Who’s in Charge? Using Music Classes to Teach Body Autonomy in Children.

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Here at Sounds Like This for Kids, we’ve developed a philosophy which guides every interaction we have with the children engaging in our music classes. There are many facets which shape the way our classes unfold however a fundamental element is our belief that the way the participants move and use their bodies throughout the session is their own choice. The only caveat to this policy is safety to themselves and to others.

So, what does this look like during a class? Come along and take a look into any of our group music sessions in Frankston and you may see:

 The facilitator following the child’s beat as they walk around the room

 Children sitting on a parent’s lap (or beside or behind them)

 Parent’s assisting children in experimenting with instruments

 Children observing the class

 Children physically engaging in the class

By the same token, there is just as many practices that you, by design, will not find in our classes.

These include:

 Rigid expectations for the participants to sit in formation

 Facilitators who are unable to mix up the session plan in response to the suggestions, body

language and choices from the children

 A focus on specific outcomes rather than a holistic approach

Delivering our classes with this philosophy in mind means that each child is benefiting from years of research into child development, brain development and child psychology. To break down the outcomes and to ensure that we are walking the walk and not just talking the talk, we like to focus on a few different areas.

1. The impact of problem solving

Providing children with the opportunity to solve (seemingly) simple problems not only enhances their self esteem and confidence when it come to facing challenges, research shows that it also encourages creative thinking. What’s not to love?

The role of the teacher and parent is to offer the time and opportunity for children to explore, experiment and use trial and error in their experiences as their maturation and interest calls for it. The way that this translates in our sessions could be as simple as discovering how best to strike a drum for maximum impact! The process is an organic element in the participant’s overall learning.

2. An introduction into consent, coercion and choice

Mixed messages around body autonomy is a real issue that parents face during day to day interactions. While we teach children about body safety, we also encourage them to hug a relative or sit on Santa’s knees. The parent’s urge to be polite is often in conflict with the child’s need for personal space.

At Sounds Like This for Kids we remove the expectation for children to sit on laps or interact physically with anyone else in the room. Taking the pressure off allows them to relax and get the most out of their class in an environment where parents can also feel confident in a non- judgemental space.

3. Joy and magic

Discovering something new, mastering an emerging skill or the thrill of surprise when a teacher responds to a beat set by the child is perhaps the most important component in our philosophy. It is our ‘why’ when it comes to creating a relaxed, creative and supportive space for children and adults alike. We believe that happy and relaxed participants make the most receptive students! Our objective is to not only teach music making skills, we hope to instil a love if the process itself.

Now, this all may sound pretty heavy for family music classes but when you consider the simple ways in which this philosophy translates into practice you’ll probably find similar situations popping up for your family in day to day life.

As always, we are happy to answer any questions or queries related to this or any other component of our service so feel free to get in touch and start your musical journey with Sounds Like This.

You CAN Make Music!

Did you know it takes just one generation of not being sung to for people to think that they can’t sing? One generation. Take a moment and think of how many lullabies you know. Ten? Five? One?  

Considering that humans have always made music, it is astounding how many parents arrive in their first music session and declare that they cannot sing. Archaeological digs have uncovered bone flutes, music centred corroborees are detailed in cave drawings and ancient drums have been found the world over. And yet we have become passive music consumers instead of active music makers. What went wrong? We believe that it can be put down to a few things:

  • A steady increase in music related technology since the 1920’s. As the presence of gramophones, record players, cassette players, CDs, MP3 and YouTube increases, organic music making decreases

  • A lack of respect for creativity in formal education shaping our current culture

  • A breakdown in community connectedness. As our lives get busier, there is less opportunity to gather for music making both as a community and within our own families.

How you can help your child to be musically intelligent

When it comes to learning to make music, the goal is to embrace your tuneful, beat-ful and artful self! In order to encourage the development of these three components, we can provide our children with support in the following ways.

Are we singing in a pitch that children can reproduce for themselves accurately? Are we singing songs that are vocally appropriate for the age and physical development of their voices?

Are they immersed in the whole tonal language of music? In my sessions I sing in a rainbow of tonal colours. From ancient modes, to modern major and minors, pentatonic, whole tone, chromatic scales, to name a few.

Introduce your child to film scores and classical music next time you are in the car. They’ll be transported by them. They’re magical! Does your child hear polyphony? Rich harmonies on various instruments and with voices? Are you sharing songs from your parent’s and grandparent’s past that can help to build intergenerational bonds? Are these songs that your children will one day sing to their own babes?


This is one you probably already do without thinking. Bouncing them on your knee, tapping on the ground so that they can feel the vibrations and dancing around your kitchen to music with strong beat from your culture and others. All this is helping your kids to be beat-ful!

Have you danced with your baby to the blues, to funk, to Latin, to jazz, to an Irish jig? All of these styles feel different and encourage varied movement as we immerse ourselves in the beat.


We’ve saved the best for last. This is arguably the most important element.
Are we encouraging the art? Is the text stale and monotone or lacking emphasis? We don’t want to sound like zombie drones. We want to be fresh and inspired!

Rhymes and songs should be scrumptious, delicious and like your life would be incomplete without them. That’s the “art” part, and that is what is so often missing when enjoying musical experiences in modern life. Is the text in the rhyme or song funny, sad, tender, playful, charming or gross? Are the children getting that from the delivery? Imagine; you could you be a story-teller not just through books, but through music!

The gift of music is something your child will share with you for a lifetime. Why not start sharing in the joy right now? Just remember: tune, beat and art. Give it a go!

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Top Tip #6 Change The Station

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What is the best music for a child's growing brain? That may seem like an easy question, but the answer is actually quite complicated. In short, lots of DIFFERENT music is the best music for your child! 

I would argue that active musical listening is as important to the brain during a child's early years as language is. It works just like language during the brain's development. We know that exposing your child's ear to as many words as possible in your native tongue/s, during their first years changes the way their brains process language. Without these linguistic interactions early on the brain does not grow the synaptic connections that it will use for the rest of it's life. The more these connections are used the stronger they become. If they're not used they atrophy and you can not establish them later on. The brain must take different pathways (pathways created for another purpose) to complete the desired task. Developing the synapses for music is exactly the same as language. You want lots of strong pathways established early on, so they will have them for their lifetime. 

Exposing a child to music is good. Exposing a child to an enormous variety of music from their culture, from around the world, in a host of time signatures, musical keys and tonalities, with varying feel, instrumentation, dynamics, layers and voices is better. MUCH better. It is with this in mind that we select the music for our sessions, but more on that later, this post is about you and your child beyond our class!

What type of music do you hear most often? What do you hear when you put on the radio in your car? What is your child listening to? What instruments? How many of the sounds that you're hearing actually are instruments and how many of them are electronically generated sounds? Are the voices natural sounding or have they been tampered with too?

Let's make a conscious effort to expose children to new sounds! Not sure where to start? We live in a world where accessibility to recorded music is easier than ever before. Spotify, YouTube, iTunes and Google Music are available at our fingertips, not to mention any physical collection you may own. I'm still hanging on to my CDs and actively growing my vinyl collection (thank you op shops). Does anyone still have a tape deck? Am I showing my age? Seek out other genres that you would not normally listen to. Classical (baroque, romantic, classical, impressionist, twentieth century), blues, funk, metal, folk, rock, jazz, country, soul, reggae, pop, electronica, dance, and I'm sure a million sub-genres within all of these. Once your child is no longer a baby they can play an important role in directing their own musical listening and appreciation. Ask them what they like. Ask them what they can hear within the music. Help them identify new instruments! 

Turn off the 'kids' music. Most commercially available music that is targeted at children is rubbish (I have strong feelings about this) and could actually be very harmful to their developing vocal chords, if they sing along, often and loudly. This music is usually pitched in a range that is comfortable for an adult voice, often an adult male voice, which its physically much larger than a child's. If your little one sings along loudly and often they could be at risk of doing serious long term damage to their vocal chords. I'll come back to more on this in the weeks to come with another top tip. We want kids to sing, but we don't want them to hurt themselves! 

Play real music to your kids. Start here... Hendrix, The Beetles, Mozart (who incidentally sold the most CDs of any artist in 2016, WOO, go Wolfgang!), Stevie Wonder, Bela Felck, Matt Corby, Van Halen, Debussy, Ravel, The Eagles, Bill Evans (jazz pianist), Nat King Cole, ELO, David Bowie, Queen, Daft Punk, Bob Marley, Vulfpeck, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, I could go on forever, oh how I LOVE music! 

Happy listening, dancing, moving and grovin', music lovers!

By Julie Murray
Owner and Teacher at Sounds Like This

Top Tip #5 Explore Sounds

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I've always been interested in exploring the sounds something can make, I thought I was all over it, I played instruments, went to concerts, heck I was studying 'proper' *clears throat* classical music at a private conservatorium. Then I moved in with a drummer. Well, he could make sounds and new sounds in ways I had never heard before! He thought differently about sound production. It was not a means to an ends for him, it was something magical to be treasured. 

Doing the dishes was a complex exercise in exactly which bowls filled with how much water could create the pitch and resonance he was after. It took forever to get a clean cup, but it sounded amazing. This drummer played like a child. There were things to bang, crash and bop! He was delighted in his exploring and in absolutely no hurry to speed up his exploration in the name of getting the job done. As he saw it, making music with the pots and pans was far more important than having clean dishes. You know what? He was right! Living with him taught me to slow down. Watching him take household items and transforming them into musical instruments was and still is amazing. 

Years on, we share our home with our two young children.  Our boys are often loud. They love to bang, crash and bop, just like their dad. Unless someone is sleeping, we usually let them. Why? Surely living in a quieter household would be better for my nerves?! We don't stop them because they are learning. 

They're learning about physics, vibration, resonate properties of different materials. They're learning about cause and effect. They're learning that when they hit something hard is sounds louder, they're learning that when they are gentle it sounds softer. They are building their muscles and developing more control and intent in their dynamic (volume) contrasts. They're learning that when they put their hand on that pot that they just wacked with a wooden spoon, that they stop it from vibrating and therefore stop the sound. They're learning about how sound is created and moves and stops, and that THEY are in charge of that. 

They're learning about using their voices. Our first son spent the best part of a year calling "hello" in undercover car-parks. He was listening for the echo. He waited to hear how many he could get back. He changed volume and the length of the "hello" to change the response. He figured it out for himself and every time he did his face lit up with an "AH HA!" moment. 

You want these moments. You want your child interested. Interested children are involved and excited about their own learning and these children learn A LOT! You want to let her explore sound and to do it on her own terms. When we talk about play based learning, this is what we mean. It means don't interrupt. It means, as the grown up you are not in charge, however well intended you may be, a child will learn FAR more by figuring things out for themselves in a child-lead way. There's no right way to hit a pot with a spoon, there are many ways and they will result in different sounds, but one way is not right and another wrong, just different. 

So, I urge you to not be too hasty in cleaning up the mess of plastic containers, pots, pans, spoons and lids, that your little one has spread all over the kitchen floor, yet again. To let them make child-led choices about how they interact with the world around them. Musical things are usually inanimate objects, rather than something flashy a marketing department of a corporation is targeting at your children (a rant for another time). The real musical 'thing', is the person who thinks in sounds and creates music with things, anything. Let your little one be little and have the freedom, time and space to be that musical 'thing'!

By Julie Murray
Owner and Teacher at Sounds Like This

Top Tip #4 Seek Out Live Music

If we want children to grow to be musical beings they need to hear live music. No amount of pre-recorded music, aimed at children is going to cut it. Most music played for children shouldn't be children's music at all, but that's a rant for another time! What we need for children to become musical is music created right there and then in front of them. It needs to be organic and enticing. Music with real instruments. Music with real musicians. Hopefully REALLY good musicians! It doesn't really matter what style of music it is, just as long as it is delivered with passion from people who care about it. My kid's favourite type of music is symphonic film scores or wailing electric guitar, Hendrix goes down a treat around here!

I'm talking about experiencing the blues live, or folk, or classical, or some sort of weird and wonderful prog-fusion. I'm talking about taking your family for an adventure down the peninsula during the summer to one of the many markets (perhaps Emu Plains at Balnarring) or wineries who have live musos (Hickinbotham in Dromana springs to mind), and letting your children get up close to the instruments. Let the kids dance and move however they want to. Let them figure out where the sound comes from. Let them charm the friendly musicians into giving them have a tiny strum and a hit on a cymbal. Experiences like these can be life changing for young children. 

I remember so clearly, being eight years old and having a string quartet come to my primary school. Following their amazing concert (it was seriously amazing, I thought they were magical!) they let the kids get up close to see how the strings vibrate. They showed us how they sound different when bowed and plucked. They showed us how to make it loud and soft. From that moment on I felt differently about "classical" music. It was instantly less stuffy. It was accessible, but you had to worked for it. I remember appreciating how clever these musicians were, but that they were also just people. I remember thinking that was just a person and wanted to do clever things with instruments too! 

So, head into the city and claim your spot of the grass at the Music Bowl and be completely enchanted by an entire symphony orchestra one balmy evening. Find some buskers in a hidden skyscraper shadowed lane-way. Venture to the Melbourne Zoo for their chilled 'Zoo Twilights". Find a rural Christmas Carols event to sing along at. Melbourne has the "Music Play Children's Festival" on from the 14th through to the 17th of January and there are hands on events at the Recital Centre including "Sensory Sounds". 

I know taking children to formal concerts could potentially be an absolute nightmare experience, but in the summer time there are countless outdoor and family friendly events on offer on the Peninsula and in Melbourne, so it's a fabulous time to get your music on! Get out there, make some memories and have a ball! 

Julie Murray
Owner and Teacher Sounds Like This

My Son, The Singing Pumpkin

Life at three is big. All day, every day is a full bodied experience. Constantly in motion, my son, Alex, has been known to rack up thousands of steps/wiggles as he's watched a movie. I know this to be true because about six moths ago I strapped a pedometer to him, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

My boy is a super sensitive creature, he always has been. At three his feelings are even further exaggerated. His emotions are all encompassing. If he's glad, he is elated. If he's sad, he is drowning in misery. There is no middle ground. It's exhausting for him and for both of his parents. 

Our conversations together are frequently weird and wonderful. I'm often equal parts amused and delighted by his ponderous mind. He is one of those people who loves to pull things apart to see how they work and to know why they do that thing that they do. He is obsessed with finding out how things are made. This boy asks A LOT of questions. Alex and I spend countless hours looking things up "on Gooooooogle". He is pumped when there's a Youtube video of "How do they make glass?" or "Why is lava?", "There's bones in me?" which led to "What does my skeleton do?" 

Our TV features a voice activated search, so at the touch of a button he's able to jump online and look up anything his heart desires. It has helped enormously with his pronunciation. You can't search for firetruck without an F. How great it is to be Lord Commander of a voice activated remote control. This kid has no idea, he's living in the future.

Anyway, one of his interests over the past few months has been magic. His laterally thinking brain knows it's not real, even at three, but he adores the playfulness, the wonder, the excitement. He searched for "something magical" online and a video for Disney's Cinderella popped up at the Fairy Godmother's scene. Alex pressed play. 

Watching his face as for the first time he witnessed four mice become horses, a horse become a coachman, Cinderella's dress transform and of course, the pumpkin. Well we all know about the pumpkin. On his face was unmistakable pure delight. A memory that I hope stays with me for a very long time. Following that scene Alex turned to me and said "That pumpkin's a horse-car. That's silly." 

A little while later was the Queen's birthday and his daycare was having a royal celebration. Come dressed up as a queen, a king, a princess or prince! In the lead up I asked him, MANY times if he'd like to dress up.
"Would you like to be a queen, a king, a princess or prince?" Time and time again.
"No thanks." was his answer. Until the morning of the big day. "I want to be a pumpkin!" He sobbed with teary eyes, as I dropped him off at 9:10am. I had to get to, and start work at 9:30am. It was not going to happen. There was nothing I could do. A pumpkin. He wanted to be a pumpkin. I had asked the wrong question. Cinderella wasn't the amazing magical thing, the pumpkin was. The pumpkin twinkled in the moon light as is sped through the night on it's way to the castle. The pumpkin was where it was at. 

Well I thought I'd hear about it for a day, a week, surely not more than a month! Was this child an elephant who never forgets in a previous life? Oh, let up kid! Talk about carrying a grudge. "I wasn't a pumpkin!" he'd loudly state with sad eyes, every couple of days. And then, thank the sweet gods of consumerism, Halloween was approaching! His daycare once again had a dress up day and guess who went as the happiest little pumpkin you ever did see? Alex!

I'm reminded of this tonight. As I washed his grubby face and his adventurously filthy body in the bath he requested the "Magic-a-boo song", from Cinderella. I sang it to him as I washed him. I sang it to him as I dried him. I sang it to him as I dressed him. We sang it together as I tucked him into bed. 

I am damn sure this parenting thing is the hardest thing I've ever done, but there's magic, REAL magic that shines in his eyes each and every day and it's moments like these that melt my heart. Sleep well little pumpkin. 

By Julie Murray
Sounds Like This owner and teacher. 

My three year old pumpkin and his trusty sidekick, one year old Batman. 

Top Tip #3 Vocal Exploration

If you've ever come to one of our classes you'll know we spend a lot of time making funny sounds with our voices. Why in the world do we do this? There are LOTS of reasons, but here are the three main ones.  

Firstly as vocal warm ups. We do these sounds first thing in class. We make sure our mouths are moving, voices are flexible and moving freely. We want to make sure that children and parents are breathing correctly and have their vocal chords nice and warmed up for the rest of the class, and that they take these warm ups home so they don't experience vocal health problems later on down the track. You do not want vocal nodules! 

Second: Pitch association. You'll notice that we move up and down as the sound does. It's a great way for children to become aware of changing pitch and pitch placement in a play-based way. Understanding pitch placement is important if you ever want to be able to sing in tune (OF COURSE YOU DO!) and this is a kinesthetic link between the sound we are hearing and how we move our bodies.

Lastly: It a fantastic ice breaker. Nothing says 'this is a safe place to be totally comfortable being yourself' then the silly person teaching being completely relaxed to explore all the funny ways her voice and face can move and gently encourage you to do the same. It's pretty rare that these warm ups are not met with smiles all round. Who doesn't love something that makes you feel good?!
Happy music making!

By Julie Murray
Sounds Like This owner and teacher.

The Power of Music

In June this year I was lucky enough to see a performance of one of my favourite stories, Romeo and Juliet, performed by the Houston Ballet Company, one of North America’s prominent ballet companies, and choreographed by renowned Australian choreographer, Stanton Welch.

It was absolutely stunning.

I have previously seen Romeo and Juliet performed by the Australian Ballet Company, watched the traditional Franco Zeffirelli film, and read the play numerous times.  The contemporary retelling from Baz Lurhmann is one of my favourite films.

But I have never before felt the emotional response to the story I felt watching the ballet that night.

Afterwards, I was reminded of the power of music.  It can induce strong emotions within us.  As soon as we hear music it stimulates our nervous system – making us want to move and groove.  It affects the emotional brain network, causing us to find the music pleasurable or not.  This emotional response then releases particular chemicals from our brain into our body, enabling us to feel anxious or calm, for example.  The acoustic features of the music (loudness) and the structure of the composition (fast and slow, tension and relaxation, pauses in the music) can also trigger emotional reactions.  Certain songs can evoke a memory and bring the emotions connected to that memory stored in our subconscious, bubbling up to the surface.

The elegant costumes, elaborate sets and fluidity of the dancers’ movements were all only enhanced and supported by Sergei Prokofiev’s beautiful music.  The choreography was perfect – no words were necessary, the dancing truly told the drama of the story.

I laughed.  I cried.  It took my breath away.  I was mesmerised.

What a delight to behold such creativity and talent in so many areas all coming together to produce such a feast for the senses.

By Lauren Nilsson
Sounds Like This for Kids Presenter and Early Childhood Specialist

Top Tip #2 Take Home The Songs and Games From Music Class

Every little thing that we do in class has an intention behind it. We work very hard to ensure all of our musical selections are specifically chosen and delivered in a way that's best for growing brains, and gentle on small voices. Sounds Like This for Kids' movements frequently encourage kinesthetic association with pitch, beat, rhythm and tempo.

Our delivery is scaffolded to developmentally challenge your child just enough to keep them in that optimum learning space, while providing plenty of confidence building 'can do' moments. With all of this work and your teacher's brain to tap into, it seems silly to stop the learning when you leave our studio, right?! Then don't! Make sure you sing at home, move at home and strive to deliver the songs and games, just as you experienced them in class. Happy music making!

Julie Murray
Sounds Like This owner and teacher.

Top Tip #1 Just Sing

Sounds Like This for Kids is very proud to provide families with tools to become more musical, while helping to change the way our children's brains grow, for the better. We're big believers that a child's best teachers are the grown ups in their lives, who love and nurture them. It's our job to provide you with the best tools to do this. In addition to our fabulous classes, Youtube channel, blogs and newsletter, every Friday we'll be posting our "Top Tips for Easy Things You Can Do To Support Your Child's Musical Development". 

Top Tip #1 - Just Sing
You may not be Beyonce, Whitney Houston or Pavarotti, but you know what? Your child does not care! You are your child's best vocal model. You are the one who spends the time with them. You are the one who demonstrates positive body image and positive vocal image. Do not put yourself down or say nasty things about yourself, including your voice, in front of your child. Smile and demonstrate loving eye contact while you sing. You're communicating more than just the words. You're creating a world of hushed wonder. You're creating magical memories that will remain with them for their lifetime.

We want your children to adore making music and the best way for that to happen is for them to feel safe and connected to the music making. This safe place is where all of the wonderful brain development takes place, especially for little tiny ones, as their brains grow at a phenomenal rate during the first few years.

What if you absolutely can not sing? What if you have never sung? What if someone once told you that YOU CAN'T SING!? 

Chances are, you just think that you can't sing. Many people think they can't but unless there is a neurological or auditory damage most people can. Although you may not be very confident with using your voice we can help! In our classes we sing songs with limited pitch, do vocal direction exercises, incorporate vocal warm-ups so that we don't damage our vocal chords and repetition that is still scrumptious even after the 100th time. 

The best way to get better at singing is to do it! Listen carefully to our voices, think about the sound and then try. Join in with the echos in class, listen to the pitch you're producing and make corrections if it wasn't quite right. Sing gently so you don't strain your voice. We want to demonstrate singing not shouting to our children. You'll have lots of opportunities to do this, as we always repeat.

Think about the sounds that you're trying to make before you open your mouth. Can you hear the sounds in your head first? We want our songs to be ear worms for you and your child, so if you need to hear something again please let us know! We are here for you, and you are here for your child and together we can make beautiful music that will last a lifetime.

Julie Murray
Sounds Like This owner and teacher.

Timber and That Smelt Like Old Library Books

I’m quite sure that I drove my parents a little bit more insane with each year that passed with my incessant requests for musical instruments. I had been playing the flute for about two years, but with Christmas approaching I had hatched a new musical plan. My parents asked me what I might like and I said: "A piano, please." I remember so clearly the look on my mother's face as it dropped, a look that as a parent now I know to be one of ‘GAH! SHIT! Well that's not going to happen!’

We were never well off, but my parents always worked very hard to provide the best they could for my siblings and I. Dad worked full time and travelled for work and mum was working two jobs so that I could continue my beloved flute lessons and my brother could do karate. We never went without things we needed, but we often went without things we wanted. We never had the latest fancy toys like many of our friends, often had to wait just a bit longer than desirable to have a new pair of shoes because the current pair were still OK, just. We never went on family holidays. We did however always have enough to pay the rent and eat well; mum was absolutely brilliant at making deliciousness from not much, our chickens gave us eggs and we grew most of our own veggies. The important things were taken care of first with very little left for the fun and frivolous. Needless to say, I didn't get a piano for Christmas.

The following September when my birthday rolled around I was asked what I would like as a gift. My response? "A piano, please." 

And? Nothing. Crickets.

When another year rolled by and I was asked the same question, I think they saw the answer coming. Whilst it didn’t make the reality any easier, it did prompt new discussions. My parents and I decided that saving for a piano was an excellent way to spend the busking money that I had been saving. On the morning of my birthday mum took me to a music shop, where they sold all sorts of musical wonders, including second hand pianos. And then the most magical words finally came out of my mum’s mouth: "Julie, this is yours."
There it was. My very own piano.

The piano was made from a stunning walnut timber, had an old fashioned music stand that projected out of the top and was just under 100 years old. I remember so vividly that it smelt just like old library books. It was in beautiful condition and the keys still responded nicely. Due to its age however, it couldn't be brought up to concert pitch but was instead tuned half a step down to hold relative pitch.

On that magical birthday we stayed a while in the shop whilst I happily fiddled away. I had no idea how to play anything but I had a wonderful time working out little melodies. A few days later it was delivered home and, much like the flute, I drove everyone crazy with my constant playing. The downside for my parents was that the piano was too big to be banished outside!

My busking contributions had covered just over a third of the cost and mum had taken on extra shifts for the last year to make this gift a reality. My parents are incredibly selfless people and I'm so thankful for them. That piano changed my life.

By Jo Johnson following conversations with Julie Murray

Jo Johnson from The Content Coach is a Mornington Peinusula based writer with a passion for telling women in bussiness' stories. 

My Child Won’t Sit Still

It’s something that we hear a lot. Embarrassed parents often comment that, “My child is the ONLY one who wont sit still.”
No, they’re not, I promise and it's ok.

There are many children who wont sit still, maybe not in your class, maybe you don’t see them, maybe you don’t know them. Maybe in your child’s circle of friends your child is the only one with ants in their pants, but I promise you, there are heaps of children just like your child, and they don’t sit still.  

We have a maximum of 9 children per class, so that’s not very many other children for you to observe, but we see MANY children each week. About 100 in fact, and we can tell you that the vast majority of them do not sit still. Nor should they!

People often need to move their bodies to learn and while they're moving and learning their brain is growing. The idea that we require children to be still in order for them to learn is seriously outdated. Instead, encourage your child to be comfortable in their own skin. To learn about their surroundings and be conscious of them. Learning about kindness and empathy in proximity. Spacial awareness is in itself something to be learnt. Learn how other people might feel in each space. Learn about appropriate touch and movement.

Your child's body may be moving but that doesn’t mean their ears are closed. Are they processing sensory stimulation? Are they taking time away from the crowd to think? Are they overwhelmed in a new situation? Do they have energy to burn? Are they very excited to be here? Are they bursting with life and expressing themselves in the best way they know how? Are they shy and rolling on the floor to avoid eye contact during the 'Hello' song? Are they in the middle of a huge developmental leap? Are they having a growth spurt that's effecting their sleep? Are they teething?

They are countless reasons why your child wont sit still and that's fine. Don’t worry so much about what other people think. Sounds Like This for Kids has attracted a community of really beautiful parents and caregivers. This is something that warms my cockles and l rather proud of! These parents all want the same thing as you, for their child to grow into the best possible version of themselves. To be nurtured, to be happy and healthy. As long as everyone feels safe in the space and the other children and parents can hear to learn, there's really no problem.

Nine times out of ten, these other parents have been in your situation. Their child has grown, pushed boundaries, grown, learnt new things, grown and pushed more boundaries. That’s a child’s job. That’s how they learn what’s ok and what’s not.

Please don’t feel embarrassed. This parenting gig is hard and we’re all learning too. Every child is different, so stop worrying about who your child is not, and please don’t feel like you need to stop coming because your child moves. We love the movers, we love the shakers, we love the full bodied learners. In our program as children grow and learn we are able to do more with them. We’re able to play games with more independence, call and response, turn taking, movements leading with a body part, weight transference and balance, all while up and moving our bodies. Children who move and feel beat and rhythm naturally from a young age will be able to move and feel it for the rest of their lives. Their movement is imperative to the learning process. It’s a really big deal.

So next time your child pops up, needs to shake their butt, stomp their feet, or run around, use it as an opportunity to let them be, or if it's becoming disruptive, go to them, softly speak to them about the people around them, about how awesome it was that they found the beat, how we love their big movements when the music was loud and their little movements when it’s soft. We love how they STOPPED in time. We love how they froze in that funny shape when the music stopped. And how wonderful it is that they used their bodies to express themselves as only they could. 

By Julie Murray
Sounds Like This Owner and Teacher

Above: My son, Leo. He wont sit still either. 

I Wasn't Wagging, I had Choir Practice.

By the age of 12 I knew I loved to sing.  Luckily for me, the secondary school I was enrolled in had a strong musical culture.  After a successful junior school musical production, a junior choir was formed.  The next year, this choir became an a cappella choir called 'Stacella Choir' (a of blend of Star of the Sea College and a cappella). 

The definition of a cappella is to sing without instrumental accompaniment.  There is no safety net of a piano or backing track – just the purity of voice, our first instrument.  The power and creativity of the voice can be explored to its fullest range, and the harmonies ring true. 

I had some amazing experiences thanks to this choir.  We sang at countless school functions, as well as festivals, weddings, funerals and ceremonies.  We recorded albums.  We even did a tour of New Zealand and performed on national television at the RCH Good Friday Appeal.

In Year 11, my homeroom teacher thought I was wagging as I was rarely in homeroom each morning!  I was involved in many activities around the school, but my absence was mainly due to choir practice.  And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I loved my educational experience, but my fondest memories are of singing and being part of Stacella Choir. 

By Lauren Nilsson
Sounds Like This for Kids Presenter and Early Childhood Specialist

Your Child Gets It, So Should You Stop Coming Along?

You and your child have been coming to music classes for a while now. She has favourite songs and games, she knows them inside and out. She can do the activities, she’s singing in the call and response songs, she’s singing along before her teacher even starts the class. Her fine motor is remarkably better, her balance is better, she’s more spatially aware and interacting beautifully with the other children. She’s stopping with ALL of the stops with her teacher in class. She’s anticipating the next exciting twist and turn. She’s got this.

I’ll think we’ll stop coming.

Did you know that THIS is when we can give her more? This is what we’ve been striving for, working towards, building her up to. This is when we can really start to explore new musical ideas, really challenge her problem solving abilities and ignite her imagination. This is when she can take the lead and she has the tools to express herself. This is when we can gently guide her to make more musical choices. When we can stretch her musical awareness. This is when the magic happens.

There are lots of reasons to stop an activity with your child. Maybe you’re time poor, maybe your child is overscheduled, maybe you’re overwhelmed, perhaps there’s been an arrival of a new child to your family. All of these are totally valid reasons for not continuing to do a scheduled weekly activity with your child.

In this world of high tech gizmos, and more screen time than children have ever had, and families more often than not with both parents working, split families or non traditional family set-ups, it is very important that children have your time, your attention. Our phone free, tech free, environment is rather unique in that way. All of your attention is on your child for just 45 minutes. All of it. You’re not distracted, you’re here in the moment to be all their's. What lucky children our Sounds Like This for Kids children are! You value your special bond, and you strive to build on your ever changing relationship and guide them to be the best them they can be. You take our songs and games home and share them all week long (and beyond).

Countless studies have shown that through active music making and active listening, children (and adults!!) can increase their attention span, become empathetic, improve their linguistic abilities and problem solving skills, and can increase their emotional resilience as well as their self confidence.  

I’m a parent, I understand that you can’t do all of the things all of the time. What you probably don’t know about these classes is that the more your child can do, the more we can offer them. The more we offer them, the more their wonderful little brains can grow into great BIG brains!

Please give it a little while longer. Let her show you how much more she’s capable of. Let her blow you away. Let the legacy of these sessions last her entire lifetime.

By Julie Murray
Owner and Teacher


Why choose music?

My small team and I often talk to curious parents who want to know what we do here. The short answer is "we run music classes". The long answer and really the bigger picture behind our whole reason for being, is that we are changing brains.

We're changing brains for the better in so many more ways than "Can your child learn to sing in tune?" or "Can they move their body to the beat?" or "Can they tap out a rhythm?" ...
We're changing the way their brain actually grows. The way it processes information. 

Why does that matter?

It matters. It changes the way your child will think, for the rest of their lives.
Every choice they make. Every time they problem solve. Every time they interact with another person. Every time they use intellectual, spacial, environmental or emotional intelligence. 

It matters for the next 80+ years. It matters. 

By Julie Murray
Owner and teacher


Oh, Gallop Away, Oh Gallop Away and Stop

Active listening happens when a person is fully engaged in music (or sound), giving it all of their attention.  It is a skill that can be learned and very important part of communication for a person's entire life.  The opposite is passive listening – when the music (or sound) is in the background and our focus is elsewhere.

When we are actively listening to music we are stimulating more areas of our brain which then positively affects our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.  Active listening benefits us holistically; it helps calm down our nervous system, increases our energy, builds confidence, boosts our immune system and promotes empathy.  (www.earthtones.org)

In our music classes, we explore active listening in many different ways.  We “sing a rainbow” and “listen with our eyes” as we label the coloured ribbons, scarves and feathers. 

We swing in towels and tubs and bounce babies on our knees and build up block towers higher and higher. We move rhythmically from a walk to a trot to a gallop as we sing horse songs. We differentiate between beat and rhythm.

We hear the sounds that different instruments make- tapping claves, ringing bells, clicking castanets, tinging triangles, all sorts of banging drums and the pitter patter rain stick. We learn to discriminate different timbres (quality of sound) when singing hello songs and using the echo microphones.

We sing story books, including the lovely music maps series in which the children are able to follow pictures from the story symbolising the notes on the musical stave as we sing the melody.

We change our pitch from low to high.  We change the tempo from slow to fast.  We change the dynamics from soft to loud.  We “go” - moving our bodies and playing instruments in whichever way we choose - and we “stop”. 

We pause to listen to the silence.  

This silence is valuable. It allows the children time to process what's just happened, what they heard, what they saw, what they did. It also allows them to anticipate what's to come. Will it be predictable, or unexpected? How will they emotionally and physically respond?

Active listening helps to promote good chemical function in our bodies. It also increases your connection to the music.  Often a particular or favourite song will invoke a feeling or a memory each time you hear it.  

Practice actively listening to music at home.  Let go and tune in. Pay attention to the details in the music. Can you and your child hear different instruments? High and low sounds? Fast and slow? Notice how the music makes you feel.  Better still, come to our classes and experience active listening with your child.  Your brain, body and heart will thank you for it.

by Lauren Nilsson
Sounds Like This for Kids Presenter and Early Childhood Specialist


I Think Maybe I Was Always Going To Be A Musician

When I was seven my primary school music teacher, Mrs Russell, very wisely gave me a recorder. I LOVED that recorder! My heart had never been happier. I played it a lot…in fact I never stopped playing it! I learnt to play the songs in my primary music class, I learnt to play along to the radio, and I made up songs of my own. That little beige Yamaha was my absolute pride and joy and it came with me EVERYWHERE! I tooted it in the house, I tooted it in the bath, I tooted it in the toilet, and I played it A LOT in our backyard. The latter was largely at my mother’s suggestion, which in hindsight was a very wise way of getting me out of the house because I was driving her insane with my playing. 

One of my mother’s friends was a lady who wanted to give everything a go. You know the type: one week it’s horseriding, the next it’s skiing, the following it’s watercolours. In her case, playing the flute seemed like a particularly good idea one week. So without much more consideration, she purchased a flute and then a term’s worth of lessons. However, after the second lesson she decided that it absolutely was NOT for her.

During a visit to our home shortly after, and having seen how crazy I was making everyone with my recorder playing, she generously offered the classes and instrument to me. I WAS THRILLED!

Finally I had a very grown up and ‘proper’ instrument; the flute and special music lessons, with a lovely lady named Kate, were all mine. 

What happened next was not as I imagined however. Let’s just say I did not take to the flute like a duck to water. In fact I couldn’t make a sound. Not a single note. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. I practiced a lot, patiently blowing for what felt like hours and yet accomplished zero noise – just a whole lot of dizzy feelings. In fact I huffed and puffed for the best part of two weeks, until voila! I DID IT! My stubbornness had worked! And then again and again, until in no time at all I was playing songs. I adored this flute and continue to play it to this day.

My musical journey changed and developed as I grew up but I am forever grateful to the dear Mrs. Russell for encouraging this pathway. Unfortunately I have sadly failed to track her down to thank her for opening my eyes to the wonderful world of music. As a music teacher myself now, I know that I would absolutely love to meet an adult whose life had been positively transformed because of my teachings.  So, Mrs. Russell, if you’re out there and reading this, please get in contact so I can show you my appreciation!

 Julie Busking at the emu plains market, balnarring, age: 7. 

Julie Busking at the emu plains market, balnarring, age: 7. 

Written by Jo Johnson on behalf of Julie Murray

A Tap On My Shoulder Started My Love Of Singing

I grew up singing in choirs.

When I was eight years old, scouts from the Victorian Children’s Choir came to my primary school looking for new members.  We all had to stand in rows in the hall and sing “Waltzing Matilda”.  We were told if you felt a tap on your shoulder to stay behind when everyone had finished singing.  I happily sang as I knew the words and enjoyed the song.

And then I felt a tap on my shoulder! I was given a yellow notice and excitedly showed it to my parents that night.

In a few weeks’ time my Dad drove me to a hall in Parkdale, half an hour away, where I would begin a three year adventure of training and performing with the Victorian Children’s Choir.  I learnt how to read music, how to breathe properly, how to actively listen, how to follow a conductor and my favourite – harmonising.  I got to attend music camps, learn a range of different songs and experience performing at many different venues around Melbourne.

There are many benefits to being part of a choir.  My confidence grew.  I was able to lead my school in singing Christmas carols at the local shopping centre, standing in front of everyone with a microphone.  I was happy.  When you are singing you release endorphins, the feel good hormones.  It didn’t take me long to realise how singing made me feel good.  And I felt a sense of belonging.

Humans have an instinctive need to belong.  Maslow, using his hierarchy of needs, said that belonging is particularly important in childhood and is integral to our social and emotional wellbeing.  Research shows that oxytocin, the hormone that relieves stress and anxiety and enhances feelings of trust and bonding, is released while singing. 

So when I was given the opportunity to join a new school choir when I started secondary school you can understand why I signed up immediately

by Lauren Nilsson
Sounds Like This for Kids Presenter and Early Childhood Specialist

I’m Trying Hard Not To Help

My son is three. I spend many hours each week teaching and let’s be honest, playing with children, many of whom are three. My son is the MOST three of all the three year olds I know! Or maybe it just seems that way to me.

Some children are ‘easier’ than others, by the simple nature of their personalities. Some children sleep and eat. Are generally agreeable and cooperative. Some are eager to please and enjoy social interaction.

My son is none of these things. He does not care about your opinion of him. He does not care. He can not be bribed or convinced to do something that he does not want to do. He will not give in. Ever!

 Julie and Alexander - mister three

Julie and Alexander - mister three

My son cares if he’s right. He cares if the world makes sense to him. If it’s logical and consistent. Things being ‘fair’ is a strong motivator for him. He’s a social justice warrior. He will tell you off if you’re doing something ‘wrong’. I’ve seen him tell much bigger children off for anti social behaviour and while I’m proud of him, it did make me a little concerned for his safety. He’s like the little terrier, barking at the rottweiler. You know, you may be right, but that’s a rottweiler.

For every inch of him that is stubborn the same amount of him is kind and generous. His favourite activity in the whole world is to make his baby brother giggle. It fills my heart with joy, more than I ever could have known.

Since his last two language explosions he has developed a charming way of verbally communicating with our family. He’ll often say things like, “Mummy, I saw you do that, I’m so proud of you. You are clever, like me!” The ultimate compliment!

Nevertheless he is SO THREE right now. He has huge emotions and no way to process them, so too often an incident leads to tantrums and/or lengthy sulking.

Where am I going with all of this? My point is you don’t pick your child. I remember when I was pregnant wondering about the physical genetic mix my child would have. What would he look like? What colour would his eyes be? I didn’t think too much about what characteristics he would immediately have. I thought he would grow into the person he was going to be, I did NOT know babies could be fierce from the get go! Mine absolutely was!

This stubborn, self assured, but vulnerable and high emotive child of mine frustrates me every day, but everyday he also blows my mind. The frustration is not his fault, it’s me still learning how to be HIS parent, not the parent I thought I would be. It’s me understanding what I need to do, or more often than not, not do, to help him along the way. I really was not prepared for parenting to be so frustrating and I had no idea I was so set in my ways of doing things. Talk about no control for this control freak!

My parents have recently moved from a house in the suburbs to their life-long dream home, as a tree change in the country. We went to visit. Upon leaving my mum was smooching us goodbye at the farm gate.

“I can do this.” said my son, as he opened the gate and pushed it wide for the car to pass through. The gate is large and heavy. He made it most of the way and it stopped. I went to help push it open, but my mother stopped me.

“He can do this” she said.

She was right. He can and he did. He was beaming with pride as he did it, all by himself. He can do a great many things without my help. I just need to learn to back off and give him that moment longer to actually do them.

This fierce little creature will grow to be capable of moving mountains. Childhood is when he’ll learn to trust himself enough to try as an adult. And to try again if it doesn’t work the first time.

by Julie Murray
Sounds Like This For Kids Presenter
Sounds Like This Owner and Teacher

Suburban Sandcastles

MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED - Film and Conversation.

I was recently invited to be an exhibitor at a local event. I don’t do a lot of events because they tend to be big loud, disposable and gimmicky; not really my bag and not what I want my business to be associated with. This was different. This was a really well run, small scale event at a lovely public theatre, but more than that, it was about education. The attendees were largely educators and parents. We watched a documentary called “Most Likely to Succeed.” If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do! It’s based on the United States’ outdated education system.

Granted, the US does not have exactly the same system as we do here in Australia, but our systems shares the ideology that we are preparing students to do well on tests in primary school, so they can do well on tests in secondary school, so they can do well on tests at university, so they can get a job. Our governments bring in standardised testing and reforms which all seem to have the same focus - do well on the test.

What is not often discussed is exactly where this film hit home. The world has changed.  The type of jobs available (or less available than they have ever been) have changed. Technology and automation are eliminating jobs that have been traditionally done by people.

More tech, less jobs, more unemployment or underemployment.

Underemployment hit home with me! I had a wonderful job at the conservatorium where I studied, that was until a complete restructure occurred and my conservatorium closed. I was made redundant. Although I had a wonderful job history, a degree full of HDs, glowing references and a can do attitude, I was unemployed. After jumping from this to that I ended up as a temp in a mail-room for an enormous company. I had gone from chairing meetings, running whole study programs, concert series and large scale events, as well as coordinating teams and budgets, to sorting mail and hating my existence! This blog is not about me, but I want you to know that I get the underemployment thing and know how quickly things can change from great to very crappy.

I know many highly intelligent university graduates who struggle to find a job in their qualified field. They’ve done everything that society told them to do and worked hard to do it, but they are still underemployed. They’re working in entry level retail instead of management. They’re working two or three jobs just to make ends meet. They have the piece of paper but they don’t have the skills to be the best candidate when there are SO many candidates after SO few positions.

This film talks about an education revolution, and they’ve started it at a school called High Tech High. They don’t know if it will work; it’s too early to say. They do know the the current model doesn’t work and that doing something is much better than doing nothing. This school’s goal is not just to have children memorise arbitrary facts, it is to empower them with life skills to make them able to learn and be successful in whatever their chosen field is. Not to dictate how a child should discover things, but to provide opportunities for them to discover things for themselves. To be resourceful. To learn how to learn. To be able to try and fail and try again. To be resilient.

Each of the skills that they spoke about - every single one of them - is a focus of our music classes. I knew I loved what we do, but it’s so amazing to have it verbalised by people I’ve never met, from a place I’ve never been. I’m excited to help children practice creativity, to explore and interact with their world as it makes sense to them, to be collaborative and empathetic. To share. To be kind. To be self aware. I love it when they teach me something new - a new sound, a new way to move, a new way to think.

If you have the opportunity to see this film, I highly recommend you do. Then go and have some big conversations with everyone you know, who thinks anything at all about education.

It is no longer ‘enough’ to educate the future generation to do well on a test. We need to educate them to think. That’s right, to THINK! Free thinking on a grand scale has historically never been rewarded. It has ALWAYS been about fitting in, about conforming. Here’s to a future of empathetic, innovative free thinkers. To logical and critical thinkers. To children who grow into adults that are hungry to learn. To children with grit who believe in themselves. These children will be the people who change the world for the better.

Thank you Suburban Sandcastles for welcoming me along to your wonderful event.

by Julie Murray
Sounds Like This For Kids Presenter
Sounds Like This Owner and Teacher