Bring together the old and the young in an intergenerational music project has been the highlight of my year so far.
I have been working as an Early Years music specialist for over 15 years working with parents and young children. Over the last 10 years with primary aged children, teenagers & adults. I use a philosophy that originates from Hungary, called Kodály (find out more at www.kodaly.org.uk). Kodaly uses singing to teach music in a child-centered way and with an holistic approach. Singing and music is something natural and innate within all of us. Everyone has a voice which is free for us to use. This is the basis from which I work.
Why music in an intergenerational setting?
For a few years now I have really wanted to run an Intergenerational project in my area. I know how fantastic music is for a range of health benefits both mental and physical. I have seen and experienced this first hand though my teaching. In 2016 I was asked to run singing sessions for mental health and wellbeing at a local community centre. During that time feedback I was receiving ranged from helping asthma sufferers improve their breathing to helping others relieve stress and anxiety. Singing really does have a powerful effect on us and it has helped me personally through tough times and depression.
Back in June 2017 I got the most amazing surprise. Cossins Music School was awarded a grant from Wakefield Council as part of Culture Cures. Culture Cures is about using the Arts to help people’s mental health and wellbeing and we were sent to work in two areas of Wakefield – Lupset and Ryhill & Havercroft (nicknamed Rycroft). Culture Cures is a new project idea from the council to see if the Arts really do help people’s mental health and wellbeing. You don’t have to convince me, however it is often results that are needed to decide whether something has a value or not.
Music makes us happy
Over many years I have noticed how music (in particular singing) helps people in so many ways. It doesn’t matter what age you are either. Singing together helps people connect with others. It teaches you how to use your voice and have better breathing. Develop inner hearing and polyphonic hearing. Whilst at the same time having fun and raising dopamine levels (which helps regulate our movement and emotional responses).
There is something magical about singing together! In the last 3 years I have run singing groups for wellbeing and been into schools to help teenagers and having suffered from depression several times in my life. I know exactly how fantastic singing can be for your whole self. The idea of bringing people together from different backgrounds, genders, ages and cultures is something I love. Music brings people together like nothing else.
As part of the Culture Cures project Cossins Music School ran an intergenerational music project in Lupset. The aim was to bring young children, their parents and the elderly together and to enjoy singing and movement, to lift mood and encourage new relationships. To begin with we started with a few gentle movement sessions at Snapethorpe Hall care home to encourage residents to get moving just a little bit more. Michelle (the Activities Co-ordinator) was extremely helpful in arranging some of the residents to join in the sessions. Sophie (from Britains’s Got Talent belly-dancing fame) lead the movement sessions. She had Charlie (an experienced community engagement specialist) and I performing Bollywood, Hawaiian and Belly-dancing moves along with the residents. We used scarves, Chinese fans and foam tubes to encourage movement. Definitely out of my comfort zone!
After the first session we realised how much the residents had enjoyed the movement and really got involved. One lady got up out of her chair and wiggled her hips! Even though it was quite tiring all the residents joined in and got into the spirit of the session, even those that were a little reluctant to start with. What a fantastic thing to see!
Parents and Children
At Sunbeam Nursery, the children and I began by singing songs to develop musical concepts. Songs help develop pulse, pitch, rhythm and dynamics whilst encouraging listening, speaking and movement. Alyson (the Manager) and her staff were brilliant at joining in with all the children and more importantly the singing. They even asked me to send them a CD so they could learn the songs. Music to my ears! During some sessions parents came to join in the learning and fun and they told me their children and started singing the songs at home. This was great news, singing was already going home and being continued.
Bringing the old and the young together
On December the 19th for Christmas, we brought both groups together at the care home. It was an amazing morning and I was stunned at so many parents coming along for our first intergenerational music and movement session. The children helped hand scarves and instruments out to residents. Then, both elderly and young joined together to create beautiful movements with Chinese fans. We had butterflies, pitter patter raindrops and snowy white feathers! There was a real buzz in the session and some residents woke up to join in the fun. One resident enjoyed showing off her high kicks (she used to be a Tiller Girl!) another got her ideal man, George Clooney (we bought her a mask). Most of all they enjoyed the company of the children and their parents.
By the end of the session I can truly say everyone was exhausted but happy. When the children had gone the residents were asking ‘when are they coming again?’. One also told us ‘just seeing the children is a delight’. Parents noted how they love seeing their child smiling and joining in with the singing and how they enjoyed being a part of something so ‘uplifting’. There is no doubt that music, movement and singing brings joy. If we are given the chance to interact we can all gain a little something from each other.
Hopefully, just the beginning
We have been lucky to have several sessions like this one at Snapethorpe Hall. Michelle has told me that all the residents have loved seeing the children and enjoyed the movement and singing. One resident is the first to get dressed, have breakfast and be in the lounge waiting when he knows the children are coming. Being able to deliver and be a part of this project has been the most exciting and rewarding and I know this is just the beginning for the Lupset community.
Intergenerational music sessions are really important and I am hoping that I can continue to add more projects like this in Wakefield. If you would like to get involved please get in touch through my email at the bottom of this post.
Cossins Music School
Melanie Cossins is an Early Years Music Specialist working with the Kodály philosophy in various settings and offers training for teachers. She also teaches recorder, ukulele and vocals in both group and private sessions and runs singing for wellbeing adult groups and in schools for teenagers. Recently she became a Director of Think Cre8tive Group CIC and is currently delivering a project for pre and postnatal mums called Sing It Out! Mama in Ossett.
Find out more by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org