In the Live Music Capital, I found a treasure trove of serendipitous music with poetic purpose unlike anything I had heard before. The note I heard struck a chord so unique, tears brimmed in my eyes as I clapped, danced, and sang along. Where did this beautiful sound come from? It emerged from a place appropriately named Heartsong Music, which brings not just families together, but our oldest and youngest generations.
Music Together Curriculum
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Heartsong Music has been teaching music in the Austin community since 2005, utilizing the Music Together curriculum in a Montessori play setting. The organization’s reach has grown to 600 children and families, and 11 teachers who are gifted musicians and nurturers.
Owner Carey Youngbood, a former Montessori teacher, explained, “It is a love feast when you get a group of families together to sing and dance, and play rhythm instruments in each class. True community building is happening in each class, and our lobby is designed like a Montessori classroom, so you can stay, play, and mingle awhile.”
Heartsong hosts classes for babies, zero to eight months, as well as mixed-age classes newborn to five years. During classes, young children are encouraged to naturally interact with their environment, exploring their voice, instruments, and dance, alongside caregivers.
In addition to the host location at Village Shopping Center on West Anderson Lane, Heartsong permeates love and joy through the Austin community through its nonprofit arm, Heartsong Music Foundation. The foundation brings the Music Together program to underserved preschools in Austin.
Youngblood elaborated, “We now go to three preschools, teaching 80 children each week who would not ordinarily get music classes. It is free of charge to the schools and the children, who each get the Music Together songbook and CDs free of charge. We’ve been going to underserved preschools for the past 10 years. By sending the music home and having the classroom teachers involved in the weekly music class, the music goes on throughout the week: at home, in the classroom, and in the weekly music class.”
In awe of any business committed to Austin philanthropy, I was even more intrigued when I heard about Heartsong Music’s Generations class, hosted at assisted living homes across Austin. While the Generations class constitutes part of the paid programming for students, my attention was piqued by the way the class brings our oldest and youngest generations together through music.
Heartsong Music Generations Class
With over 600 children attending Heartsong Music classes each week, 50 of them go to Generations classes speckled throughout Austin at:
- Pecan Ridge Memory Care (formerly Autumn Leaves Memory Care Northwest)
- Brookdale Spicewood Springs
- Brookdale Northwest Hills
- Retirement Residence Assisted Living
- Silverado Cedar Park
At the Generations class, “the children bring instruments to the grandfriends, pick up their instruments, wave hello to the grandfriends, give goodbye hugs, dance with the grandfriends, hold hands, and do pats and claps with them. It is great interaction for the residents–physically, emotionally, kinesthetically,” Youngblood detailed.
After talking to Youngblood, I had to check out a class myself. So with my two- and three-year olds in tow, off to the Generations class we go!
As I walked in, a warm energy permeated the room. Residents (grandfriends) of the assisted living facility encircled the room in chairs, while the parents and children sat on the floor. As we began the welcome song, I took in my surroundings. It was obvious many of these grandfriends had developed close relationships with the families. Babies and tots crawled, danced, and rolled about in gleeful song, while parents clapped and sang along. Grandfriends joined in the chorus and fun, too.
Teacher Liz Steinheider noted, “It is a wonderful privilege to lead these intergenerational music classes! It’s a joy to observe the connections that are made between the children, families and grandfriends. The grandfriends are wonderful music models, and their participation teaches the children about rhythm, movement, and the joy of music making. The children bring energy, happiness and love into our senior communities, while the grandfriends bring kindness, wisdom, and joy to our class. The musical experience for all is enriched by our diverse class community!”
As I clapped and danced around the room, my tots mimicking me close behind, I noticed a grandfriend peer into my son’s eyes and grin. My son’s reactive belly laugh echoed the room, dispersing happiness to all in earshot. Touched by a perspective both familiar and foreign, I knew I was witnessing the kind of ordinary magic difficult to convey.
Veteran mom of the Generations class for three years, Carrie Turco remarked, “The Generations music class at Renaissance has been a remarkable experience for my family. It is so important for my kids to interact with elderly people. And, as a parent, I feel an obligation to share the pure joy of my children with the whole world–especially the elderly. Many of these residents don’t get to see their kids or grandkids very often. I am honored and thankful that they have adopted myself and my girls as their local family. Almost all my grandparents have passed, but the residents of Renaissance love me in a way that softens those holes in my hearts.”
For me, as a mom, it was a reminder to steal and give joy whenever life presents an opportunity because as I was told three different times that day from my new, sweet grandfriends, “It all just goes so fast, so just take it all in.”
To find out more, visit the Heartsong Music website.
@theAustinot wants to know:
When was the last time you witnessed music bringing people together in healing ways?