Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Music’s Expanding Boundaries

Andrea Apostoli is Presidente AIGAM (Associazione Italiana Gordon per l'Apprendimento Musicale).
In this capacity, he trains and certifies dozens of Italian teachers each year in early childhood methodologies using Gordon Music Learning Theory concepts. His classes range from teacher preparation coursework, to classes for expectant parents and their preborn children, to regular parented music/movement classes, to professional concerts for parents and their preschool children. Andrea travels to the United States periodically to renew friendships with many of his Gordon Institute of Music Learning (GIML) friends.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

Be the Music


Some days ago, a group of students who frequented a course I taught for Roma 3 University, started a discussion about “The Gordon Method” on the online forum on the university web site. Someone had written that he had the opportunity to take his children to an early childhood music course based on Music Learning Theory.
He could noticed many good results but also a “defect”.
From his post: “After 3 years I can say with absolute certainty that the method is really effective in letting the children learn and assimilate in a natural manner the basic concepts of music (…) they developed a good sense of intonation and they are always ready to give many musical responses to music and rhythm. (…). In my opinion the only “defect” of the Gordon method is that the learning pathway is too slow, with the risk is that it doesn’t satisfy the expectations of the parents of those children, who are for sure learning a lot. However, for people who are not in our field, the learning is difficult to see."
This post was for me a good occasion to clarify some points in a way that I would like to share with you today.

My post:
“ Dearest students I am very happy about the dialogue that took place around the Gordon 'method'.
I’ve highlighted the word 'method' because Edwin E. Gordon, who until  2010 came in Italy to teach every year, was jumping on the chair when someone was calling his work a 'method'. He said during a class I was translating for him: “ Every genial idea dies when it becomes a method”. And he was referring this sentence to people like Montessori, Dalcroze, etc.
John Dewey said in other words: “It may fairly be said, therefore, that any social arrangement that remains vitally social,or ritually shared, is educative to those who participate in it. Only when it becomes cast in a mold and runs in a routine way does it lose its educative power. (J. Dewey, Democracy and education  p. 6, Dover Pub.,  2004, Mineloa N.Y.)

Music Learning Theory has born and it develops trough scientific, empiric and observational research, and if the word “theory” leads people to imagine something closed and immovable, better would it be to call it “Music Learning Theory and Praxis”.

About the Slowness.
Absorption and learning are childhood gifts.
They are ‘secret’ gifts because for a long time the child doesn’t demonstrate what she learned - and this is paradoxically the sign that a deep learning process is taking place.
I could teach by rote to a very young child a sentence through imitation, repeating it thousands of times… On YouTube, for example, you can easily find some odd (in a sympathetic sense, I don’t want to offend anybody) examples that manage to teach the word ‘mama’ even to dogs and cats by imitation. Just imagine what a very young child could do!
We should think about why the human beings behave exactly in the opposite way to let their children learn the most important skill they need - the language.
We evidently have absorbed at a genetic level the behaviors that help our children to learn the language - not so much to teach, but rather, to communicate in an affective way through language, make pauses, listening to their spontaneous responses and receive them with a lot of favor, mirroring and contextualizing them in language.

My daughter is 5 years old, and speaks very quickly, but if we would ask to her to read something, she would remain still in front of the symbols of the language that she knows deeply, but that she had not yet associated to its significant signs. My son is 8 years old and is able to read, but the speed and the accuracy of his reading performance is really nothing compared to what he is able to accomplish in speaking.
Music is a complex language.
When you take your 3 year old child to a foreign language course once a week, suppose German, I don’t think that after 6 months you would expect that she would be able to read, write and even speak in that language. When, instead, you take her to a nursery rhyme or cute songs course in German, then you would have your performance at the end of the course.

I believe that in the educational field it is fundamental talk about purposes first, then methodologies, and it s VERY important to talk to the parents.
I don’t like to be ideological or dogmatic in saying that one educational approach is better then another. Some approaches are more adapt to obtain short-term results, while other approaches more effectively achieve long-term results.

Perhaps I will make you smile but I want to end this post telling to you how was going when, in the past, I went personally to preschools to present our educational projects.
Just when I was passing the entrance of the school I was literally run over with question such as: ‘When will you do the performance? Will you do it at the end of the scholar year or also at Christmas?’
My choice was not to answer immediately.
I preferred to make a brief introduction about our association, Music Learning Theory and then inform them that 'We don’t make any performance.'
An embarrassing silence moment always followed… and then: ‘Do your children make Italian and math performances ? Music is as important as those subjects, and at the age of your children, it would be a shame to focus our entire work to a short-term performance. Your children can reach much better results if, as Edwin E. Gordon said to me in 1999, I manage simply to BE music for them instead of teaching it.”

Andrea Apostoli


Debra Groves Jan 11, 2014

I have taught Kindermusik back in the early 1990s and am now teaching piano at a Montessori school. My “method” is ‘to follow the child’...one of the basic tenets of Montessori that I absorbed while first working there as a classroom assistant.

Now, with 46 piano students, I use an eclectic mix of music curricula—such as Suzuki for the more deeply focused ones and familiar classical pieces plus pop, folk and jazz or Boogie Woogie for those who are learning because they just love music or perhaps because their parents signed them up for piano. Every student is totally different.

I emphasize reading notation and learning music theory concepts. I tell the parents “I am not just teaching repertoire here.” More important than pieces they might forget in a week or two are the building blocks, the musical concepts and basic structure of music.  So we do composition work as well as learning pieces. 

Performance is a short-term goal for those who want quick results. The learning that lasts a life-time is definitely acquiring and using the LANGUAGE of music. Then the student can use it in so many different ways—-not just as a ‘one-trick pony’, a performer who parrots back memorized pieces.

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