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Case study: reflections on the Certificate for Music Educators (CME)

One of last year's big projects was finishing the Certificate for Music Educators in Early Childhood (CME:EC) accredited by Trinity College London. I was grateful to the Youth Music funded Sounds of Play for funding which made it possible for me to do the course, and wrote to them to describe what I learned.

Trinity College published these reflections as a blog which you can read here and I'm also sharing it with you below.

"Articulating the potential benefits of the Trinity Certificate for Music Educators (CME) programme to prospective learners can sometimes be a little tricky. Yes, we can talk about the qualification level and potential career prospects it may bring but, more often, what a learner gains most from the course stems from what they learn about their own personal practice. Zoë Challenor from B'Opera recently completed her CME at the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) - a programme designed specifically to support music educators in Early Years settings. She has been kind enough to share her reflections of the course with us."

Engaging with the CME:EC [Early Childhood] has helped to change the direction of my practice - I am much more confident working collaboratively and reflectively, and have learned how to create more space for the voices of families, children and fellow practitioners. Where I used to feel a pressure to turn up and 'deliver' or 'entertain' in some settings, I am now more confident to advocate for the fact that there is richer, more lasting value in meaningful engagement. This looks like families talking about what music happens at home and finding ways to being that into the session, whether that's dancing to Bollywood songs, playing musical statues to reggae, beating sound makers to Rossini, and more. It involves helping families to see that their little ones are inherently musical, and that the signs of that may look and sound different from what grown-ups expect.

The course tasks that invited us to observe and describe children's musical play were valuable because they taught me to see and hear so much more. Watching a 45-second video clip of a child mark-making to music 30 times, while noting down everything that happens, opens that moment up for listening and observation. I felt a sense of awe and wonder at seeing and hearing the incredible creativity of these young children, and the way they were able to organise and develop that creativity within musical form and structure. I noticed my tendency to want to only note down the things I 'understood' - the ones that 'made sense' to me. This exercise meant I had to note everything down, whether it meant anything to me or not. Then, as I read over/listened/watched again, I would start to see links that I hadn't seen before. I would start to notice things like the child who has been drawing downward strokes, marking a musical upbeat on her page at exactly the moment it happens in the music. Or the apparently random vocalisation which is actually a fragment of the song a child sings a moment later. I wouldn't have noticed or understood that without this exercise.

This has taught me to listen more deeply and carefully, has given me an even greater respect for children's music-making and 'musical doodles', and an awareness that what we see or hear is probably the tip of the iceberg - that there is so much more going on that is invisible. This raises many more questions for me.

It has also helped me understand more clearly why many of the existing models of early years music classes provide an impoverished experience for this age group - they impose musical values or approaches without reference to the child or family. They set the tone for the poor educational practice which aims to fill the child up with what an adult thinks they should have, instead of following the true meaning of education, 'educare' - the root of the word meaning literally to draw out of a child what is already there.

I started the course with the challenge of being very ill with long-COVID. This sometimes made paperwork and processing text very, very difficult. Adding that to the fact that, like many musicians, I'm more at home making music with families than analysing it, I found the need to pin stuff down and evidence it quite alien. But I'm so glad I persisted because something happened towards the end of the process...

A bit like a flower opening up its petals to display a whole new world inside, I've found that reading some of the research and literature around early childhood musical development has given me an even greater sense of awe for this subject. The way the study has expanded and deepened my knowledge and understanding is exciting. I feel a huge amount of gratitude and respect for people who have done so much painstaking research, written books, contributed to advisory or government policy documents, and written frameworks for understanding musical development.

Engaging with these has helped to refine my understanding, giving me the language to talk about what happens when we engage in music. This is empowering, helping me to communicate with others about what happens in music sessions. It makes dialogue and conversation easier. It gives context, structure and framework to ideas and thoughts, and to what children do. I sometimes resisted putting language to my work with B'Opera. I had a belief running that getting specific about an outcome in a session would cause everyone to focus on that one thing and lose sight of the whole wide world of learning and development that was going on - social, emotional, spiritual, musical, physical, speech, language; it seemed reductive. I now understand the value of articulating the learning, even if it feels like I could never convey the whole of the richness of the experience in the room.

I'm so inspired, I'm now looking into further study. Maybe taking the CME should come with a warning: you can't predict where it will take you next!

"To find out more about the CME, why not read out previous blog, Spotlight on: the Certificate for Music Educators (CME), or watch our on-demand webinar recording?"

📷 Jess Bailey on Unsplash


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