Tommy started taking music classes with Music Together several years ago and he loved it. He especially loved the teacher Ms. Karen and her fun and inclusive class. She always pointed out Tom’s musical strengths and encouraged us to develop his musical talents. Tommy is aging out of those classes so we have been looking for some private lessons for Tommy so he can keep working on his love of rhythm and percussion. He loves keeping the beat with songs and has a natural sense of rhythm and timing.
I had reached out to several music therapists about working with Tommy, but I just couldn’t seem to find someone with the interest or time to take him on as a student. Finally, Karen told us she had a friend that wanted to observe Tommy in music class. We said sure! After class we met the observer, a local elementary school music teacher and professional musician named Tom. He said he was interested in working with Tommy and would come to our house for lessons. We set up an initial lesson to see if it would be a fit for everyone. That was in the late spring and we have probably had about eight lessons so far. More about Tom’s Music Together classes.
Mr. Tom has a very practical approach to teaching children, no doubt his years of experience as a public school teacher have paid off in his comfort and ease with children. He uses opposites to explain musical concepts on a child’s level: fast and slow become tempo, high and low become pitch, and so forth. Kids seem to naturally like opposites and it’s easy to draw children into games and exercises using opposites.
Mr. Tom often brings small percussion instruments and tests Tommy by making high and low sounds and asking Tommy to identify what he hears. This can be a challenge for Tommy because I often find him hesitant to answer questions. It provides a great opportunity to practice answering questions in a comfortable environment (home) and in a subject he enjoys (music.) And let’s face it, answering questions is a skill he’s going to have to develop!
Having a music class at home has some real benefits for Tommy. We don’t have the social element anymore, but here’s what we like about music class at home.
Benefits of Tommy’s Home Music Class
More focused on Tom’s needs and interests
Less waiting and more instruction time
Comfortable atmosphere (home) without other children who can be difficult for Tom to handle due to screaming and running around. When you can’t see you tend to find random screams very disconcerting! It was time for us to move to more focused lessons and we are happy we found someone who could work with our family. It took about a year of asking around and emailing to find someone.
Mr. Tom takes instruments and travels around the first floor of the house while sounding them. Then Tom has to find the source of the sound; sometimes he walks to the source of the sound and other times we have Tommy point to the sound. The ability to find out where a sound is coming from is a very practical skill for blind children to learn.
Marching – Wake Up that Body
He also has Tommy up and marching to songs. They marched to a song about kittens on their tip toes, and to louder more bold songs with stomping feet. This is a great way to break up the lesson if Tom’s attention starts fading.
Tom is learning a whole new musical vocabulary!
Shake the sleigh bells
Strike the hand chimes
Scrape the cabasa.
Cross Body Movement
Drumming is an excellent cross body movement. We practice hitting the drum pad eight times with each hand. He also practices hitting the drum with alternate hands.
All throughout the lesson he is counting, following directions, listening, and answering questions. It’s a lot more than just banging on drums! Cross body movements are a big deal for Tommy and something to encourage. Since Tommy has a hypoplastic (under developed) corpus callosum, which is the structure in the brain that connects the right and left side of the brain. Cross body movements force the right and left sides of the brain to work together and are said to have a positive impact on learning. More about cross lateral movement.
Field Trip to Guitar Center
If you child loves music then you need to take a field trip to Guitar Center. I’m no guitarist, but my husband is. I must admit that I’ve never thought to bring Tommy into Guitar Center.
Tom is getting exposed to new percussion instruments through his lessons with Mr. Tom so we went in search of a cabasa, which is a small percussion instrument that consists of a cylinder with long strands of steel balls wrapped around it. You can shake or scrape the steel balls along the cylinder to make a sound. It has a nice feel to it and I can see why Tom fell in love with it when he touched it. I read that the cabasa is often used in music therapy because it takes very little hand movement to produce a sound. It could be the perfect addition to your instrument collection.
Tom got to touch and try many drums and percussion instruments during our visit. This store is set up so that musicians can try out the instruments and the staff was very accommodating. I don’t think your smaller/independent music store is quite so liberal with access to the instruments, so be sure to check with the music store when you visit.
In general, I found that you could find quality instruments, and even a couple of instruments and shaker sets for children at Guitar Center that were very affordable. That was surprising to me. Tom has always been a fan of good shaker eggs and you can find good ones here. Let me know if you check out a music store with your child. I hope you have as much fun as Tommy did!