Haughey taught traditional piano lessons for 15 years, before opening a Musikgarten studio. In college she developed a curiosity about musical talent: how much was inborn and how much could be developed. “I researched music education giants of the 20th century: Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze and Suzuki,” she recalls. “When I discovered Musikgarten, I saw that the authors had researched these philosophies and more, including brain development, the importance of nature in a child’s development, how children learn best through movement.”
The primary authors of Musikgarten, Dr. Lorna Heyge and Audrey Sillick, combined methods in music education with early childhood education, such as the Montessori method, to develop a spiral system that layers activities and practices appropriate for the child’s age and supports general development. Class activities are broad-based, and every class at every level involves the student in singing, movement, listening, playing instruments and working toward music literacy.
Music education benefits a child at every stage of development. As babies and toddlers move to music, they learn body control – dancing when music plays, stopping when music stops; they learn how to express and be aware of emotion through recognizing sad and happy sounds. Body and impulse control are important skills for school readiness. In our classes we work on connecting aural skills to body movement. We also work on coordination and space awareness, which improves kids’ social skills. As the word about Musikgarten has spread, speech and hearing experts have started recommending the classes to families of children with speech delays or hearing challenges.
One magazine reporter, Natasha Mancuso, of Billings Montana, signed up her own son for the “Play with me” class, which proved to be the complete opposite of her own childhood music lesson experiences. “Growing up, I learned to play piano the old-fashioned way. Although I had a wonderful piano teacher, the general approach of the time was strict: sit up straight before you touch the keys, memorize your notes, don’t fidget, practice, practice, practice.” Eighty percent of students drop music after the first year in the traditional school system,” says Musikgarten practitioner Haughey. “We often look for “talent” when it comes to music. We don’t take a kid who’s slow in reading and say ‘Oh, it’s Ok, you are not very good at this, so let’s do something else’. But we do that in music. In Musikgarten, 75 percent of students continue from year to year.”
Mancuso writes: “As my son and I began to attend weekly classes, I was amazed at how much he and I learned while having fun. We played drums, bells, and bars, danced the waltz, listened to and mimicked nature sounds, repeated rhythms into a “microphone,” learned the difference between loud and quiet, sad and happy. His favorite part was dancing in a circle with other children at the end of every class. I was impressed with the quality of the recordings chosen for the classes and how the children were engaged in the session with virtually no equipment.” Haughey responds: “Our society is losing community culture due to constant visual stimulation. We replaced telling stories around the campfire with reality shows and singing together with watching “American Idol. ” We have become passive observers of our culture - watching, listening but not participating.”
Haughey’s past helped her form this ideology. “My dad sang and danced with me in my childhood,” she recalls. “Both my parents loved children, were playful and encouraging. They also taught us that we needed to think beyond ourselves and to try to make the world a better place.”
Musikgarten does just that – inspires parents, teaches children to love music and makes the world a better place one family at a time.