Start the Music: A Report from the Early Childhood Summit, Part 2

(4) Creating Institutional Solutions. Participants were of a single mind in insisting that institutional linkages among their various organizations were crucial to moving forward. The general solution proposed was not to seek to establish new structures but to use existing networks of relationships as “carriers” for the message about the value and use of music in early childhood education. The following lists provide a starting place for potential networking:

National Music Education Organizations

Early Childhood Movement and Music Association

Parent Organizations


Education/Educators’ Associations

American Association of Community Colleges
American Federation of Teachers
National Education Association
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Center for the Arts in the Basic Curriculum
Galef Institute
National Head Start Association

Private Sector

National Association of Music Merchants
American Music Conference
Very Special Arts
Waldorf Schools

Professional Credentialing

Nat’l Board for Professional Teaching Standards
National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education
Council on Early Childhood Professional Recognition

Family Service Agencies (state, regional, local) 

National Association of Child Care Resource
And Referral Agencies

Arts Organizations 

Arts Councils/Arts Alliances (State & Local)

Policymakers and Governmental 

Each state governor’s office
National Conference of State Legislatures
National Governors Association
Each state’s OMB
U.S. Department of Education
National School Boards Association
National Science Foundation

Early Intervention Agencies Researchers and Institutes

MENC Early Childhood Special Research Interest Group

Other Potential Partners

La Raza, National Latino Health Alliance, Healthy Child Care America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Black Child Development Institute, the Council for Exceptional Children, Educators for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Social Responsibility, American Public Health Association, National Association of WIC Directors, National Urban League

Among the most important issues to network about is “best practices” (or as some prefer, “exemplary practices”) in the use of music in early childhood education. Getting at these, participants agreed, required both the ability to work with personal and institutional flexibility regarding what is customary in one’s own organization and to maintain a healthy respect for the competence of persons working on other areas of education. Lab schools based in universities are one place to look for exemplary practices because they are by definition places where experimentation is going on, though they may be limited as models because they may not mirror the cultural or economic diversity of the general population. Typical areas in which to look for new ideas include such activities as singing circles, patterning activities, melodic and rhythmic activities, and movement pieces.

The most effective way to proceed with a networking effort, it was agreed, is on a peer-to-peer contact basis. This approach shows respect for the various institutional structures and can involve both subject matter practitioners and organizational leaders. When networking to achieve Summit aims, participants agreed that support from other organizations should be sought not only on cause-related marketing issues, which have a short “half-life,” but also on long-term issues related to philanthropic support and long-term systemic organizational growth. Further aspects of networking efforts should include, but not be limited to:

  • Local-level networking modeled on existing alliances at the national level. This can bring together early childhood educators, care providers (who may not have much knowledge of educational methodology), music teachers, policymakers, arts education supporters, and others;
  • Working together to achieve such goals as meaningful standards and certification for early childhood teachers as is done, for example, in Head Start Quality Improvement Centers;
  • Ensuring that the materials that are used by or published by childhood development organizations include music;
  • Developing cooperative relationships and offerings of professional development;
  • Trading speakers or providing joint presentations at professional conferences;
  • Working toward the placement of work by established music education authors in early childhood journals, and vice versa, to expand the Summit message to new; and
  • Mounting a conscious effort to track on and promote Summit issues and initiatives in newsletters and at organizational meetings.

Participants were quick to realize that suggestions for institutional solutions that posited requirements only for others could readily become exercises in buck-passing. Individuals therefore committed themselves to taking specific steps to advance the agenda of the Summit once back on their home ground. The following activities seemed particularly appropriate to the representatives from the organizations noted below, who agreed to take the suggestions up with their parent organizations:


  • MENC should treat early childhood education as an independent strand of its organizational activity and should reflect this status as part of its organizational framework, e.g., in its convention structure, publication s program, and staffing. This initiative could become a model for MENC state-level chapters.
  • MENC should encourage specialist members to connect with Child Development Associates’ training in local communities, attend sessions, and offer themselves as resources.
  • MENC should assist in the revision of the Council on Early Childhood Professional Recognition’s document, Essentials for Child Development Associates Working with Young Children, now underway.
  • MENC should expand distribution and marketing to continue its encouragement of the flow of materials on early childhood among the music and arts community, and in particular the materials developed by its Summit partner, NAEYC.
  • MENC should explore establishing and developing a relationship with the Head Start Bureau to help Head Start centers become better purveyors of music education, and should work with associations of institutions of higher education (especially community colleges) to encourage them to strengthen their preparation programs in child development as support for Head Start.
  • MENC should work to become a more active partner with child care resource and referral agencies (existing in 40 states and responsible for much community-based training), as a resource for training and consultation in music education.

The opportunity to align MENC and NAEYC standards should not be allowed to fall by the wayside. Elements of that process should include: developing a collection of NAEYC materials and publications related to music and music education; a review of current MENC publications for articles, etc. suitable for early childhood education practitioners; and, a joint institute or conference on professional development issue that have valence for both organizations.


Marilou Hyson noted that NAEYC has already produced guidelines, aimed at two- and four-year institutions of higher education, for preparing early childhood educators at the AA
and BA levels. It is revising its guidelines for certification programs and will invite comment from MENC and other Summit participants as a part of that process.

  • As above, the opportunity to align MENC and NAEYC standards should not be allowed to fall by the wayside, so that both associations use their key roles as standard-setting institutions for the good of children in all childcare and educational settings.
  • Hyson also indicated that NAEYC would be revising its website with Summit issues in mind, installing hyperlinks to other Summit participants and music education sites related to early childhood education.
  • ON a larger scale, NAEYC will soon be revising its curriculum and assessment guidelines with the music education/early childhood education interface in mind.

For the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies (NACCRA)

  • NACCRA needs to notify its members and contact concerning issues related to the Summit and alert them to possibilities for tying NACCRA resources to music education and early childhood education initiatives at the local level.
  • NACCRA should invite participation by music interests in its regional conferences in spring and fall, which focus on local issues. NACCRA contacts in each state will be encouraged to offer reciprocal exhibit opportunities to music education groups.
  • NACCRA also declared an interest in developing a joint position paper with MENC, to be distributed to both its constituencies.

For Ohio Participants

Jan Wolf of the Kent State University Child Development Center and Marcia Humpal of the Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental disabilities saw an opening to focus state interest on Summit issues. They proposed to create a special educational strand on music education at an upcoming “Early Childhood Music Day” which would plan for statewide activities. Humpal also indicated she was working on publishing an article on music and early childhood education in a journal not related to music.

For the Colorado Music Educators Association

Joyce Culwell reported that the Colorado Music Educators Association has begun restructuring the organization and its priorities. She said she would work to make sure early childhood education is included among them.

Roles for Individual Participants

Linda Page Neelly, an independent early childhood education consultant in Rochester New York, reported that she intends to continue her own professional emphasis on the relationship between early childhood education and music education. All present were also encouraged to use e-mail to stay in touch and to share ideas.

(5) Identify Research Needs. Participants were in strong agreement that a great deal more research needs to be conducted on both theory and practice on how to relate music education and early childhood education. Among the high priority topics for more research are:

  • Garnering usable data to convince the general public of the benefits of music experiences for young learners;
  • Conducting research on how family day care centers can best meet the developmental needs of young children, and what steps need to be taken to equip them to improve the ways they meet those needs. As one participant noted, “service delivery systems may find it easier to change in the direction of meeting this need than in the direction of specific music activities. It would be a step in the right direction”;
  • More research is also need to uncover how the arts empower the way teachers teach; and
  • Research models are needed to investigate the impact of including a music component in two-year training programs for early childhood educators.

Concluding Questions: Connecting the Dots:

At various points throughout the Summit, Mary Luehrsen of the TEXACO Foundation repeatedly encouraged participants to “connect the dots,” by which she meant not building a post-Summit agenda merely by concentrating on isolated points, but by constructing relationships between specific issues and factors. To a large degree, her urgings for the Summit were accomplished, as the lines of connection between desired outcomes, what was needed to achieve them, the delivery system required for accomplishing them, and the roles institutions had in carrying out that system became progressively clearer.

Nevertheless, and not unexpectedly, the Summit concluded with questions to accompany the action steps participants declared they were eager to get started with. Among them were these:

  • How can we continue to ensure that music education in early childhood context is treated and understood as valuable in its own right and for its own sake, while deriving the full benefits of music as a means to prepare young children for K-12 schooling?
  • How can practitioners of early childhood education work with music educators to preserve the cross-disciplinary character of early childhood education while retaining the distinctive contributions that music education has to make?
  • How can we make sure that high-quality teaching materials (e.g., manipulatives, instruments, and lesson ideas) get into the hands of parents, teachers, and other care providers? One suggested possibility was working more closely with industry associations such as the National Association of Music Merchants and the American Music Conference, as well as with leading companies that have a stake in providing music experiences and education to young learners, e.g., Disney, or whose businesses provide a high exposure to young learners, e.g., McDonalds.
  • How can we address employment problems in early childhood education, where there is chronic high turnover, to ensure that care providers have regular access to professional development, mentor modeling, and collegial consultation with specialists in music education who are trained in the issues particular to early childhood education?
  • What are the best ways to encourage culturally responsive pedagogy as integral to developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood education?

While these and other questions remain, participants expressed the conviction that their idea sharing had been not only worthwhile but productive. New “cross-cultural” understandings had been achieved between music educators and early childhood educators. New avenues of action had opened up, and a new spirit of cooperation had been kindled. “Systemic disconnects” had been identified and the first steps toward establishing new connections had been made. For many it felt as if, for all the coverage of familiar territory, they saw what they only thought they had known, now in a new light. It felt like coming home. Perhaps, then, the words of T. S. Eliot express best what happened:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all out exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
Little Gidding

Return to Part 1