Editor's note: Lisa G. Allison and Linda Sebenius are identical twins, moms (they have seven sons between them), award-winning music educators with local symphonies, composers, recording artists and founders of Let Your Music Shine! We asked them to share some of their musical secrets with us. (And see them live this Saturday with the Federal Way Symphony.)
Why do you believe early exposure to music matters so much?
The brain is an amazing organ with specific age windows for cognitive development. Hearing is the first sense developed in utero at 20 weeks. So before birth, the child is gathering sounds and brain development is occurring based on sound enrichment. Music as sound enrichment provides varied, complex, and organized sounds which enhance brain development especially through the preschool years.
Another factor regarding the importance of early exposure to music is the aspect of shared music making. Families that make music together and share music experiences develop a deeper array of shared memories and joyful family times. The effect of this bonding lasts a lifetime ... and passes through generations of musical families.
What’s a fact that might surprise parents about kids’ musical development?
Simple isn't always better! Research shows that infants turn their heads more consistently toward complex classical music than simple nursery rhymes. Put on some Beethoven, some Bach, or some Brahms and watch them tune in and engage. Young children are gatherers of information, like sponges soaking up as much as they can. Offer them the VERY BEST in a music menu full of variety, complexity, AND different languages, and see what happens!
What was your own early experience with music?
We grew up in a musical home, so before we could talk we heard singing by our parents and especially our father who has a beautiful tenor voice. He played the piano and wrote music that inspired us to create at an early age. Pop also loved classical music and had an entire library of vinyl classical records. We also attended plays, musical, and opera as young children. And we always sang rounds and favorite songs on car trips.
The last two of six children, we as young twins were encouraged by our maternal grandmother to "sing for Grandma." She would even pay us, $1 each. From here, we joyfully continued our musical path and at age 4 we did our first in-home play. We dressed up in costume, put together a simple script and charged 5 cents admission by all our neighborhood friends. It was a great success!
We started officially studying piano at age 7 and instruments at age 10. And honestly, we can't remember when we weren't singing! We did take singing lessons all along the way. Our greatest singing lessons started when we were both "Dickens Carolers" as adults and learned the secrets of the performance arts.
Tell Us About Let Your Music Shine.
Let Your Music Shine! is our title song AND the central message that we deliver with all of our work for young children. The words are "Let your music shine from the inside to out. Let yourself know the music that's about." Simple sign language accompanies the music.
To paraphrase, it is the message that every child is born with music inside and with stories to tell, and music helps share that story. Also, opening to many kinds of music opens our minds and hearts to appreciate our differences and enjoy the shared experience of music making.
As music educators and parents we are dedicated to "inspiring the unlimited potential of every child through music." Besides raising seven children between us, our education of young children began with Linda as a Kindermusik specialist for 15 years, and Lisa as a K-5 music specialist for the Lake Washington School District for 15 years. And along the way we earned various degrees: Linda a Music Theory/Composition degree and a Film Score certificate, and Lisa, a Masters in Music Education with special research on prenatal musical enrichment. We still act as private teachers for voice and various instruments. Being teachers as well as parents is how we will always see ourselves.
Our website, LetYourMusicShine.com, has resources such as easy piano music for Let Your Music Shine!, coloring pages that encourage learning about instruments, research articles about music and the young child, and parent guides to help parents and caregivers maximize our CDs and DVDs. We are also both available as resource guides for parent questions about music training, instrument exploration, etc.
What are 2-3 activities from your repertoire that parents can try at home with their kids?
Move along to the music of the classics. Use a variety of music and focus at first on simple concepts like fast and slow. You can do this with many of our products, or just pick your own favorites. Dance like no one is watching!
Make up your own songs — pick an animal and talk about how they move, how they behave and then add a simple poem and melody/tune. Even sing along with a known melody. For example, let's think of a panda bear, they like to move along tree branches and then sit, and then move. So to the melody "Twinkle Twinkle" you could sing. "Pan-da bears they live in trees, crawl on bran-ches live so free" or something like that!
Pick a favorite piece of music … then make up a story to go with it. Music can also paint the picture of the story — If you are on a boat, put on Debussy's "La Mer." If you are riding a horse, put on Grofe's "On the Trail."
What were some of your boys’ favorite music-related activities as young children?
They ALL loved playing on drum sets! When they were babies, they enjoyed the symphony of the pots and pans, sitting on the kitchen floor with wooden spoons banging. Then at a very young age (3-5) they enjoyed REAL drums. It takes a great deal of physical/mental coordination, and it is just so great to say, "Yes, you can hit that! Just NOT your brother!"
What are some favorite musical outings of yours to do with kids around Puget Sound?
The Pike Place Market is an amazing place to get exposed to many different types of music. So many buskers with so much talent. Another resource for outings are the [summer] "Arts in the Parks" presentations throughout our region — fantastic performers in lovely outdoor settings with lots of room to sing, move, and imagine! The library also offer wonderful musical programs for kids.
Any favorite CDs or DVDs you’d recommend in addition to the ones offered by Music Shine Media?
Classical Kids puts out wonderful CDs/DVDs. Recordings with real instruments and small ensembles are the best!
What’s one thing on your family adventure list for 2013, musical or otherwise?
Lisa: Since all of our children are in their 20s and 30s, it's now a challenge to get all of us together for family adventures! This summer we are hoping to find a date so that we can all gather at Yellowstone for a family camp/hike/music holiday.
Linda: Our children are all in their 20s, so our family adventure list is mostly about the gatherings at the family home, "Heron's Roost." We grow organic hops for Heron's Roost Brewery, and hand-churn organic ice cream for Heron's Roost Creamery. We also call our place Heron's Roost Weinery, where we enjoy our little family of dachshunds. The food, the music, the stories … all a huge part of our lives now as parents of adult children.
When’s your next symphony performance?
We will be in Federal Way with the Federal Way Symphony on Saturday, January 26, for our show "High-Lo Big Top Circus," and then in Seattle for the beginning of our 14th year with the Seattle Symphony Tiny Tots on February 15 and 16.
Our website has a calendar with more information and helpful links.