Elements of active music therapy in music classes for young children: My own experience.

Despite the separate aims of music education and music therapy and their methods – using grades and imposing instruments in education, as opposed to being led by the child and raising musical awareness during music therapy sessions – one can successfully use the similarities between these fields within music classes with young children. These include singing, playing an instrument, body movement, and dance, slightly changing the educational aim to a more therapeutic one. I have discovered these similarities while conducting music classes for children at the age of 1–3 according to Professor E.E. Gordon’s theory of music learning.


The classes consist of singing melodies in specific scales, e.g. major and minor harmonic scales, and Aeolian, Dorian, and Mixolydian modes, with rhythmic motifs interspersed at an early stage, in double and triple metre. Gordon claimed that the more variety and change the better for the developing brain. In practice, using the syllables: pa-pa, ba-ba, du-da instead of words in songs and rhythmical melodies, the teacher who initiates a given motif encourages the children to repeat, imitate and express themselves. Firstly, the teacher marks the scale he/she is going to sing in, then sings short phrases, encouraging the children to sing along. Then he/she focuses on motifs characteristic of a given scale or, in the case of rhythmic motifs, in a given metre. Finally he/she improvises a melody or rhythm in a given scale or metre.


The classes often use scarves, Klanza sheets, or bags, which can encourage movement expression if the children feel so inclined.

However, by modifying the classes a bit, I was able to introduce Orff’s instruments and develop the improvisation part. In this way, by initiating melodic and rhythmic motifs alternately, I left more time for the children to react. Thanks to the instruments, children who had not made a sound could improvise by hitting the instrument. I also did not prescribe any instruments. The children were able to choose from a drumstick, maracas, a tambourine, a drum or a keyboard. Other props were also available during the class. There was no grading, and the atmosphere was open and accepting, following the children’s activities. The noises made by the children were picked up by me and transformed into new melodies. Similarly, their body movements – stomping, clapping, smacking, and babbling – created a new musical quality.


As a result of my observations, shyer children looked at their more courageous peers and tried to imitate each other. On the other hand, by treating each child individually and giving them time to react, the more energetic children learned to leave time for their shy peers.

The classes did not become music therapy classes, but were enhanced by some elements of active music therapy.

This was intentional and only possible through the combination of a teacher and music therapist aware of their role.


Kinga Majchrzak

WFMT Student Delegate for Europe