Each week, 950 preschoolers, their teachers, and sometimes their parents, gather for music classes taught by Music Together in-school specialists. As you’d imagine, there’s singing, dancing, silly lyrics, and lots of laughter. What you might not expect? These classes are 100% virtual, with families joining from their Richmond, VA, homes—and their Music Together teachers logging on from around the US.
Thanks to a partnership with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, the Music Together In School curriculum has been a part of Richmond Public Schools (RPS) since 2018, with a local Music Together specialist teaching about 200 preschoolers a year. After seeing its success at Mary Scott Preschool, led by Principal Dr. Johnnye Massenburg-Johnson, RPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Kamras worked to secure funding to expand Music Together to all five preschools in the district, starting with the 2020–2021 school year.
In an unexpected twist, fall 2020 saw Richmond Public Schools shift to distance learning. It was important to Dr. Kamras and other RPS leaders to continue the planned expansion of Music Together, even during this unique year. Dr. Autumn Nabors, RPS Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Kristi D’Souza, RPS Director of Early Childhood Education and School Readiness, and Christie-Jo C. Adams, RPS K-12 Arts Education Coordinator, worked with the Music Together Worldwide In-School Services department to make it happen!
The result? A teaching team with music specialists hailing from 14 US states teaching 15 virtual Music Together classes every day, and nearly 1000 preschoolers in the city of Richmond learning and playing through music! And the distance doesn’t make a bit of difference. According to teacher Kerri Dahl, from Nevada, “Every day I look forward to meeting with the teachers and students. The connection I feel with them is incredible. It’s as though we are in the same room, even though we are on opposite sides of the country!”
During what can only be described as a challenging school year, Richmond parents, teachers, and administrators share that Music Together has greatly contributed to a successful virtual learning experience for everyone.
According to Summer Hill Preschool Principal Kelly Tobe, “The students, teachers, and families are actively engaged throughout the entire lesson. Students stand and move and sing. In the virtual environment, most activities for this age group were two-dimensional: students sitting and viewing. Music Together provides a way for our students to get up and have a relationship with a real person.
It also helps students to recall rhyme and rhythm, which are our targeted literacy skills. The engaging music teachers also involve the students in social skills to interact dynamically with those at home. (We see you dancing and singing, Mom, Dad, and Grandma!) Thank you, Music Together. The lesson is the highlight of our week!”
And, in addition to the important developmental benefits of music, participating in group music activities, even online, builds community and supports the home-school connection. Ms. Adams, from the RPS Department of Curriculum & Instruction, says, “The community engagement keeps parents informed and involved in their students’ learning. Our families sing together, play instruments together, and participate in activities that introduce new and innovative skills that will be essential for success. Music Together creates memories that will last forever for our students, families, and our community.”
We are so grateful to have been able to bring the power of music-learning to students in Richmond—and to families and teachers at the many other schools using our curriculum. The upcoming school year may bring more changes to how we teach and learn. But, what doesn’t change is the power of music to make it all a little easier and bring people together.
To learn more about the Music Together In School curriculum for your child’s school go to www.musictogether.com/schools.
“I know school being online really makes things hard for teachers, parents, and students, but here we are, bringing music and joy to the students once a week. It helps us ALL forget the stress that COVID has brought to the world and that is a gift.” –Elizabeth Darowish, Music Together Teacher, PA