We’re learning about France in the classroom and also studying the art of the old masters, like Monet, Picasso and van Gogh. Describing styles of art to young children with pictures and techniques is always exciting; using real watercolor paints from tubes squeezed onto a palette, painting at an easel, demonstrating brush strokes, and finding geometric shapes in abstract art. As they begin to actually use real tools and techniques, they feel proud. We encourage children to come back to their piece of art, over and over again. After all, a masterpiece is not created in a day. Music is also art, and when the two come together, magic and creativity seem to explode. That’s exactly what happened this week.
We used the book Can You Hear It? from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which matches a famous work of art with a classical piece of music. Fabulous book! The first pages, before the art and music, show different instruments. The children were so interested that we had to slow down and really go through each instrument. Of course! How simple, and how perfect to begin the process of listening to music. I was so eager to get to the ‘real part’, the pictures of art and the accompanying music, that I nearly overlooked the most important and fundamental part; the musical instruments. if you don’t know the instruments and the sounds they produce, how can you listen to music, especially when it can identify with art? For example, the violins in “Flight of the Bumblebee” matched with the art piece Chrysanthemums can’t be fully understood or appreciated if a child has not heard or seen a violin.
The cello captivated the children. It looked big and interesting in the book. Technology to the rescue. My co-teacher had her iPad at school, and she found a cello solo for the children to watch and listen. It was “Bach Cello Suite No.1 in G”, played by Mischa Maisky. The sounds that flowed from his cello had thirteen preschool children listening to and loving every single note. Everyone was breathless, including teachers. The only words that were spoken were, “I love this music”, “Olivia isn’t here, she would love this”, and “That was awesome.” The only movements were children trying to copy playing the cello. The next day we continued with the book, and again used the iPad, this time with a classical guitar solo. We played “Cannon in D” by Johann Pachelbel. As you can imagine, children were equally captivated. The only words spoken were by one child, “This sounds like bedtime music”.
We then combined listening to music and creating our own art. So far, the results are astounding. Really! When young children are given the tools and encouragement, they have so much to give. In this case, the tools were books, music and technology. The results are the artwork that is shaping up to be well beyond the developmental skills of preschool children. That’s just wonderful.