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Melodies for Growth: Exploring the Role of Music in Early Childhood Development

It is widely known, thanks to much research, that music has wide ranging positive effects on brain development. Children that take music lessons or participate in music classes have been shown to have increased neural activity and growth, use more parts of their brain at once, and display increased ability to perform complex tasks when compared to their peers.

Recently, I had an opportunity to observe celebrated educator and Church Street School for Music & Art co-founder Dr. Lisa Ecklund-Flores as she led her Wednesday morning Explore! Music I class, and witness for myself the power of music as a tool for growth, communication, and community.


After passing the children small hand drums, Lisa begins to slowly brush the surface of the drums. The students, ages 16 - 36 months, soon follow her lead and start exploring the instruments that have been placed in front of them, experiencing the feeling of smoothness on the surface while simultaneously hearing the soft, consistent raspiness. Lisa then rolls her fingers quietly (“piano”) on the drum, gradually tapping harder she brings the sound to a “crescendo” and ending the sequence in a loud “accent” or tap. The children all do the same while listening as she speaks aloud the musical terms to match the sounds being made with hands. She then goes back to “piano”. Once again, the assembled students follow her lead, their sounds also becoming soft again, learning by example and absorbing the meaning of these terms. Eventually, Lisa simply has to say the words “crescendo”, “accent”, "piano", and the kids know exactly what to do. 

Dr. Lisa Ecklund Flores leading an Early Childhood Music class.

Music education is proven to strengthen cognitive behavior, memory, motor, and intellectual skills. Children exposed to consistent music learning as early as 6 months old have shown heightened and accelerated development in their social and emotional behavioral skills and academic achievements throughout their childhood. Multiple studies have reported that more than 90% of students that have participated in music education activities continue towards higher education and have increased SAT scores. That figure drops to 70% when looking at students who have not participated in any music activities.  

An expert in early childhood education, Lisa has vast knowledge of how toddlers and younger children learn and take in information. She holds a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and works as a professor at Mercy University where she mentors future advocates for early childhood development. She has also published and contributed to several research studies on fetal and newborn response to sound. 

Students enjoying the parachute during Explore! Music I.

Since she founded the school 34 years ago, Lisa has taught Church Street School for Music & Art's signature Explore! series. Utilizing the tenants Dalcroze Eurhythmics, our “Explore!” series classes curate a responsive learning environment where students participate physically in musical and artistic activities. Teachers do not simply perform for or entertain the students but encourage them to participate in musical activities by providing the tools and means for creative exploration.  

Giving our students the space to discover their artistic voice is and always has been at the heart of Church Street School's mission and ethos. We believe learning happens through open-ended creation that allows for random occurrences, improvisation, and exploration. Our classes focus on the individual experience — meeting the students where they are, building self-esteem and self-confidence in each child as they explore their unique artistic voice. 

Eventually, Lisa moves to the piano and begins playing a tune that incorporates changing tempo and dynamics. The children, as young as 16 months old, mimic elements of the song through movement walking, skipping, running, tiptoeing, and even stopping in time with the music in response to hearing the speed, dynamics, and key of the music. I notice the students suddenly adding a bounce in their steps, feeling the music with their whole bodies, sometimes prancing, striding, or slowly melting down to the floor when they hear a glissando. They move in sync through the room, listening and reacting in step with their peers, showing the connections formed through creation in community. 

Early Childhood music students and their caregivers in class at CSSMA.


Interested in experiencing the magic of Church Street School's unique approach to Early Childhood music education for yourself? The join us for our FREE Spring 2024 Open House!

On Saturday, January 27th from 11am - 2pm families can come to our home at 41 White St, NYC 10013 to take free trial Explore! classes taught by CSSMA faculty member and early childhood educator Danielle Titus, who has worked very closely with Lisa over the last year. Group Instrumental Music classes for students ages 5 - 18 years will also occur throughout the day.

Click the button below to learn more and RSVP. Be sure to share the event with your friends and neighbors!

For more information about Church Street School for Music & Art including our full roster of classes, lessons, and programs for ALL AGES, head to our website:

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