Music Tuition for Kids

The following article was published in Jazzchord's January 2000 issue.
It was also published in 2MBS Magazine's April 2000 issue.

KINDERJAZZ was created in 1997 in response to the growing number of so called "live performances" available to children which used backing tapes. A musician myself and a mother of three, I desperately wanted my children and their generation to experience live music. I chose jazz because I sincerely believe that jazz with its fresh improvisations, more than anything nurtures a small child's curiousity, challenges their creativity and gratifies their imagination in the process. The music of today has become all too plastic for our children, with everywhere from shopping malls to lifts being swamped with music piped from speaker systems in a never ending dribble. Kinderjazz was a way of countering this trend. I also felt that children under 10 yrs old would benefit the most from live music as their acoustic ability is far greater than any adult - simply because they need this ability to learn their language.

I initially encountered some reticence from musicians who thought jazz was too complex a medium to be appreciated by babies! I was even told by the head of a leading children's label that "quality is wasted on three year olds!" The most interesting response from a music educator was "What jazz do you teach babies ? Well this is a perfectly reasonable question and one which deserves some discussion.

It's a very exciting time to be involved in music education. Recent research has revealed so much about how we learn in general , and more specifically how we learn music. We no longer proceed under the premise that a few chosen people are talented and the rest of us should confine our singing to the shower. We now know that all of us are born with an aptitude for music, and that music aptitude, like intelligence, is normally distributed. We also know that music aptitude diminishes if it is not nurtured by early and repeated appropriate experiences. This means that a person's ability to fulfill their music potential is determined by both their innate music aptitude and the quality of their early music experiences.

We also know that we learn music the same way we learn our language. Therefore, if we examine the way a child learns the language of his culture, we will have a guide as to what is an appropriate early-childhood music experience.

Using fiber optic cameras, Dr.Alfred Tomatis discovered that a five-month-old fetus is capable of hearing and responding to the sounds of language. This means that babies are absorbing the sounds and rhythms of their native language from as early as five months in utero. Since most children do not begin to speak until sometime near the end of their first year, it is safe to say that they were bathed in the sounds and rhythms of their language for well over a year before actually being expected to speak. They will then spend many months experimenting with isolated words, eventually combining them to make phrases. With the passage of even more time, they will be able to speak in complete sentences. All the time, we continue to bathe them in language, never considering the idea of "holding out on them" until they are ready to answer us in complete sentences. It is the very fact that we respond, that allows children to become fluent in their language well before the age of 10. In this sense, children are not taught language, they acquire language when:

1. They have a strong aural foundation comprised of their sensory experiences while in utero and during their first years of life;

2. They are given ample time to organise and assimilate those experiences;

3. The sensory experiences have an emotional component.

In a 1997 special edition of Newsweek devoted to brain development, Janellen Hullocher of the University of Chicago, suggested that "Information embedded in an emotional context seems to stimulate neural circuitry more powerfully than information alone." This idea is substantiated by neuropsychologist and educator Carla Hannaford, Ph.D., who states in her book Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head,"In order to learn something, there must be sensory input, a personal emotional connection and movement…Emotions interpret each experience and help us to organise it in terms of our view of the world."

From this information it appears clear that live music making provides the child with a much richer sensory and emotional experience than recorded music could ever hope to. In fact, it's hard to imagine a more sensorially and emotionally charged experience than a mother singing to and dancing with her child. The baby is not only listening to her voice but she feels the vibration of her voice as her head rests on the mother's chest, she smells the familiar scent of her body all the time her vestibular system is being stimulated by the rocking, bouncing and spinning of their dance. This is a far cry from a baby lying in his cot listening to a cassette.

So in answer to the educator's question "What jazz do you teach babies?" I would have to say, the aim of KINDERJAZZ is not to teach anything! Rather, it is to bathe parents and children in the music of their culture; it is to provide an environment which encourages musical interaction between families; to pass on a rich acoustic heritage; and it is to add to the collection of emotional, sensory experiences that will make up the aural foundation on which all future music making will be based.

In doing so, all families can experience the sheer joy jazz music can bring. From past experience, I can honestly say that it leaves them hungry for more! The feeling created by engaging in active music-making with other people is quite special and becomes more special when experienced by parents and children together.

KINDERJAZZ consists of three saxophones, trumpet, trombone, piano, double bass, drums , congas and two singers. It has produced three CD's Kinderjazz, Latino Bambino and Swing Right Through This Town. Earlier this year we recorded our first video live with a 21 piece jazz orchestra. Having performed 9 shows in 5 days the band was really swinging! The video gives small children a taste of a real live 21 piece jazz orchestra. The music was written especially for children by David Llewellyn and many of the arrangements were by Arthur Greenslade.

We have performed at Darling Harbour, The Sydney Opera House on their 25th Birthday, opened Manly International Jazz Festival, played to 10,000 at The Teddy Bears Picnic at Parramatta Stadium , in addition to community events, festivals, schools and fundraisers. Every concert is extremely well attended and often sold out. We are introducing jazz to Australian families by the thousands. I recently received a wonderful letter by the mother of a 4 yr old who has been coming to KINDERJAZZ concerts for two years. His mother tells of the change in the entire household now that they have "discovered" jazz music. He wants his mum to put the radio on so he can hear some jazz, they go to the library and borrow jazz CD's . Prior to this they had been buying only "children's music" which had been quite an expense and I quote "hating every minute of it". Jazz is such a creative medium and to be able to make a difference and show that true creativity cannot be manufactured is a wonderful thing for me. Another father rang to say that his children ( 4 and 7) simply could not bear to listen to a drum machine after hearing a live jazz orchestra. The first seven years are the absorbent years. Small children absorb everything almost without question and this remains a foundation upon which they build for the rest of their lives.

The line up for our most recent CD was as follows:

VOCALS - George Washingmachine, Jessica O'Donoghue, Andrew Heading
ALTO SAXOPHONES - Melinda Atkins(lead), Vanessa Patterson
TENOR SAXOPHONES - Jason Morphett , Anita Thomas (also on CLARINET)
BARITONE SAXOPHONE - Glenn Henrich (also on FLUTE and ALTO)
TRUMPETS - Darryl Carthew, Alan Davey, Elizabeth Geyer, Bob Boufller
TROMBONES - Anthony Bartlett, Dan Barnett, Andrew Heading
BASS TROMBONE - Colin Philpott
PIANO - John Charles
DOUBLE BASS - Nicole Murray-Prior
DRUMS - Len Banard
CONGAS - Aykho Akhriff
CLAVES - Joel Farland

Christobel LLewellyn


Research Proves the Benefits of Music


For the unborn child, classical music, played at a rhythm of 60 beats per minute, equivalent to that of a resting human heart, provides an environment conducive to creative and intellectual development. (Dr. Thomas Verny, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child)

Prenatal exposure to classical music leads to post-natal acceleration of musical and speech development. (Donald Shelter, University of Rochester, 1989)

When babies in the womb are played Vivaldi and Mozart at 55-70 beats per minute, fetal heart rate steadies and kicking declines. (Michelle Clements, City of London Maternity Hospital, as reported in Medical Tribune, March 23, 1978)

Neo-natal Intensive Care Units (NICU)

Premature infants exposed to lullabies in the NICU needed 16% less time to reach the weight criterion for discharge. (Verdeau-Prailles, 1985)

Lullaby music played in the NICU has been shown to lessen the episodes of oxygen desaturation. (J. Caine, as reported in Journal of Music Theory, 1991)

Three studies have shown a 3-5 day earlier discharge from the NICU when babies were exposed to music. (J. Caine, as reported in Journal of Music Theory, 1991) (Coleman, Pratt and Abel as presented at the International Society for Music in Medicine Symposium, October 1996) (J.M. Standley as presented at the International Society for Music in Medicine Symposium, October 1996)


Music aids in memory development and retrieval as early as three months of age. (St. John's University and Iona College, 1997)

Preschoolers who studied piano performed 34 per cent better in spatial and temporal reasoning ability than preschoolers who spent the same amount of time learning to use computers. (Rauscher, Shaw, as reported in Neurological Research, February 1997)

Preschoolers who took singing and keyboard lessons scored 80 per cent higher on object-assembly tests than students at the same preschool who did not have the music lessons. (Rauscher & Shaw, as reported in Symphony Sep.-Oct. 1996)

After eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers demonstrated a 46 per cent boost in their spatial reasoning IQ. (Music and Spatial Task Performance: A Causal Relationship, Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, KY and Wright, University of California, 1994)

Disadvantaged preschoolers display dramatic improvements in spatial reasoning ability after music training. (Rauscher & Shaw, University of California)


An in-depth Harvard University study found evidence that spatial-temporal reasoning improves when children learn to make music, and this kind of reasoning improves temporarily when adults listen to certain kinds of music, including Mozart. The finding suggests that music and spatial reasoning are related psychologically (i.e., they may rely on some of the same underlying skills) and perhaps neurologically as well. A relationship between music and the strengthening of math, dance, reading, creative thinking and visual arts skills was also cited. (Winner, Hetland,Sanni, as reported in The Arts and Academic Achievement - What the Evidence Shows, 2000)

30 minutes of daily music instruction for one year was credited for increased perceptual-motor skills and creative thinking tests on first grade students. (K.L. Wolff, Doctoral Dissertation, University of Michigan, 1979)

Students in two Rhode Island elementary schools given a sequential, skill-building music program showed a marked improvement in math skills. (Gardiner, Fox, Jeffry, and Knowles, as reported in Nature, May 23, 1996)

At risk children who participated in an arts program that included music showed significant increases in overall self-concept. (N.H. Barry, Auburn University, 1992)

Listening to Baroque music while studying can enhance one's ability to memorize spellings, poetry, and foreign words. (The Mozart Effect,® Don Campbell, 1997)

Young Adult

Students who study music scored higher on both the verbal and math portions of the SAT than non-music students. (College Entrance Examination Board as reported in Symphony, Sep-Oct 1996)

Listening to Mozart's Piano Sonata K448 was found to significantly increase spatial scores of college students on IQ tests. (Rauscher & Shaw, University of California, as reported in Nature)

In a study of medical school applicants, 66 per cent of music majors who applied to medical school were admitted, the highest percentage of any group. Only 44 per cent of biochemistry majors were admitted. (Lewis Thomas, as reported in Phi Delta Kappan, February 1994)


The very best engineers and technical designers in the Silicon Valley industry are, nearly without exception, practicing musicians. (Grant Venerable, The Center for the Arts in the Basic Curriculum, New York, 1989)

The University of Washington reported in a study of ninety people editing a manuscript, that accuracy in the group listening to classical music increased by 21.3 per cent.

AT&T and DuPont have cut training time in half by using creative music programs.

Equitable Life Insurance increased the output of transcribers by 17 per cent after introducing music to the office.

Mississippi Power & Light raised efficiency in the billing department by 18.6 per cent after instituting a nine-month office listening program. (University of Washington, Business Music: A Performance Tool for the Office/Workplace, 1991)


Listening to music can increase levels of interleukin-1 (IL-1) in the blood from 12.5 to 14 per cent. Interleukins are a family of proteins associated with blood and platelet production, lymphocyte stimulation and cellular protection against AIDS, cancer and other diseases. (Michigan State University as reported in The Mozart Effect,® Don Campbell, 1997)

Publications, On Line Journals, and Research

The Music and Science Information Computer Archive

A database compiled by the University of California at Irvine featuring scientific research (references & abstracts) on music as related to behavior, the brain and allied fields. Also publishes MuSICA Research Notes, a thrice-yearly newsletter providing reports and critical analysis of research on music and behavior, including education, child development, psychology, cognitive sciences, neuroscience, clinical medicine, music therapy and allied fields.

CAIRSS for Music

A bibliographic database of music research literature compiled by UTSA and SMU featuring information from all articles that appear in 15 primary journals and more than one thousand selected secondary journals.

A bibliographic database of more than 28,000 resources in music and music education from 31 Canadian and International journals and other sources covering the period 1956 through the present. The journals are fully indexed by title, author, and subject.

Music Education Research in Progress

A collection of current faculty, masters and undergraduate research in music education conducted by Penn State University School of Music.

Educational Resources Information Center

A source of data on unpublished government-sponsored research and other resources.

Harvard University Music Library
A search resource of public databases on music and music education.

The Music Medicine Bibiliography
More than 450 references from over 100 allied health journals, contact: Martha A. Burke, MS, MT-BC, (919) 682-8875,


Children instinctively enjoy music and that is why it is a perfect medium for inspiring learning in a whole host of areas. The best way for anyone to learn is voluntarily through rewarding activity. This is where music can really come into its own.
For 2 to 5 year olds, singing songs, making music together with different instruments and dancing around are all too much fun to be thought of as learning tools! However, the fact remains that music activities can provide a central core of intelligence for the development of basic skills right across the board.
All areas of the government's "Desirable Learning Outcomes", on which most schools around the world base their curriculum and which also form the basis of the Basic Skills Test here, are addressed in some form by music-related activities. This means that activities and games involving music are not only highly enjoyable for children and adults alike, but can be beneficial for child development in areas including reading, mathematics and science as well as social and personal development.

Social Development
As a group activity, music really takes-off. Children with little else in common can form fruitful relationships when it comes to playing together with musical instruments . In a pre-school setting, group activities such as singing or playing circle games, where children pass round an instrument or clap rhythms, help to develop social skills like taking turns, working together and sharing.
These are skills which don't come naturally and this is a rewarding and enjoyable way to practice these. Sharing enjoyable experiences through music like playing games, singing and dancing can also help strengthen bonds between children and their adults.

Personal Development
On a more personal level, these activities can help instill a sense of self-confidence while encouraging children to listen closely and be ready to respond. Music activities also give pre-school children the opportunity to find out that music can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of age or ability.
Hearing music from other countries is a good place to start in building awareness and respect for cultures other than our own. Recent research has also shown that moving to music by dancing and doing actions to songs can help with brain development and memory.

Language and Literacy
Music activities help develop communication skills. Singing and chanting repetitive songs and rhymes all help build up confidence in using language while helping children to remember new words.
It gives first experiences of language structures such as phrasing in sentences and syllables within words. Listening to music and talking about how it sounds and how it makes you feel is also a great opportunity to discover new words and to use them in descriptive ways. Listening carefully to different types of sounds made by different objects is a good way to build up the skill of concentrated listening and the ability to discriminate between sounds.
These are essential when it comes to learning and using language. Music is itself a non-verbal language of its own which has the power to communicate emotions, sometimes very powerfully. For children to experience this by hearing music and by playing instruments lets them investigate forms of communication which their limited verbal skills do not allow.
This is a good introduction to the communicative potential of language. Relating sounds to symbols that can be drawn on paper and sequencing them from left to right in response to rhythms they make, is also a good foundation for reading and writing skills.

Maths doesn't escape music-time! For instance, counting songs can help to clarify the sequence of numbers. Recognising and recreating rhythmic patterns is a skill closely related to mathematical concepts. If children are given the opportunity to compare, sort and match different kinds of sounds, such as those made by homemade shakers, this can help introduce and develop the concept of mathematical sets. Different rhythms are divided into a variety of beats closely linked to fractions, addition and subtration.
The process of making homemade instruments can also be a good introduction to maths. Measuring and counting out materials and dealing with objects of different shapes are all mathematical practices.

Knowledge and understanding of the world
When it comes to a knowledge and understanding of the world, pre-school children already seem to know a lot! However, showing young children the excitement and rewards of being inquisitive by a process of example, will provide a sure foundation for a child's own self-motivated learning throughout his or her educational career.
Music activities provide plenty of good opportunities to foster the joy of finding things out. For instance, manipulating everyday objects to see what noises can be made, by or putting a piece of paper to the lips and speaking in different ways to feel the air vibrations that make sounds. Making instruments out of unlikely materials: a drum out of a flower pot, a triangle out of spoons, a xylophone from bottles. These are all exciting ways to find out about the world, with the bonus of a musical reward!
Listening to the music of other times and places can also lead on to finding out more about people of a particular country or period in history and perhaps a search in the local library for some pictures! Music can bring a child's investigations to life.

Physical Development
Young children's physical development is addressed in several ways by music-related activities. Dancing and moving around to music develops a spatial awareness while also practising coordination and muscle control. It helps children to 'feel' the rhythms of music through their bodies, something which is also important when instruments are played.
Playing instruments and making sounds with the body, such as clapping or tapping, helps develop fine motor skills in the hands and fingers while also defining relationships between sound and physical movement.

Creative Development
A major area of child development, and one which is often overlooked, is creativity. The use of imagination and the ability to communicate and express ideas and feelings is very well served by musical activities. Listening to music and generating personal responses either verbally or through movement or by making pictures, can all be good ways for children to recognise and express their emotions.
Playing and 'composing' with instruments gives children a command over levels of expression they simply don't possess verbally. These creative 'outlets' are important for the growth of a child's self-esteem, self-confidence and general emotional well-being…things which can greatly help a child's development in all other areas.
Music and its related activities can bring together all aspects of balanced development. As well as having all of these benefits, it paves the way for a lifetime's enjoyment of music and most would agree this makes a happier individual.

Copyright 2003 Christobel LLewellyn

Jazzchord Kinderjazz Article | Research Proves the Benefits of Music
Music is Excellent for Your Child's Development