Hello, I’m Wendy! I have trained as 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 to help Sure Start workers 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 children who have communication difficulties and may find it hard to take part in other community activities.
After leaving Sutherland House School in 2012, I set up Wendy’s Playful Piano for 3-7 year olds at my home in Beeston. (www.wendysplayfulpiano.co.uk) In individual lessons, I aim to share the joy of music and teach vital early skills at and around the piano. I have a long waiting list for these sessions, so please think ahead if you are interested!
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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 benefit from staying in either group for a bit longer – that’s fine, just talk to me!
Why do music with young children?
Mainly because they love it. so they attend to it and take an active part. As well as enriching their everyday lives, musical activities can help to prepare children for nursery and school, by building their social confidence and laying the foundations for literacy and numeracy.
Research on the effects of using music with very young children (aged 0-5) has shown that ‘taking part in regular, structured, active and creative music-making (rather than passive listening or watching), led by an expert musician with skills in working with this age group, over an extended period of time… does impact on several areas of these children’s development’. (From ‘Turning their ears on… keeping their ears open: exploring the impact of musical activities on the development of pre-school age children’. Summary of a research project commisioned by Youth Music in 2006)
Some areas of development that can be supported by music:
Concentrating and understanding
Watching, listening and imitating
Interacting, sharing and taking turns
Emotional development and a sense of self
Vocal control, speech and language
Early concepts and vocabulary
Creativity and imagination
Rhythm and rhyming
Counting and sequencing
Physical skills: coordination of whole body and fine finger movements.
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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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