Many years ago I had the benefit of receiving early childhood certification in the Yamaha Music Education System. I was fortunate to be in the last graduating class before Yamaha decided that all the American schools should teach on Electone organs. These organs were popular in Japan, but organs as a standard instrument in American homes just wasn’t taking off in the 1990’s. The music school I worked at decided not to make the costly transition to Electone organs and switched to the Americanized version of the curriculum- Harmony Road out of Portland, Oregon. So, off I went to Portland and attended the training workshops for that curriculum. My new Yamaha skills were easily transferable to Harmony Road which is an excellent program.
Later when I opened my own studio in a different town, I didn’t have the space or finances to have a multi keyboard studio and switched to primarily private lessons. When my situation changed, and I moved to a different town with more otential classroom space, I wanted to be a Harmony Road teacher again. Unfortunately for me, someone else owned the franchise territory rights over a vast region of our state in Southwestern, Idaho. They weren’t set up in my little town, but it didn’t matter. It was not available to me. I would have to find an alternative.
My own children were preschoolers, and I wanted them to to have the benefits of the training I had received. I begin shopping for a comparable method that didn’t require licensing and franchise. It was at this time that I discovered Music For Little Mozarts by Christine Barden , Gayle Kowalychyk, and E.L. Lancaster by Alfred Publishing. I recognized Christine Barden as a former trainer for the Yamaha method, and I was excited. Here was a method that I could just buy and teach without having to worry about licensing, franchising, and territories- or buying electone organs. Yippee!!!
I instantly fell in love with the storyline in the books where Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear and all their playroom friends learn music and have adventures. The companion resources are great. They include stuffed character animals named after famous composers, that are small enough for the children to fit in their hands. The curriculum incorporates solfege singing, ear-training, rhythm training, movement, age appropriate piano skills, notereading, and music appreciation. The companion CDS have engaging child friendly songs including folk tunes and original tunes. The midi accompaniments could be sped up or slowed down through my Yamaha Clavinova. I formed my first mommy and me class of four preschool aged students, (including my own two sons) in my bonus room. Music For Little Mozarts and I became a thing.
This method is outstanding, and the kids I have taught that have taken lessons through the program have flourished as young musicians. Many are grown now, and across the board these young college age and high school musicians are creative and can compose their own music. It really is remarkable what early childhood music training can do for the long run. The curriculum is in four levels. It can be used in private lessons or groups and I have done both. It works well as a mommy and me type course. I do require a parent or caregiver at every Music For Little Mozarts lesson, so that the kids have the best support possible. It really is a fun and delightful program and it creates teamwork between the parent and child from the beginning in learning the piano. Often parents get to learn piano with their child for the first time which is a real bonus. It has teacher guides that anyone who hasn’t been trained in this style of teaching, can purchase and follow easily. The training guides have complete lesson plans written out- so any piano teacher can do this. It works especially well for teachers that want to incorporate age appropriate singing in the lessons.
The Hot Frothy Stuff of the Method:
The curriculum in in Four Levels, and takes two years to complete. It is for age 4-7. I have tried it with three year olds, but I found that threes developmentally are just not ready for the keyboard instruction. The song book and movement activities do stand on their own, and if you have an eager family- they could just do the Discovery Book (Song book) and they would have a lot of fun doing that. In that case, they would just add the keyboard instruction (lesson book) at age four.
The main components are the Discovery Book (Song book and Music Appreciation), Lesson Book (Keyboard Instruction), and Theory Workbook. Each level comes with a CD set with songs from the Discovery Book and midi recording accompaniments from the Lesson Book.
The story line is adorable! In the first level, Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear are learning music on their own by sneaking down into the music room and trying out what the children of the house have been learning at their lessons. Spoiler Alert: At the end of the first book the children find out that the Bear and Mouse are actually real, and invite them to their piano lessons.
In Level Two they are off to piano lessons with the kids and meet Clara Schumann Cat who is a piano teacher in her own right. We like to joke that she knows everything- because she does.
in Level Three they get to go to school and attend general music class with the children. Spoiler Alert 2: They win the talent show at the end of level three and win an all expenses trip to the city. In Level Four they have all kinds of adventures with all their playroom friends in the city. They get a train and taxi ride, go to a piano recital, and the opera, they attend a ballet, and the art museum. It is all really adorable, but also musically sound. They are also learning intervals as they go through the city streets (2nd Street, 3rd Street, 4th Street, 5th Street.) By the end of level four, children (and usually their caregivers) can play with both hands with open voicings. If the teacher has encouraged it from the beginning, they can sing and play at the same time with ease. They can identify intervals by ear and can sing in solfege. They have also been introduced to all four periods of music, learned about composers, and have listened and moved their little bodies to classical works. The notated teacher accompaniments are interesting, but if you are up and walking or dancing around with the kiddos you can use the midi accompaniments ( now available on thumb drive,) or use the CDS. It all works- depending on where you are in the room. It’s very thoughtful and well designed.
I absolutely love this music curriculum, can you tell? I’m smiling just writing all this.
Alfred keeps coming out with supplementary materials for Music For Little Mozarts. They are all well done! There are sheet music solos that are terrific for recital. There are holiday supplements for Halloween and Christmas. There is a whole book about the animals going to Hollywood, (movie and cartoon themes) and a Nutcracker book which I used for Christmas recital last year. The kids love playing the holiday music and getting ready for recital. They also love the stuffed animals. They will try all kinds of stuff with their Bear and Mouse. They have two legs that can stand up on the group of two black keys. They can run them up to the high sounds or down to the low. The can pretend to be giants with them while walking out half notes. You can tape a staff to the floor in the scale of the animals and they can step and skip through the staff.
Other nice things about the program are the implementation of routine such as the Hello Song and Goodbye Song (We always take a bow at the end of class. ) and all the off- the bench activities. The books and CDS can be bought in a kit, that includes a magnet note board, the bear and mouse, and also includes the workbook and flashcards. It all comes in a plastic bag that the kids love to carry to class and keeps it all from getting lost. Budget conscious families can do fine with just the Lesson and Discovery book and the CDs. I keep enough white boards and spare bear and mouse in the studio for families that need to scale back on materials. However, most of my families purchase the full set. They are able to do this at all music retailers which is really convenient. There is also an app which we have used a little, but haven’t quite grabbed onto yet. I may have to explore it more this year. There is also a classroom edition for use in preschools without the keyboard component. I have used the program in preschools and kindergartens before. The kids always love all the music and movement activities.
Okay, so I have been using this curriculum for seventeen years. I absolutely love it- why isn’t it getting 5 mochas? Why only 4 1/2? In my humble opinion, Alfred publishing needs to put the brakes on developing new Music For Little Mozart supplements. (Really, there is more than we can all use in two years). They need to update the artwork- it’s looking very 90’s. C’mon, it’s 2018. If the content wasn’t so rich, and the music and story so joyful, I would be replacing it for that very reason. I have completely updated my studio with new flooring, paint, technology, keyboards. This method and my old dinosaur clavinova, (which is still functioning and I just can’t part with for sentimental reasons) are looking outdated for my young millenial families. It is also, sounding dated with the Lesson midi recordings. Also, I feel embarassed asking my young families to buy CDS. Hal Leaonard has gone to digital downloads and I prefer them. They are accessible and can be sped up and slowed down. Many of my families don’t even own CD players anymore. None of my families own Clavinovas with midi disc drives. I have told them about the music being available on a thumbdrive but none of them have purchased one because they have all four levels on it and they aren’t ready to make that level of commitment when they are first starting. The other drawback is that in the lesson book there is just too much text on the page. It’s cluttery and unnecessary. The wording on the page needs to be just enough for the parent to understand- no more. So, if Alfred updates the method with current artwork, and digital downloads, along with a little less written on the lesson book page- I will quickly change my rating to 5 Mochas. Regardless, I haven’t found anything else out there that is as musically wholistic. So, it will stay center stage in my studio.