Finding my voice as an Early Years Music Practitioner

Tips for introverts on managing communication

The Nursery made it clear to me from the beginning that they didn’t want a music entertainer (the word they used). The entertainer was defined as the person that gathers the children – and the nursery practitioners – around sings songs for 20 minutes and has a party-like feel. This is the very simplified definition of an Early Years Music Entertainer, but nonetheless, this is what I was told. They wanted their music practitioner to interact and involve the children in the process of music making through games and activities.

My intentions as well! 

This post is my personal experience.
It may inspire you. 

Back to our story…

I had to do something to keep the children engaged for longer periods. Some nursery practitioners were deliberately setting bad this just enforces that I had to change something in my approach. My manager came up with the ‘persona’ idea, not a clown, but a…a… caricature. I needed a hook like a magic music bag or a sparkling singing teddy, to keep the babies and children involved in the activities. She showed me a few videos on YouTube for inspiration, and pictures of their previous guy for the job, who was called something like “Sparks” and had a “magic box” with instruments, his guitar, and sang songs to the children. He had the “Magic” concept.

The guys on Youtube, were holding their guitar, singing very loudly, and the children with their parents were sitting around this main singer. This is the “Entertainer” style they explicitly told me to avoid at the beginning.  The parents were singing while holding their children to not move around much. The Singer used props and instruments as you would expect.

I was shown these videos to see how devoted the children were in the sessions of the Entertainer Music Man. The comparison was clumsy to say the least. The videos would start with all the children around and finish with just their parents sitting there. The children wondered off and didn’t come back. As these sessions were parents with their babies, so each baby had an adult for themselves, instead of my setting that was 3 babies to 1 adult. Also, they were men (sarcastic comment: 95% of the nursery practitioners were women so I wouldn’t be appealing enough as a guy would be!!!), singing loudly, with a guitar (and as we will see later, the guitar was a no go) and had minimum interaction with everyone. Again, a NO-GO.

Essentially, the nursery staff wanted a Guy to have party time with the adults.  

Looking past the clumsiness in the way they chose to inspire me into elevating my sessions, here is what I took out of our conversation and I think these are good tips for anyone to consider especially for introverts /and with low self-esteem like I was:

  1. Children love a good story. Anything to lure them into a fantasy world for just 20 minutes is brilliant! Possible ways to achieve this is by creating a mystery: the “magic bag with instruments”.
  2. To sing a bit louder and with more confidence. The children mimic behaviours so to see and hear someone speaking with confidence (sensibly loudly) will reflect on their way of singing and later on general speaking and behaving.
  3. Carry on with the 6 children that are participating instead of trying hard to get the 2 wanderers to rejoin the session is an advice to keep. Those 2 children will come back eventually. Confidence is key.

The nursery had a very solid child-led philosophy (I believe in this as well) so these are the topics that according to the videos, I should avoid:

  1. Singing a lot louder that the children 
  2. Not engaging with the children at all 
  3. A guitar or ukulele might be nice to have but as it was an extremely risk averse Nursery, a string might snap and injure a child or baby. So having them regularly was a big NO. 
  4. Giving a singing performance for every session 
  5. Not to keep the children in one position for the whole session but rather encourage them to move around purposefully. 

I believe it took a lot of clarity in the moment to identify what exactly I needed to improve in my delivery style so I don’t become a marionette that obeys other people’s visions without checking my values and abilities. It is good to test your limits and come out of your comfort zones but if you don’t feel comfortable with it, the chances are it will not be a success….

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.