For more information on all of CMC’s early childhood education offerings and faculty, visit the Youth Group Classes and Ensembles page.
Diane Aurelius: CMC Family Music and Music for Children Instructor
By Katy Fox, guest writer
“They (families) are brought together for music, but it’s really community that we’re going for.”
—Diane Aurelius Family Music and Music for Children Instructor
The Family Music class at CMC is described as “… a musical bonding experience and an introduction to singing, rhythmic activities, movement and musical play.” To illustrate the role that these activities play in child development and bonding, instructor Diane Aurelius describes an activity she uses in her classes. She’ll turn on a recording of Fur Elise, give each child a scarf and from there, the journey begins:
Diane: I give them the idea that there’s a ‘home’ in this piece of music and play with the concept that we are going on a journey. Coming back home means we come back to the theme. Then there’s the storm in the music—the tension—and then there’s the way back…So we frolic out, away from home on an adventure, into fields of flowers and butterflies, and then we end up in a place we don’t know that is scary and we have to find our way back home. In that reenactment the children feel this [specific] beginning/middle/end but also a very life-like, artistic process that they’re going to live a million times over.
Diane completed her 3-year Waldorf teacher certification in 2004 and has worked in Waldorf-inspired preschools since 2001. Diane joined the faculty of CMC in 2015. Of the many Waldorf principles that inform her teaching, she discussed the importance of melody and the Pentatonic Scale.
D: In terms of musical education, the notion of melody is where the children experience continuous flow and levity. With the young child, I feel that our culture emphasizes percussion—stomping and shaking and drumming and beating—which is great, but melody is also important in order for them to experience the dreamlike, imaginative, almost trance-like act of listening. They listen to melody and then they express it through their movement; it can elicit a completely different movement than with percussion.
Another Waldorf principle is the use of the Pentatonic scale for early childhood education. The young child’s ear is developing so it is appropriate to begin classes with this scale. It is important to use the best instruments we can afford, and use instruments that stay in perfect tune. I love my little glockenspiel which has a very subtle tone. Then the children’s ear gets used to hearing an A—really an A, not ‘kind of’ an A.
In November 2017, Diane wrote and was awarded a CMC partnership grant which funded the addition of five ukuleles to her Saturday class.
D: Being awarded this grant is great! I can now teach ukulele in my classes which adds to my curriculum and my work can benefit other teachers and students well beyond me, I love that.
What else supports you as a teacher?
D: Walking into the CMC and hearing the sound of everyone practicing: that’s a way of supporting my dream. To hear people really work on their music, I recognize something in that that makes me so happy…The more I play (music) the more I can hear it. Learning how to read music was like being given a key to a book— you unlock it, you open it, and it just keeps opening into new places. So continued learning supports me.
As a choreographer and dancer in the 90’s, Diane improvised with instruments and musicians for years. She began learning to read music during her Waldorf training—on a recorder. But it wasn’t until the age of 45, when she was given a saxophone, that she began music lessons with CMC instructor Bill Fiege. After that it seems instruments began collecting her: a beautiful mountain dulcimer, an accordion, a clarinet, “many, many” recorders, a guitar. Now she plays in the CMC Woodwind Ensemble and enjoys offering the odd street performance. But she’s always been a singer.
D: I feel that singing, as our first instrument, is the original bond to music. As a singer I literally try to make my voice warm and I imagine the child surrounded by warmth. I started singing in choirs when I was going to church with my mother…My mother loved to sing around the house—both she and my father have great voices. My father started collecting jazz albums when he was 12, so I grew up with jazz just in the background, a lot of 1950’s, 1940’s, even 1930’s music.
My own journey as a musician is also part of my Waldorf training. My journey is concurrent with their [the children’s] learning; I’m also struggling with practice, with my not wanting to push myself to learn a new mode or new scale—I understand their (students) struggles first-hand…As an adult I know the benefit of what it brings, so I get to pass that to them and be inspiring them all the time.
…Which brings us back to the Community Music Center.
D: In this (Family Music) ensemble class, my most heartwarming moments are after the class when these children go play with a new friends they’ve met, go check out the garden, or go make a plan to eat together, I just love that. They are brought together for music, but it’s really community that we’re going for.
When I see ‘Music For Everyone since 1921’ and I look at the photograph of Gertrude Field who started it all, I think ‘I’m in the right place.’ When I hear people playing, I think ‘I’m in the right place.’ When I see all the kids and all the adults, I think ‘we’re doing it!’ CMC is totally created out all of us who are striving to get better at our instruments, striving to get better as teachers, striving to get better in the world, to do something that is everlasting.
Thank you to Katy Fox the guest writer for this article. The article is an excerpt of a longer piece, and is part of an interview and article series about early childhood education faculty at CMC. The entire piece can be viewed here.