The Pre-K Music Education Method

with Hayes Greenfield

WAVE: Tell us about your new educational method for Pre-K teachers.

Hayes Greenfield: It’s called the Greenfield Method and although it’s connected to music, I don't talk about it in musical terms. Instead, I talk about it in terms of sound since it’s for the non-music, general Pre-K teacher and most of the teachers who I've worked with. Although they may love music, they usually don't have much experience with or knowledge of playing an instrument, so if you make any kind of reference to music, they can get completely overwhelmed, intimidated, anxious, and just shut down. And in the end, the Greenfield Method is really only about sound and working with sound.


WAVE: Can you provide an example of an exercise you might do with students to work with sound?

HG: Sure. Count slowly from 1 to 4: 1-2-3-4/1-2-3-4/1-2-3-4 and keep repeating the count. Then, every time you say the number three—and only three—clap your hands. Do this for a little while until everyone can perform it easily. Now, add a little complexity by keeping the same counting pattern, but add a stomp on 1 while continuing to clap only on 3. And so on. It’s basically the same principle that musicians use when adding complexity to basic practice regimens, which is infinite.

WAVE: How did you come up with The Greenfield Method?

HG: I’ve been teaching kids music for years with my Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz program and I’ve also developed musical projects for special needs kids. I came about the Greenfield Method when I was asked to give a class of high school special needs kids a musical experience by working with them with recorders. After some research I decided to use flutophones, which are much less shrill than the standard recorder. Anyone who works with special needs kids knows that they can be especially sensitive to sound and the last thing that I wanted to do was unsettle the kids.  I didn't concern myself at all with technique or try to teach these kids how to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” because many of them have challenges with their fine motor skills and I didn't want to frustrate them at all. I wanted this to be a fun and joyful experience and to encourage them to experiment with just making and creating sound while having a blast with the instruments. I showed them that it's all about the approach, and that it’s the kinds of sounds they create that mattered most. For example, a long sound, a short one, loud or soft, one or several, playing in time or a pattern, or just playing silence. With the right approach there was just so much music to be made and they all made so much of it!

Then I was asked to teach pre-school teachers who had had no formal training with music how to teach music to their students. As you can imagine, it’s enough to overwhelm and intimidate any teacher—a truly challenging task. But what I soon realized is that if music is approached only in terms of sound, and strictly sound, then it's possible to show teachers how to work with sound in musical terms. This means paying attention to different aspects of sound and making them available. For example, how loud or how soft a sound is, how long or how short, what's the texture of the sound? Is it played in tempo with a beat or is it played freely with rubato? These concepts inform how one works with sound.


WAVE: Where did this passion for educating come from?

HG: Music and performing is about sharing, and whether as a player, performer, and/or educator, I’ve always seen music-making as a gift. I know this may sound corny, but it's a belief that I take very seriously. Music is the closest thing to real magic and musicians have the ability to take people on a journey which when you think about it, really is a privilege. In terms of educating, it began when I was working with teens at New York City after-school programs and then, later, with my Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz program. In many ways it was about how to make a living doing something that I love—making music—and it just developed from there. With The Greenfield Method, because it’s so effective in helping kids develop, it's now more about being of service. It's such a simple and elegant program and yet it has the power to benefit a host of people, worldwide in fact, and I feel that for me to have figured this out and to have codified it in ways that makes it so accessible and inviting is, well, nothing short of a gift. By the way, I've had four renowned neuroscientists examine The Greenfield Method and each have been amazed by its comprehensiveness in enhancing kids’ abilities with Executive Function and how completely focused kids get when making sound deliberately.


WAVE: Do you have any future plans with The Greenfield Method?

HG: Yes, I have a number of things planned. Right now, I'm in the process of writing a book about the Method and I also want to create a video to accompany the book so that teachers all over the world who are interested can have easy access to it online. I also plan on making available a complete package of instruments, accompanying instructional materials, and a guide that I recommend that one use with the Method.

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