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Joan Koenig on the Power of Music

by Pallas-Amenah Morgan

On a cloudy Saturday morning, the sound of drums, tambourines, maracas and horns could be heard coming from the Children’s Library at The American Library in Paris. This morning’s event for small children certainly put a joyful and exciting spin on an otherwise rainy day! Joan Koenig, Founder & Executive Director of the L’Ecole Koenig Preschool & Music School, engaged little ones and their parents in a set of musically-minded activities and an introduction on the importance of musical education. During this interactive program, Koenig demonstrated the importance of integrating music into our daily lives, which has proven to have amazing psychological effects on a child’s development!

Joan Koenig leads participants in music-making.

Koenig is an American-born musician, educator, author, public speaker, mother, creative dervish, and science nerd who has made her home in Paris for the past 40 years. She’s a graduate of the Julliard School and has performed worldwide as a soloist and chamber musician. Jazz and Hindustani music (classical music of northern India) have played an integral role in her musical life and reflection on human musicality. Koenig’s pioneering research and innovative work with music have earned L’Ecole Koenig a solid reputation in the Parisian community, among music cognition experts, and beyond. Her dynamic and integrative approach to early music experience has shifted conventional thinking about literacy acquisition, empathy building, and the potential for creating collaborative communities among young children.

Joan Koenig (right) and pianist Rié Furuse.

At today’s event, with only a piano and a few other musical instruments at hand, Koenig encouraged participants to pay attention to musical cues and suggested ways that music can be interpreted as a language. Joan was accompanied by talented singer and pianist, Rié Furuse. Furuse is a one of the early childhood teachers at the école Koenig. Leading exercises through song and sound, children and adults alike moved to the beat of piano scales, drums and even self-made music like clapping! Participants were encouraged to make their own music as well, and create simple commands for others to follow—two claps for sitting down, four drum beats for standing up, and of course, a cacophony of tambourine jangles for doing a silly dance! With such engaging and mind-stimulating activities, it wasn’t long before even the shyest child was jumping up and down along with the others. It just goes to show that some of the easiest and more meaningful ways to engage with your child is through fun! And to combine fun with a bit of education and learning, it is certainly the best of both worlds.

You can read more about the benefits of a musical education in Joan Koenig’s book, The Musical Child: Using the Power of Music to Raise Children Who Are Happy, Healthy, and Whole, where Koenig shares tips about how to use the latest research during the critical years when children are most sensitive to musical exposure—and most receptive to its benefits. The Musical Child reveals the multiple ways music can help children thrive—and how, in the twenty-first century, its practice is more vital than ever.

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