SACKVILLE, N.B. – Everyone’s happier when they sing and dance – especially children.
Just ask Leah Huff, director of Music Together Sackville, who experiences first hand during her classes every week the joy and exuberance music can bring to young children and their families.
Huff has been running the program in Sackville since the fall of 2015, when the former music director Colleen Renihan stepped down after leaving town.
Huff said she had been registered with the program with her 15-month old daughter Moya and her husband and was excited about the bonding time developed during the classes.
“I really liked it cause it was a program we went to with our daughter,” said Huff. “We didn’t just drop her off and leave . . . I knew I would be dropping her off at classes soon enough as she got older so I really appreciated being a part of something that meant my husband and I could do it with her.”
After the very first class, in fact, Huff recalls going home and telling her husband, “If Colleen ever leaves town, I’m going to have to figure out how to keep offering this program because I don’t want Moya to ever be without it.
And that is essentially what happened.
The same day Colleen told her she was leaving town, Huff went on-line to figure out what the teacher training process was. Within a couple of months, she flew to Toronto to complete the training, and then went through the process of becoming a center director and re-opening up the program again.
The program itself is an early childhood music and movement program that was developed in Princeton, New Jersey in the 1980s, and there are teachers and centers offering the program all around the world.
There are three semesters offered throughout the year - winter, spring, and fall, and each semester has a different song collection with 25 songs that are a combination of traditional songs from around the world and songs that were designed especially for the Music Together curriculum. There are nine different collections, which means that a family could come to three semesters a year for three years before repeating any of the songs.
The goal, said Huff, is to get all participants able to reach basic music competency through play and pure enjoyment. This would involve moving and dancing on the beat, and singing on key for at least one song.
“Then they’re going to be ready and much better prepared to take formal music education later on.”
Classes are open to children between the ages of 0-5, each of whom comes with at least one parent or caregiver, and often more than one.
“We love it when grandparents and friends attend because children learn through participation and observation, and it is so wonderful when they have multiple loved-ones who model music-making for them.”
– Leah Huff
“The more fun we have, the more fun they’ll have.”
During each 45-minute class they sing, play instruments, dance, and learn together. The program is designed to be developmentally appropriate for young children, and the goal is to learn through play, and there is never any pressure for performance. Huff said the music varies in an array of keys to get the children listening to more than what they might normally hear.
“Kids are hearing a whole range of music rather than the children’s music they typically hear,” she said.
The 10-week semester started this past Saturday but Huff said she has plenty of room in both her classes, one at 9:30 a.m. and one at 10:30 a.m. to accommodate a few more. It runs out of the basement of the Sackville Public Library.
She uses foam floor tiles, sheets and chairs to create a safe and welcoming ‘music fort’ for their activities. And one of the most popular activities, of course, is the ‘play along’ where she places all of her instruments – from egg shakers to cow bells to tamborines to rhythm sticks – on the floor and the children can pick up whatever they want and everybody explores.
Huff said she loves the bonding experience Music Together creates for families in Sackville.
“It is a wonderful community-building activity because as the families are singing, dancing, and being silly with their little ones, they are also sharing these experiences with the other families in the room.”
For more information, call 364-5324, email MusicTogetherSackville@gmail.com or check out their Facebook page.