Hello, I’m Wendy! I have trained as both a speech & language therapist and a musician. From 1986 to 2012 I worked as a music specialist at Sutherland House School for children with autism, helping the children’s social and communication development through an approach known as Musical Interaction. I have run courses, workshops and in-service days around the UK on using music with young children, with a focus on developing communication. This included many training days for ICAN, a national educational charity (www.ican.org.uk), and workshops helping Sure Start workers to run music groups for very young children and their parents.
I set up the Early Years Music Groups in 1996, to bring some of the ideas and skills I had developed in my other work into my local community. I also run the Speech, Sign and Song Club (www.speechsignsong.co.uk) on Wednesday afternoons in Beeston, with my colleague Roma Seth. This is a music group for under 5s who have communication difficulties and may find it hard to take part in other community activities.
Since leaving Sutherland House School in 2012, I have set up Wendy’s Playful Piano for 3-7 year olds at my home in Beeston. (www.wendysplayfulpiano) I aim to share the joy of music and teach vital early skills in individual sessions at and around the piano.
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Can I bring my older child, who is ill today/has an inset day?
I’m sorry but I can’t accommodate older siblings in the groups. I can’t let them join in because of numbers and insurance, and even if they are quiet and can occupy themselves, their presence is distracting for the children in the group. Please don’t create an awkward situation by turning up with an older child. Imagine if several people did it on the same day…
Which age group should I book?
If your child is turning 2, you should generally apply for an older group. Between 18 months and 2 years, they could be in either group. The older groups always have a few younger children in too; mainly siblings of the older ones. Some children with less confidence or additional needs may stay in either group for a bit longer – that’s fine, just talk to me!
What’s your instrument called?
I play an autoharp: I often shorten it to ‘harp’ when talking to the children. It’s a type of zither with automatic chord buttons, which are labelled. It’s really easy to play, though I have had to stop jumping, dancing, running and hopping whilst playing it, owing to a shoulder problem… I now use the ukulele for moving around, as it’s much lighter than the autoharp!
In the USA there are huge international autoharp contests and festivals. UK Autoharps (www.ukautoharps.org.uk) provides information and courses in this country for everyone from beginners to advanced players.
Where can I take my child for music when he or she is 3?
There are several other musical activities available for children over three. Sue Lake runs Music Makers locally for 4 – 6 years, and Roma Seth does Rockabillies in Long Eaton for 0-5 years. These and many other groups can be found in publications and websites such as ‘Family Grapevine’, ‘Lots for Tots’ and ‘Netmums’.
Why don’t you put on more groups?
This isn’t my only work! As well as Early Years Music Groups, I am involved in the Speech, Sign and Song Club on Wednesdays (www.speechsignsong.co.uk) and run Wendy’s Playful Piano (www.wendysplayfulpiano.co.uk). For many years I was also employed for two days a week as a music specialist at Sutherland House School for children with autism, using and developing an approach called Musical Interaction.
Why don’t you make a CD of songs you use in the groups?
At last, I have! There is now a CD of 15 songs called ‘Sing Along with Speech, Sign and Song’ on sale from me for £5.00 in aid of the Speech, Sign and Song Club. Many of the songs will be familiar to you if you’ve been to eymg. It is not professionally recorded but a nice reminder of some of my own made-up songs, along with a few traditional ones such as ‘Soualle’ and ‘I hear Thunder’.
However many of the songs I use are written by other people, so I can’t put them on a CD. Some come from ‘Game Songs with Prof Dogg’s Troupe’ by Harriet Powell – a book and CD are available (published by A & C Black). Some are from the CDs mentioned below.
Where can I get CDs of the music you play between sessions?
I often play Songs for Under 5s, produced by the excellent Early Years Team at The Sage Gateshead. Several people have commented on how good they are. They cost £8 each or £20 for the set of three. (Contact Britta Koerber at The Sage Gateshead, St Marys Square, Gateshead NE8 2JR.) I also sometimes play Dreamland: World Lullabies and Soothing Songs, produced by Putumayo, and the great CDs produced by Playsongs Publications, with really good folk-style singers and instrumentalists. (Tel. 01799 599054. Website: www.playsongs.co.uk Email email@example.com.)
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