Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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The Parent Connection

The Parent Connection focuses on music learning during those miraculous years during which every child is a prodigy – early childhood. As a parent, grandparent, music teacher for 40+ years, music teacher educator, and early childhood music and movement specialist, Dr. Townsend brings a broad perspective to ideas and issues affecting parents and families.

Dr. Townsend has headed the music teacher education program and directed the instrumental program at Maranatha Baptist University since 1996. In that capacity, he teaches early childhood music and movement classes daily at the university's Kiddie Kampus, teaching infants through 4 year old children.


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

Part 3: Lorna Heyge – Circle of Inspiration

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In the previous two articles, we discussed Lorna’s pre-Musikgarten life and the events that led up to the Musikgarten curriculum. Portrait of a Pioneer focused on her early years, and on the experiences that led to her initial early childhood music and movement curriculum development in the United States. Growth of a Vision addressed the Kindermusik years and the early collaborations that were most influential in her thinking as the Kindermusik curriculum developed from its earliest days as an adaptation of the German curriculum through its maturing under her leadership.

As we learned, Audrey Sillick had a profound influence on Lorna’s understanding of the young child. Lorna had begun teaching in Audrey’s Montessori school in Toronto in 1981, but had brought her initial theories and curriculum practices from Germany to that environment. Rich with traditional European music methods and practices, there was little attention to the broader child development principles found in Audrey’s Montessori schools. Audrey soon invited Lorna to attend her training sessions, an invitation that had a profound effect on Lorna’s teaching.

Thus, Audrey’s great contribution had been to sensitize Lorna to a long list of child development principles that have become a normal and logical part of good early childhood music and movement teaching. Through the remaining years of her life, Audrey became not only a mentor, but also a partner with Lorna in all areas of curriculum development and teacher preparation.

ECMMA’s Humble Beginnings

You may also recall that Audrey and Lorna had unveiled a completely new type of Kindermusik curriculum at the 1988 KMTA Princeton convention. But what was this convention, and who would have attended?

In 1984, seeking to provide extended support for her rapidly growing group of Kindermusik teachers, Lorna developed a support group and invited teachers to a “first” Convention in Toronto – Audrey was the featured speaker, participants stayed in nearby university dorm rooms and Hermann grilled homemade Bratwurst at the Heyges.  The idea took hold; the group became the Kindermusik Teacher’s Association (KMTA), teachers were invited to an organizing convention in Winston-Salem, NC in 1986, and Linda Robinson became the first president.

By the time of the 1988 convention at which the new Kindermusik curriculum was introduced, the idea of a biennial convention was well established – a practice that still continues today. The 2016 ECMMA Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of that original KMTA convention in Winston-Salem, NC.

A few years later, after Musikgarten was born, KMTA was renamed the Early Childhood Music Assocation (ECMA), and it became ECMMA at the 1998 Baltimore convention with the addition of the word “movement.”

Foundation for Music-Based Learning: Outreach to the wider community

1994 was a watershed year. New beginnings (Musikgarten) brought new opportunities, and Lorna wished to reach out to a wider company.  So she and Hermann founded the Foundation for Music-Based Learning (now called the Musikgarten Foundation) with two primary goals in mind: a) to establish a non-commercial gathering place for the rapidly expanding early childhood music community and b) to search for effective ways to bring her work to children outside the ‘twice-blessed’ community whom we usually teach. Twice blessed referes to children having the blessing of parents who a) are aware of the importance of music for their children, and b) are able to pay for the instruction.

Lorna won the support of many leaders in the field for the idea of a non-commercial quarterly, and began to publish Early Childhood Connections with Martha Hallquist as editor.  Leaders from all areas of the field, researchers, practicioners, business owners wrote for and advised the Journal, and it provided a much needed venue for ongoing research and camaraderie among early childhood music and movement teachers.

In the early 1990s Lorna had started teaching in low income centers, and this led to the establishment of a research project together with the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC in which a Musikgarten curriculum designed for Head Start classes was implemented in schools in North Carolina, Kentucky, and New York. 

By 2007-08 the Music for Learning Program was officially established and now, in its seventh year under the direction of Linda Robinson, the program which includes curriculum, a teacher and center director mentoring system, application process, funding assistance and extensive evaluation procedures, has been active in 13 states, from North Carolina to Oregon.  The program’s track record shows significant success not only in mentoring early childhood classroom teachers to use music effectively on a daily basis, but also in helping them learn to recognize all of the extra-musical advantages of music, from language development to establishing impulse control. 

Music for Learning is now on the cusp of seeking to expand its services in a limited fashion - providing the program for a larger audience. If you wish to become involved, you are invited to contact Lorna or Linda directly – or contact me at rick.townsend@mbu.edu. I can help you connect.

Dee Coulter: Neuroscience and Early Childhood Education

In 1990, Lorna met Dee Coulter at the KMTA Convention in Estes Park, Colorado.  Everyone who heard her speak on that day remembers it vividly!  As we read the current 2015 research articles about the importance of music for the development of the frontal lobes, about musical games helping children develop the self-control needed to be successful in school – we know that we were introduced to these topics by Dee Coulter.

In Lorna’s own words, “We had had this wonderful influence from Audrey, which allowed us to include so many important things about childhood development into our curriculum. Then along came Dee with her research that explained how all these principles had developed.” She admired what Lorna and Audrey had written, and “started explaining to us what the neurological basis of all this was.” Dee was well versed in all that had been taking place in neuroscience during the 1980s – especially as it related to early childhood learning and development.

Soon, Dee was joining Lorna for her annual teacher training workshops. On many occasions Lorna would teach a class of children, then Dee would explain, as only she could, just what had been taking place in the session. This was a model that she had developed through the years, and that culminated with collaborations with Grace Nash at ORFF conferences. Always current in the field, Dee could synthesize all of the new developments in neuroscience, and could help the teachers understand what they were observing and what to do with it.

And Then There Was Gordon...

Constantly traveling, Lorna was presenting workshops in Miami when she decided to visit classes taught by Joyce Jordan DeCarbo, a noted early childhood music researcher and teacher. Joyce was developing her own strategies for teaching early childhood music and movement based on the teachings of Edwin Gordon.

Primary among Gordon’s teachings was his audiation skill sequence, including first, neutral syllable tonal and rhythmic pattern activities (Aural/Oral), then a functional syllable system combined with a rich functional labeling system (Verbal Association), and eventually, literacy. All of these activities are built upon a rich experience with songs and chants in a wide variety of meters and tonalities.

Lorna was immediately impressed with not only the logic of Gordon’s theories, but also, with the ease with which Joyce was able to incorporate these concepts into her presentation.

So with the addition of Dee Coulter and Edwin Gordon’s insights, Lorna and Audrey began the work that would eventually become the landmark Musikgarten curriculum in 1994. This is the year they released the first installment entitled Cycle of Seasons, soon to be followed by curriculum for older children, then for younger children, then for the Christian community, then for keyboard, and finally, for adults. And at the center of all this development was her careful nurturing of “a rich, collegial interchange of committed teacher trainers that has a lot to do with the whole body of what Musikgarten has become.”


So now we can see the circle of inspiration that represents the whole body of Lorna Heyge’s work. From those earliest years in Germany, her curricular activity has continued a pattern of growth and maturing. Early on, she added a heightened awareness of the importance of movement, followed by Audrey Sillick’s influence in her understanding of children’s social needs and developmental stages, then applying Dee Coulter’s scientific and neurological foundations for early childhood learning, and finally applying Gordon’s sequencing of music learning and expanded repertoire of tonalities and meters.

And today, she speaks passionately of the importance of supporting parental understandings – ECMM’s most critical element. Her message to you:        

Consider the special position you have with the families you are influencing. You are the person who is playing with their child in this delightful, active, intentional music environment – and the parent is there. You are establishing a position of trust.

Today’s rich body of research for anything you want to do is so available, it has a downside.  It is so much information that no parent or any of us can digest it all. The greatest opportunity we have is our soapbox – one that provides a personal connection to the family. Use it conscientiously, and often. 

Continue to learn.

Influence the lives of the children in the unique manner that only you can.

Many thanks to Lorna for her generosity and openness throughout the course of these interviews and writings. I know you join me in wishing Lorna and Hermann all the best as she continues her work and influence, but now from their home base in Germany – where she enjoys a rich music culture and peaceful surroundings while she continues to contribute to the growth and richness that represents 21st century early childhood music and movement. We have not yet read the final chapter from this matron of our beloved profession.

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