This week I interviewed Heather Monro from Kiddliewinks Music about how she came to write ‘Don’t be Serious’ and ‘Don’t be 2 Serious’. These are two fantastic resources for Early Learning. Make sure you check out their website!
Why did you start making music for children?
I have been teaching music to children since 2001, initially using music from other resources. There had not been any new releases of new music for several years, and I felt that I needed some fresh new music. For about 12 months I’d asked Nathan Glenn, a Melbourne-based composer, if he would be interested in co-producing some music with me. However, he was already busy with other projects. In 2016 I was teaching a pre kinder group of children, and decided to write a new ‘Hello’ song. I asked Nathan if he would record a backing track for my new song on piano. I thought this would take only a few minutes, but after 6.5 hours he had created a full orchestral arrangement that was as good as something produced by Disney. We both enjoyed the process, so this became the beginning of an award-winning teacher manual and CD that we have co-written called ‘Don’t Be Serious’.
How does your music offer a unique experience for children?
Our music is all original, with some pieces containing lyrics, and others purely orchestral. One unique factor of our music is that the music has been composed for a specific activity or purpose. It is also modern orchestral music of many different styles. This is something that is rarely, if at all, seen in today’s music for children.
We have many varying types of activities for children on our albums, and each piece offers them a different experience, game or area of physical, intellectual or social development.
What are your qualifications?
I trained as a kindergarten teacher, majoring in music at the Institute of Early Childhood Development State College of Victoria, completing post-graduate studies in Orff Music at Australian Catholic University, with additional coaching in the USA with Lynn Kleiner, jazz improvisation with Susie Davies-Splitter, and training in New Zealand with Kids Music Company both in teacher workshops and children’s classes.
Nathan Glenn has two major diplomas in piano, receiving his A.Mus.A. at age 14 and L.Mus.A. at age 16. He also has a Bachelor of Software Engineering with Honours. Nathan has also learned the flute, clarinet, violin, oboe and guitar. He has also won awards for his compositions and performances both nationally and internationally.
How much research/groundwork did you do prior to writing your first song/activity?
Prior to publishing our first teacher manual and CD, I tested the music with many different groups of children after each track was completed. I wanted to make sure that the music and songs would be enjoyed by children before making them public. I also asked for thoughts and feedback from teachers about each piece. This actually led to a few changes to make them more user friendly.
The teacher manual was written in such a way that even teachers who felt they weren’t musical would still have the confidence to use the music and each activity with the children in their classroom. I made sure that the teaching notes were very clear and any development outcomes for the children were listed. Before children go to school, there are essential areas that they need to develop, including: imagination, social skills, fine-motor skills, large-motor skills, crossing the midlines, just to name a few. I used this knowledge as a kindergarten teacher of many years to make sure that the music and activities included aspects of these essential learning areas. For example, ‘A Day in the Snow’ has been created to develop a child’s imagination, love of good music, spacial awareness, and the vestibular system.
Where needed, facts were thoroughly researched for our music. An example of this is ‘The Planets Song’. The only planet songs I knew previously included Pluto as a planet. We needed to have a song that was scientifically up to date, given that Pluto is now excluded as a planet.
‘A Bush Lunch’ is another track where research was essential. We started with the idea of having some music about a kookaburra, but after researching on the internet, discovered that kookaburras eat snakes, and snakes eat mice, and decided to incorporate the three animals into the music. Nathan created a beautiful piece of music with section A representing kookaburras, section B representing snakes and section C representing mice.
Did you find there was a hole in the market that you needed to fill?
I believe that there is definitely a hole in the market when it comes to orchestral music. Young children can have an amazing appreciation for orchestral music, and often prefer it to modern pop. Nathan has a unique talent as a brilliant composer. He writes imaginative, exciting and innovative orchestral music. One of our aims is for children to enjoy orchestral music as much as we do. We believe that we have created fun, educational, and very entertaining music for children. I am often asked ‘can we do it again?’ when I am presenting our music to children.