Frequently Asked Questions

Who are we?
The faculty at the Music Stream Center are certified teachers with specialized training to help students direct and focus listening, singing, playing, and creative skills. The study of music offers a vehicle for self-expression, heightened responsiveness to beauty, and great personal achievement. Music is a shared art that will bring students, parents, and communities closer together. It is our goal to provide the understanding and skills needed for each student to enjoy and appreciate music for a lifetime. Research has shown that very young children can develop an awareness of pitch and musical concepts. If left untapped—this natural feeling for music may never be developed. We offer Harmony Road Music Courses—an internationally successful music program—in Davis. This exciting, comprehensive American music program is designed to help children discover the world of music through motivating materials and activities, which develop the whole child. We teach total musicianship through singing, moving, rhythmic activities, keyboard playing, ear training, note reading and composing. The Harmony Road classes are for students of all ages.

Aren't private lessons better than group lessons?
Typically, private lessons for beginners are Conservatory based programs and concentrate on working through the primers and learning to read notation. Technique and repertoire are the main ingredients. Examinations quickly become the main focus of the lessons. 89% of the teachers surveyed entered students for exams as quickly as possible and their lessons consequently became centered on scales, theory, studies, exam pieces and bits of sight reading (Gibb, 1993). Emphasis on technical work and notation during instrumental lessons inhibits the growth of a student's musicianship and creativity. In terms of brain usage, technical skills and note reading are based largely in the left hemisphere. Students who are taught this way never learn to listen properly to themselves and are unable to play with feeling. Once these students learn to rely on notation for their music, it becomes increasingly difficult to explore musical avenues that do not have a notational basis. (Evans, 1985, Priest, 1989.) Most teachers surveyed rated the following components as low priority: only 63% covered playing-by-ear; only 54% included improvisation; only 49% taught composition. (Odam, 1195, Gibbs, 1993, Thompson, 1984 and Jorgenson, 1986) Before 1850 pianists routinely learned not only to interpret but also to improvise and compose on the piano. After this date piano performance was gradually transformed into a reproductive art. The accomplishments of all round musicians were lost as interpretation and technical prowess took priority. (Gellrich and Parncutt, 1998) The dominance of notation in verbally oriented and teacher-led lessons leads to hours of fruitless practicing where the body is fully occupied but the brain is not engaged at all. Traditional tutor books encourage students to listen "a note at a time"; their physical movements and coordination are shaped for life by that kind of listening. Most traditional instrument lessons are teacher-centered rather than student-centered. Telling children to do their best to please their teacher causes nervousness and anxiety which leads to muscular and emotional tension. The focus on technique has also been shown to be responsible for unnecessary physical tension leading to injuries. Tension also results when children have no clear mental perception of the music in and of itself. (Chappell, 2001)

How is Harmony Road Music Course different?
Kinder programs are European music and movement programs based on the belief that every child is musical. From birth to age seven children can participate without pressure to perform, as they are encouraged to explore, express and discover. The curriculum is based on child development and age appropriate learning through music. 90% of the program is based on folk music and dance. In an attempt to teach music to children from a developmental perspective, many group music appreciation programs have proliferated. Some provide music interpretation, dancing and singing to folk tunes, or playing simple percussion instruments in kindergarten style rhythm bands. This is based on the teaching methods of Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze. All group music lessons are not created equally:

Pre-school music play programs do not teach your child to play a specific musical instrument.
• They do not include parents as key teaching resources after the age of three or four.
• They do not continue beyond the ages of six or seven.
• They do not focus on teaching solfege singing (naming notes using do-re-mi) as the musical foundation for developing inner hearing, listening, feeling and music reading.
• Some of them are activities to pass time, and not investments in the child's academic or musical future.

The Harmony Road Music Course seems to have gotten it completely right. Harmony Road students learn to play piano, compose and improvise. They have their own books and CD's to reinforce their studies at home each week. Parents participate fully in each lesson and coach their children at home throughout the week. Harmony Road incorporates the rhythm and movement of Orff and Dalcroze, the solfege singing of Kodaly and the child centered learning approach of Montessori. Its founder, Jan Keyser, has taken a layered, age-specific approach to programming, developed over many years with Yamaha as a teaching specialist. In 1980 she created and began teaching the Harmony Road program in Portland, Oregon where 600 students enjoy her musical guidance today. Currently there are 120 Harmony Road locations in the United States as well as Britain, New Zealand, Holland and Canada. The program boasts 98% retention over four years in nearly all locations. Lessons are based on the time tested Harmony Road triangle—parent/caregiver, child and trained Harmony Road teacher. The incredible musicianship and technical skill that results from this combination results in young musicians who are truly gifted performers and creative composers. Harmony Road is rooted in the old European teaching models, which produced Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. Remember the great composers did not just play the classics, they wrote them!

How can the Harmony Road program help a child's development?
In order to allow pianists to be more creative, imaginative and musical young beginners at Harmony Road are given the opportunity to enhance the neurophysiology of their brains using a whole brain approach to learning. Harmony Road helps students develop a greater understanding of music, obtain a greater sense of physical ease and depth of expression while playing, increase enjoyment and motivational levels, experience less anxiety and physical tension while performing, and demonstrate improved sight reading ability effectively through the use of solfege singing. When whole brain teaching and listening skills are at the center of a music program, students experience greater unification between the brain, the body and their emotions. The right hemisphere of the brain is able to develop more intuitive and special skills in partnership with the more logical and analytical left hemisphere. This allows students to develop a deep, subconscious well of musical experience from which they can draw, thereby increasing their sensitivity and understanding of music in general. When children are shown how and encouraged to internalize music from the first lesson, they will be less prone to physical problems due to muscular tensions in their arms and legs. By taking a pupil-centered approach, students have more partnership with the teacher and are more involved in making decisions. Their enjoyment levels rise and their fears of external censure are diminished. Many promising careers in music have ended due to stress and physical injury from tension beginning in the early years. Early childhood music lessons actually enlarge the brain areas used to analyze pitch by 25%. The younger the music training begins, the larger the area. It is postulated that children are born with perfect pitch but are unable to discern it if these areas are not continuously stimulated and neurological connections formed. It is a use it or lose it situation. (Nature, 1998) College bound seniors who had taken music lessons at some point in their lives scored 52 points higher on the verbal portion of their SAT's and 37 points higher in math than those without, a total of 88 points higher than the national average. Subsequently a study of 7500 music majors showed they had the highest levels of reading scores of any students on campus including those in Math, English, Chemistry and Biology. (Profiles of SAT and Achievement Test Takers, the College Board, 1998) The University of California at Irvine found that after six months of pre-school piano lessons, students performed 34% better on spacio-temporal testing that those who received no training and those who had played computer games. After learning eighth, quarter, half and whole notes, second and third graders scored 100% higher than their peers who were taught fractions by traditional methods. (Neurological Research, Feb. 1997)

How old should a child be to begin music lessons?
The peak age for the development of the brain is around three years. Our programs begin at 18 months but students can begin at any age up to 11 years old. Our graduated age specific programs allow each child to move at his or her own pace while being supported by parents, the teacher, and their peers.

Do I need to buy a piano to start Harmony Road Music Lessons?
Yes. A medium-sized portable keyboard will suffice in the beginning stages, and then you can upgrade to a full-sized digital or acoustic piano as the student progresses. Your teacher can help you make this decision and direct you to appropriate suppliers. There are some very good rent-to-own programs available to qualified purchasers as well. Keyboards should have at least 60 full-sized keys.

I want to start now... what should I do next?
To enroll, please visit our online registration page. You will be contacted shortly to confirm your class details.

Who can I contact if I still have questions?
If you still have questions please email or visit our Contact Us page.