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Closing the Music Education Gap Before it Starts

By ETM Staff

This fall, Education Through Music began to test our proven model of music education in a new setting – early childhood center classrooms. We are proud to be partnering with the Riverdale Temple Nursery School to bring quality music programming to their community as we adapt and expand to serve NYC’s youngest learners. As part of ETM’s mission, we strive to bridge the gap in access to music education for all children. And we think that access should start as early as possible, especially because the first five years of life are vital to a child’s development. Music education in early childhood has been linked to increased school readiness, sets a foundation for music learning, encourages self-expression, and promotes emotional well-being.

We were thrilled to find a partner in launching this work in the Riverdale Temple Nursery School in the Bronx, led by Director Linda Herman. The center serves over 100 children ages 2 – 4 years old, and Linda wanted to bring them ongoing, meaningful music instruction to enhance their learning and development.  

In preparation for the beginning of the program year, our team at ETM–all highly experienced music educators and administrators–worked to adapt our existing program to fit the needs of children under 5 years old. Next, our team worked to identify a qualified music teacher who could provide effective instruction in an early childhood setting and help drive the partnership forward. 

ETM Music Teacher Andy McGeagh, who had already worked with us for over a year, had previously expressed an interest in becoming certified in early childhood learning. So over the summer, thanks to ETM’s tuition reimbursement program, Andy was able to take the recommended music education training for infants, toddlers, and early childhood students.

During their summer studies, Andy learned even more about the need for music in the earliest years, specifically that “children who have not had meaningful musical experiences before the age of entering a public school will lose a high amount of their innate musical aptitude.

Andy added, “I believe it is not only important, but MOST important for children of this age to receive this form of education to maintain and grow their musical aptitude so that they will be set up for success when entering elementary school.”

Like all ETM music teachers, Andy knows that music instruction cannot stop in the classroom building trust with students and weaving the program into the fabric of their education is key. Andy can often be found visiting the Temple students early in the morning before music class or during lunchtime, stopping in to say hello for a quick chat, a fun game, or even to visit Mr. Nugget, one of the Temple’s pet guinea pigs!

Reflecting on ETM’s successful integration into her center to date, Linda shared, “There is an excitement in the air with the students about learning new songs and movements. They move their bodies and get their sillies out in music class, then they go back to their classrooms and focus and work on projects.”

For Andy, teaching with ETM and serving this age group is “the most rewarding job that I could imagine having at this point in my career. I have the pleasure of going into classrooms and places where music education would not otherwise exist without the support of ETM. I believe that music education isn’t a privilege, but rather an opportunity that all students should have granted to them.”

Looking forward, ETM plans to take the lessons learned at Riverdale Temple and expand our early childhood services to centers throughout the high-need communities we reach across New York City. By bringing music into more early childhood centers, we will advance our mission of improving educational equity by increasing access to quality music programs for all children.