The Project

La musique aux enfants is a music education initiative conceived by Maestro Kent Nagano and set up by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in partnership with Université de Montréal and the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île. Its aim is to introduce preschool children to intensive music learning as a means of supporting them in their overall development and contributing to their success in school over the long term.

The children, their families and the local community will enjoy very special contact with the OSM, its musicians and its conductor.

The initiative will also enable us to offer new employment opportunities to music school graduates and to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the domain of music education for the young.

The project was inaugurated in November 2016. It is first being implemented at the St-Rémi public school, located in the borough of Montréal-Nord, in Greater Montréal, in the form of a three-year pilot project.

The organization

La musique aux enfants is a non-profit organization created in order to make the project conceived by Kent Nagano a reality, and is funded exclusively by donors. Its mission is to promote music education among young children in Québec and to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the realm of musical instruction of the very young.

What is the role of Kent Nagano and the OSM?

La musique aux enfants is an original idea of Kent Nagano’s; Maestro Nagano recognizes the important role that music learning played when he was very young – something he talks about in his book Sonnez, merveilles!, published in 2014 by Éditions du Boréal. The maestro oversaw the definition of the teaching program as well as the various components of the project. He will have an active long-term involvement to make sure that the spirit of the project endures.

OSM musicians also play a fundamental role as a positive model for the children throughout the project. They welcome the children to Maison symphonique de Montréal regularly and take part in an active way in the musical life of the school. A number of them act as mentors with the children, keeping track of their development.

Is this initiative a first?

Several initiatives designed to promote music teaching to young children exist here and elsewhere.

The originality of La musique aux enfants consists in:

  • a level of intensity established by a music program that children take part it on a daily basis
  • its organic interweaving with the curriculum of a public school, as opposed to being an extracurricular project
  • the privileged relationship between the children and the music educators thanks to the sustained learning context
  • the involvement of the musicians and the music director from a great orchestra
  • the quality of its learning environment
  • the partnership with a multidisciplinary team of researchers from a great university, which will make it possible to measure the influence the project has on the children
  • its contribution to the enrichment of a movement already present in Québec and elsewhere

How will the impacts of the project be measured?

We know that learning music has a positive impact on the development of young children. The scientific research project conducted by the team of researchers from Université de Montréal will allow us to evaluate that impact in the precise framework of intensive, structured learning. We will thus be in a position to make a contribution to the science of early-age music education, a field being developed quickly in Québec and elsewhere.

The program

Backed by a team of six music educators and a program manager, all the children at the school participate free of charge in a music program drawn up in collaboration with experts from the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île, from Université de Montréal and from the OSM team, and which takes this shape:

  • all children at the school (prekindergarten and kindergarten) take a class each week in choral singing and in rhythm
  • a prekindergarten group (4 years old) benefits each day from sustained training lasting an hour and a quarter and consisting of:
    • a semi-private piano lesson
    • a session of choral singing and rhythm
  • a prekindergarten group (4 years old) benefits each day from three-hour intensive training comprising:
    • a private piano lesson
    • a violin lesson in a small group
    • a session of choral singing and rhythm

Our hope is to continue the experiment in the future in a form that will be determined by the lessons learned from the pilot project and by available funding.

How will the curriculum be structured?

The class schedule was designed on the basis of participant age. The music classes are short (30 minutes) and are presented in a fun way. We believe moreover that La musique aux enfants will contribute to the development of new techniques for teaching music to young children, techniques that we will be happy to share with all those interested in music education.

Why teach piano, violin, choral singing and rhythm?

Learning piano and violin was given priority to as much for the expressive possibilities those instruments have to offer as for the benefits that can be derived from them:

  • development of coordination
  • harmonic and melodic listening
  • velocity
  • control of sound and tones
  • accuracy
  • polyphony work
  • self-esteem
  • body awareness

Our firm belief is that these elements contribute to cognitive and physical development in a child.

As for choral singing and rhythm, in addition to consolidating the learning done on instruments, these disciplines act on:

  • the child’s ability to relate to music
  • the possibility of physically feeling music
  • the appropriation of fundamental musical notions
  • opening out to the world and the environment
  • social development and the ability to work as part of a team

Who can enroll their children?

La musique aux enfants is, for the time being, offered exclusively to students attending the St-Rémi Annexe school of the Commission scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Île. All the children at the school receive a music education at different levels of intensity. Enrolment of the children in this school has been done on the basis of rules introduced by the school board.

How have children in the program been selected?

Selection of the children who make up the cohort of the intensive classes was done according to two criteria:

  • the eagerness and support of the families
  • the wellbeing of the child in the particular context of the program

In order to gauge these two criteria, get-togethers with families were organized. Once the list of children meeting the criteria was established, a random draw was carried out.

Knowledge of music was not a prerequisite for participating in the program.

Does the program aim to train the next generation of virtuosos?

If some children develop a passion for music and decide to make a profession of it, so much the better. However, our goal is to foster the development of individuals willing to contribute to society, no matter what path they choose to follow.

What will happen to the children after their completion of the program?

We have entered into a partnership agreement with the École des jeunes at the Université de Montréal Faculty of Music so that children who wish to continue their musical training are able to do so.