The musical experience of the very young child is going to depend entirely on his home and his mother. Once he is old enough forgroup or nursery school one might hope that his experience of music would become wider in that there is more time and opportunity and also a larger group of children to take part. In fact it does not do to take this for granted. There are many groups and nursery classes which have little or no music because again the adults there are inhibited by what they consider to be their own lack of musical ability. After lengthy discussions with many groups of adults it transpires that they feel inadequate because they cannot produce the kind of music session they remember from their own school days – and for ninety-nine per cent of them what they are remembering is infant- and junior-school music. They remember the singing lesson with teacher playing the piano, the fairly organized music and movement session, simple country dancing routines and hymn practice. Once they start to think about this and consider ‘music’ suitable for the three- to five-year-olds they begin to realize that in fact they are perfectly capable of at least en-couraging and enjoying music in the nursery group.
As with everything else we do with children we have to start from where the child is. The three-year-old is musically at the nursery-rhyme stage (with perhaps a few pop songs and television-commercial jingles). He may or may not know many nursery songs and he may not be willing to sing them with us but at least all adults should be able to start here, even if they have to sit down and learn a few more songs to swell their repertoire.
There may be children in the group who sing spontaneously as they are doing something and other children join in.
The most usual music element of the nursery group is the music ‘session’ when all the children and adults are sitting together as a group (except perhaps for the odd child who refuses to join in). In some groups this never progresses further than singing a few songs some of which have simple actions. In others the children may at various times sing and act songs, listen to a record or instrument played by one of the adults, have a very simple music and movement session or use musical instruments themselves. It depends very much on the age of the children. In a group which has a rapid turnover or takes children at the age of three and loses them to school at four there is not time to make as much progress as in the group which keeps most of its children from the age of three to five. It also takes several generations of children to graduate to more advanced music activities. Although the older children leave each year those who are left know the songs and music from having joined in and the new ‘replacement’ children learn very quickly from watching and joining in so that each year more work can be built on.