Music and movement and children seem to go together naturally; but in these times of predigested entertainment practically force-fed via earbuds and smartphones, the idea of family members creating unplugged music and dance together comes across as more than quaint — it’s almost revolutionary.

Jess Day of Lincolnville is quietly spreading this revolution via her Midcoast Music Together classes at Bay Chamber Community Music School in Rockport, Belfast Dance Studio, The Playroom in Warren and, beginning this month, the new Picker Family Resource Center at Penobscot Bay Medical Center’s campus in Glen Cove.

Music Together is a research-based, developmentally appropriate early childhood music curriculum developed by composer Kenneth K. Guilmartin and music education researcher Lili M. Levinowitz. Introduced in 1987, it has spread world-wide. In Maine, there are trained registered Music Together teachers offering classes in the Bath, Augusta area and South Portland areas. Day is the second local teacher, having discovered the program via a woman who taught briefly here then left the state. Day is doing her best to cover the Midcoast, an effort enhanced by a couple of recently formed partnerships.

Midcoast Music Together’s home base is the recital room of Bay Chamber Community Music School, high up on the fifth floor of the historic Shepherd Building in Rockport village. Mixed age classes — Music Together is designed for children from birth through age 5 — are held several times a week in the light, roomy space; carpet laid down on the shiny wood floor makes it easy for little ones to scramble around … and that they do.

“It’s not the kind of activity where they have to sit down and DO something. All children have developmental differences, some are very kinesthetic and have to move,” said Day, whose draw to Music Together was influenced by a lifelong musical/theatrical bent and her master’s degree studies in music education.

A typical 45-minute Music Together class is conducted in a circle, with children, older siblings and adult caregivers — all generations are encouraged to attend; Day particularly enjoys hosting grandparents — participating together, sometimes sitting and other times on their feet, in songs, rhythmic chants, fingerplay, movement and using simple rhythmic instruments.

“All children are sounders and movers, and they learn through play. Our culture has become passive consumers of music … what we give here are music experiences,” she said.

Those music experiences extend beyond the classroom. Each 10-week semester, families receive a song and information book plus two CDs of that semester’s songs to take home — the second CD is for the car, which Day thinks is an especially good idea. The songs are developmentally appropriate but by no means dumbed down — the music draws from world music as much as it does from traditional tunes like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” and the accompaniment is rich in instrumentation, harmonies and polyrhythms. Of course, in class and on their own, Music Together participants engage with songs by making their own rhythmic and vocal accompaniments.

“Children and their families learn some 25 songs per semester. They’re musically rich yet accessible, using different tonalities and meters,” said Day.

Day said most families have a repertoire of three to five songs, so the program really gives parents tools or, as she puts it, “this big chest of drawers they can pull from.” She is quick to say that the Music Together music making is not performance-oriented; it is music for the joy of the experience.

“You need no ‘musical ability’ absolutely to do any of this. When parents realize that, it’s a big relief,” she said.

Some of the songs specifically address common family occurrences, such as one titled “Ridin’ in the Car.” These songs, and ones families begin to make up themselves, sometimes borrowing a tune from one of the class songs, can be very helpful in the day-to-day logistics of raising children.

“Transitions are hard — changing diapers, getting into the car — and music can be a way to smooth them out,” said Day.

Bringing Music Together into participants’ homes is part of its core philosophy, supporting the mixed-age approach.

“Children learn best in a multi-age environment — it’s like life, like family,” said Day.

As with any other activity in a child’s day, seeing peers and parents and siblings model behavior has a profound effect. And participating together, rather than dropping children off for 45 minutes, creates bonds that extend beyond the family unit. Over the course of a 10-week session, Day said, the 10 to 12 families — Music Together classes have a strict size limit — become their own small community as well.

Music learning supports all learning, said Day, contributing to the development of children’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social selves. She is not alone in this assessment; two large-scale studies support her assertions, counteracting the current trend in schools to reduce or eliminate music and other arts programs.

When Bay Chamber Community Music School was becoming a reality a couple of years ago, the nonprofit Bay Chamber Concerts approached Day about partnering with her Music Together work. The collaboration has given Midcoast Music Together a home base, as well the ability to offer scholarships to families that need some assist to participate.

“That’s something I just couldn’t do. It’s a wonderful fit … they were looking to provide music education to the community from early childhood to the oldest members,” said Day.

This month, Day enters into another good-fit collaboration. She will be holding a special Just for Babies class at the Picker Family Resource Center for infants eight months of age and younger and their adult family members. The Just for Babies Music Together class will take place Fridays from 11:15 a.m. to noon beginning Jan. 21. Interested families may participate in a free demonstration class Friday, Jan. 14 from 11 a.m. to noon.

“The Picker center has an emphasis on women, family and health, so it’s a real synergy,” said Day.

She added that while Music Together remains firm in its commitment to mixed-age learning, sometimes new parents with babies can feel a little reticent and a bit overwhelmed. The Just for Babies class will involve a lot more one-on-one between babies and their adults, helping parents and other adult family members learn how to perceive their baby’s responses.

Day’s own children are growing up with Music Together, and she said she depends on their responses and reactions when evaluating a new space. It was in a Music Together demo class that she had her own “a-ha” moment that led to this career, so offering a “free sample” is something she does before every spring, fall and winter semester (she also offers a truncated summer session).

“Music Together is very distinct from other family options, ” she said. “I feel lucky to be the one who brings it here.”

To register for Just for Babies or RSVP for the free demo, visit the website at or call 593-6645. Winter session classes in Warren, Belfast and Rockport start(ed) the week of Jan. 11 but Day accepts late registrations for the first few weeks and said she always is happy to set up a visit to a class for new families.

Day also offers Midcoast Music Together via a series of special outreach programs. These include inter-generational classes; programs for young mothers/parents, which she has done for the Community School’s Passages program in Camden and the Teen & Young Parent Program/Parents as Teachers in Rockland; and a program/curriculum for preschool programs, which she has done for Peopleplace school in Camden. She may be contacted via the website or by e-mail to

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to