creative:impact - Everyone is musical!
Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.
ABOUT ROBIN ROBINSON:
Robin is the director/owner of Robinsongs for Kids, a music studio which oﬀers the international, research-based music program, Music Together. Though raised in Ohio and Michigan, she spent most of her adult life in New York City, where she was both a performer and teacher of music. She has been teaching Music Together for twenty-two years - the first eight in NYC, at some of Manhattan's premiere centers. During that time, she also taught music for a Head Start program in the Bronx. Prior to teaching she was a musical theater actress, performing on Broadway and around the world. Robin is a singer-songwriter who performed with her band in venues throughout New York City and who released an album, "Copacetic", on an independent label. She holds a B.F.A. in Musical Theater from the University of Michigan, and she moved back to Ann Arbor in 2008 to start Robinsongs for Kids. Robin brings her musical skills and performing experience to her teaching, as well as her profound love of children. She believes whole heartedly in the Music Together principle that "everyone is musical" and is very grateful to be a licensed Music Together Center Director!
Robin has recently been awarded Music Together Certification Level I status, having demonstrated outstanding achievement in teaching, musicianship, program philosophy, and parent education. The "Cert 1" training was done by Dr. Lili Levinowitz, one of the co-founders of Music Together, and the award was granted by the Center for Music And Young Children in Princeton, NJ, Kenneth K. Guilmartin, Co-Founder/Director.
ABOUT MUSIC TOGETHER:
Music Together is an early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through age eight—and the grownups who love them! First offered in 1987, our music classes help little ones develop their innate musicality—and much, much more.
We've Done Our Homework
Our early childhood music curriculum has decades of researchbehind it, in both music education and child development. We know what we're talking about, and we're good at what we do! And because we recognize that children learn through play, we make everything we do in class engaging and fun.
We're All About Family
We also know that young children learn best from the powerful role models in their lives. That's where you grownups come in! Our family music classes show parents, teachers, and caregivers how to help their children become confident music-makers just by having fun making music themselves.
We're All About Community
Music Together brings families of all kinds together in a warm, supportive environment where everyone feels comfortable singing, dancing, and jamming. Creating lasting family and community bonds through music is a huge part of our programs.
Our classes can be found in more than 3,000 locations in over 40 countries. No matter where they live, all Music Together families sing and dance to the same music in the same fun, informal class setting that is the hallmark of our program.
Use our Class Locator to find a list of classes in your neighborhood!
Deb Polich: Welcome to creative:impact on 89 one WEMU. Thanks for tuning in to meet another creative guest rooted in Washtenaw County and explore how their creative business, products, programs, and services impact and add to our local quality of life, place, and economy. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host for creative:impact. Robin Robinson believes that everyone is musical--so much that she started Robinsongs for Kids, a fun, informal, social setting that spurs engagement and supports a child's musical development. Robin, welcome to creative:impact.
Robin Robinson: Thank you.
Deb Polich: So, I got to do this. Dispense with it right away. Could your name Robin Robinson be any more perfect. Add a G, and you branded your company. Brilliant!
Robin Robinson: You know, I have to tell you. My dad came up with that a long time ago, and he has passed away since. So, it's really like a special thing to me. But this was back when I was writing songs and he said, "You know what would make a great publishing company? Robinsongs! It's your first name. It's your last name." So then, when I was coming up with a name for my business, Robinsongs for Kids, I was like, "Yep. That's it!"
Deb Polich: It's just perfect. So, you were in New York and had a New York-based performing career as a musical theater actor and a singer/songwriter. And now you teach music to children. Both career paths have to be fulfilling in their way. What does teaching children offer you?
Robin Robinson: Teaching children is really wonderful. It is so fulfilling on so many levels. And, you know, these are really young children--children mostly five and under. And the program I teach them--
Deb Polich: So, little bits.
Robin Robinson: Yeah. Little guys. Yes. And I want to make sure to say that the program that I teach is called Music Together, and it's a research-based, international program. So, it's almost like a franchise what I do. So, yeah. So, these kids are little people usually shocked when I'm like, you know, for kids five and under with their parent or caregiver. And that's the majority of the classes is, you know, these mixed-age classes. And we have classes for babies only, eight months and under, and classes for that we call "rhythm kids" for kids four through eight. So, to see kids, you know, come into their own, to express themselves musically, I see them, you know, socially come out of their shells. It's just fulfilling, you know, in so many ways.
Deb Polich: So, I want to get into the philosophy behind Music Together in a minute. But babies!
Robin Robinson: Mm hmm.
Deb Polich: You know, babies kind of hang out and do their thing, and they're on the floor or they're in a carrier or something. How do infants respond to your program?
Robin Robinson: You know, I know, at first, so the babies classes, the babies are on the floor. The parent brings a blanket on the floor, and you're tapping on their bodies where, you know, smoothing down their bodies. We're moving their little legs and all of that. And, at first, really often, they are like kind of little blobs, you know? But they are taking it in. And it's amazing during the course of a semester--which is, you know, on average, like ten weeks--to see them, you know, they start to react. We also, you know, we do certain things like very hands-on. We do large movement with them. So then, as we're stomping around the circle, they feel the beat in their body, that kind of thing. We enunciate our words because babies pay attention to mouths, right? And, yeah, you really see them over the course of it. You can start to tell what their favorite songs are because they'll start, like, moving, you know, the way they move or their eyes or whatever. And even like the little instruments, I know it sounds crazy, but like little shakers and stuff, little marakitas. At first, maybe, they're so little, they can't even hold on. And when they can hold on, it goes straight in the mouth, which is great. That's how they explore the world, right? But then, little by little, like, maybe, they accidentally shake it. And then, as the semester goes on, you see less mouth and more shaking.
Deb Polich: Really physical. And you incorporate physical aspects very much so with the music.
Robin Robinson: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. We feel, you know, your body is your main instrument. So, we're trying to put the beat in our bodies as much as possible. And when they're babies, that's why even babies in mixed-age classes, I, you know, my parents know this, tap the beat on their body whenever they can. You know, if I'm tapping my nose or head, whatever, you tap their body and head. They then feel the beat in their body. And when we're up, yeah, we're really stomping. We're just, you know, that's really how you can feel the beat.
Deb Polich: So, three of your star pupils, Oliver, Angus, and Mico, who happened to be my children-- grandchildren, excuse me--they're older now. They're in their toddler years. And what do you see then?
Robin Robinson: Well, the toddlers are going to start doing the things that we're doing, right, when we're clapping and the little movements we do, the small movements, you know, chants and stuff. They're going to start doing that stuff, and they'll start giving little ideas, you know, in songs when I say, "Well, what other animal could be in the tree for a song?" One little one says you know, "Dog!" "Oh, what does a dog say?" You know, "Woof, woof!" So, and then, rhythm kids, you know, we take that to a whole other level. But the toddlers. They can contribute their little ideas. They can do some of the hand movements, all of that.
Deb Polich: This is WEMU's creative:impact. And I'm Deb Polich. My guest is Robin Robinson, a talented musician, Broadway music actor, and songwriter who now fills her soul helping children discover the joy of music. So, you're mentioning rhythm and all that. And it doesn't sound like this is absolutely about singing, which most people often think these kind of programs are.
Robin Robinson: Right. Well, definitely, we are singing. Absolutely. And, you know, one of the beliefs is that all children are musical, and all children can achieve basic music competence, which is singing in tune and tapping or moving in rhythm. So, yeah, it's funny. I don't always hear that as much, because, in the group, I sort of, you know, I hear my own voice more and maybe children are quiet, but I see the rhythm, you know?
Deb Polich: Sure. I bring that up because, so often, people think that the point of whether somebody is musical or not is whether they can sing, perform, or play an instrument. But you're encompassing so much more, it sounds like.
Robin Robinson: Right. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Deb Polich: And is that the philosophy about Music Together?
Robin Robinson: Yeah. Everyone is musical. Absolutely. Yes. And it's modeled by the caregiver. So, you know, that is definitely a point that even the adults who come in who are like, "Oh, I'm tone deaf. I can't carry a tune in a bucket." We say, "No, no, no, They're not getting singing out because the children get their disposition from you." You know, if you are engaged--and this is what we really have to hammer home the first couple of classes--if you are engaged in participating in singing out, your child would be engaged also.
Deb Polich: Well, and it's what I say all the time. It's everybody's creative.
Robin Robinson: Yes.
Deb Polich: We all have creativity within us. And whether you express it musically or otherwise, it's there. It's inside you, even if you've forgotten it. So, let's talk about this, parents and caregivers.
Robin Robinson: Okay.
Deb Polich: What change do you see through them when they participate in this program?
Robin Robinson: I think, you know, I think parents really love it. In fact, I just ran into somebody at Top of the Park. At Top of the Park, a parent who was saying how--oh, and this is a family whose caregiver brings the children.
Deb Polich: Okay.
Robin Robinson: So, I don't see the parents very often. But I ran into them, and we're talking, and they said, well, first of all, they said what I hear a lot, which is in the car. It saves any, you know, tantrums. You know, you put on that music, and they are like happy as can be. But then, the dad was saying, you know, the music is so wonderful. He said, "I'll have it on in the car and be singing along." You know? So, it's really wonderful.
Deb Polich: And they have a connection outside of class then.
Robin Robinson: Yes, yes, yes. That is a big part of the program. We say play the music. But, yeah, I think the parents absolutely thrive. They become more comfortable with their own singing voice, and they realize that they're connecting with their child through music.
Deb Polich: So special. So, you've been doing this for a while, and I think you said your kids place out at eight. So, I suppose that some of them now are probably college age or around that. I mean, the older ones from your early days of doing this work. And I was just wondering. Do you know of anybody who uses this music aptitude in their life or have gone on to either perform or use it otherwise?
Robin Robinson: So, I've been teaching music together for 22 years, but I started in New York City.
Deb Polich: Okay.
Robin Robinson: As a day job, you know, instead of waiting tables. And so those people. Yes. So those children I don't about those children--
Deb Polich: You don't connect with them anymore.
Robin Robinson: Right. But when I moved here in 2008 and started my own center, yeah, I know one little girl who was with me, you know, the entire way--babies through eight years old, through Rhythm Kids--who is doing theater--like, young people's theater--and performing ,and you know, so, yeah. And then, I see other kids who are taking piano lessons, and, you know, they'll send me the videos and all of that.
Deb Polich: So, you're really instilling a lifelong love of music and an understanding of it and with the whole body, it sounds like.
Robin Robinson: Yes.
Deb Polich: Well, that's great. You know, your children--the children and the families that you are working with--are really, really fortunate to have you. What do you get from it?
Robin Robinson: I really get a lot of joy out of seeing the children blossom, out of seeing them become more social. You know, with the pandemic, we had, first of all, we moved to Zoom, right?
Deb Polich: Not quite the same.
Robin Robinson: Right, right, right. And, definitely, you know, we lost some families who didn't want their children to have screen time, which is understandable. But we also did outside classes at this farmhouse, you know, right where I lived. But I see children, you know, reaching out. There's a child in one of my classes, like, she's two and a half or something. And these kids are like, "Oh, other humans!"
Deb Polich: Other humans!
Robin Robinson: Other children!
Deb Polich: Right, right.
Robin Robinson: And then, this little girl goes over to kids and reaches with hands out.
Deb Polich: How sweet. Well, Robin, thanks so much for talking about this on creative:impact. We really appreciate it, and we hope to see you again soon.
Robin Robinson: Thank you so much.
Deb Polich: That's Robin Robinson, a talented musician who now fills her soul helping children and their families discover the joy of music. Find out more about Robin and Robinsongs for Kids at WEMU dot org. You've been listening to creative:Impact. I'm your host, Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw. Mat Hopson is our producer. Join us on Tuesdays to meet another creative Washtenaw guest and this, your community NPR radio Station, 89 one WEMU FM and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti.
Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support. Make your donation to WEMU todayto keep your community NPR station thriving.