeptical but we went there and there we met Francesca, a wonderful and gifted teacher. In a few minutes we were doing music, altogether. Francesca noticed my academic approach and “guided” me to “forget” it, and actually have fun. We enrolled, and after a few weeks, not only Alexandra’s musicality blossomed, but mine too! I started to instintively put music in everything we did together, from bath, to walking, to playing bricks….. And then I understood: that was exactly Francesca’s job in action. Suddenly I thought “Hey, I can do it as well!”, and as we were planning to move to Barcelona the idea became a project. After a formal training in Bologna and Princeton, Jade and Giovanni (directors from Bologna and the US) helped me start everything off in Barcelona, and here we are.
Where are the classes located?
In many venues around Barcelona, and surroundings: stretching as far as Sant Gervasi till Poblenou, from Vila Olímpica to Gràcia, and then Sant Cugat, Sant Adrià, L’Hospitalet. We are also about to open in Sitges, Badalona, and Terrassa!
For what age group are the classes?
Music Together philosophy and method can be applied to very different ages in the preschool years, so we mix babies with toddlers and kids till 5 years old (always together with adults). You’ll often find siblings of different ages in the same class. However, we also have a sister program “Rhythm Kids” for older kids up to 8 years and they are unaccompanied. We also just started a brand new variant “Music Together Babies” for max-8 months old, with slower pace and more time dedicated to mum’s curiosity and education.
How are the classes structured?
In classes we just mostly sit in a circle and sing, play and move or dance to songs, with full freedom for kids. But to answer your question: you won’t notice any structure at 1st glance, because everything looks like a joyful and carefree anarchy. However, each step is carefully shaped around some strong research-based lines which the teacher has to actually adapt to any situation, to different kind of kids (and adults). Our teachers are specially trained for that.
How important is it that parents interact with their children in the classes?
Very important. Babies, toddlers, and young kids – at least till 5 years old – learn a lot through the modeling of parents – or of the main caregivers. Also one of the teacher’s tasks is to have parents actually make music in class, by singing, playing and dancing. They do it for the kids, but they are doing it for themselves too!
Are the songs in English?
Music Together has been built on the top of an international repertoire of more than 200 original and traditional songs. Yes, many of them are from the traditional Anglo-saxon repertoire but with lots of songs from Europe, Latin-America, Africa, and Asia, too. We provided a few funny translations in Spanish and Catalan, but often we don’t even need them. Moreover, developing E.Gordon theories, Ken and Lili introduced lots of songs-without-words, which are to be sung on vocables such as dee, doo, tah, dum, roo. With families coming from 60 different countries and literally all continents in our Barcelona center, language has never been an issue, just one more chance to learn new sounds. And all this repertoire is compiled in 9 different collections, each with 25 songs, each collection consisting of a songbook plus the recordings in various formats: CD, mp3 or through the fabulous Hello Everybody! app. We switch collection each semester to refresh the Music repertoire of families.
Tell us about Rhyhm Kids and Music Together Babies.
At about the age of 5, kids experience the most important “change of chip” or attitude towards the outside world, in their whole lifetime. They do not rely exclusively on parents or caregivers anymore and they can assume their own tasks. As you can guess, this is not compatible with the traditional Music Together approach. For this reason, for these kids we offered for a few years the “Big Kids” curriculum, developed by Music Together, which is now redesigned and enhanced as “Rhythm Kids” for kids 4-8 years old. Lots of percussions, lots of basic music literacy. Lots of doing proper music: lots of fun! Parents are sometimes allowed to participate but they are not a necessary piece in the curriculum any more. But yes, they often still want to participate, expecially if they come from the classic Music Together curriculum, because Music Together is fun for everybody!
And then there is the brand new Music Together Babies. I am very proud of this one. It is designed to deliver the best of Music Together in a more suitable format for mums with non-walking and often non-crawling babies. The mobility limitations are compensated with more occasions for educating parents on music and their children. We still do a lot of music, but we also talk a lot about it, sharing our experiences, too. It is a excellent way to introduce Music Together both to babies and to mums.
How do you choose your teachers?
Teaching Music Together is definitely not for everybody, and it has been very difficult to find the right people to fill the continuously growing demand for classes. I believe I had a lot of luck to find great teachers from all over the world such as Morgan, Julia, Aina, Melissa, Marina, Giovanni, and of course the inoxidable Christophe Sainsot Tintou, who has been an important piece of Music Together in Barcelona for more than 3 years!
How would you describe Music Together in 3 words?
Joyful, family, experience.