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The Power of Storytelling Song and Improvised Music

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

I've been lucky enough to work as a storytelling for many years, mainly for children aged 4 - 11. I feel so privilege and honoured, being able to take these journeys through the twists and turns of a tale with the children. I see their faces totally engaged, be it concern for the protagonist, excitement, relief or empathy. I see them visualising the characters and scenarios, their imagination ignited.

The majority of stories I tell, being African and Afro-Caribbean, contain songs and movements, and the power this has to engage the kids is remarkable, even children with whom its a challenge to sit and stay focused, become involved. The sessions are interactive, because by combining singing, rhythms and actions to storytelling adds another dimension, and even more opportunity for all to participate.

Most recently I've had the good fortune to work with a very talented tuba player, multi- instrumentalist and educator, Oren Marshall. Oren had established popular classes called 'Oren Marshall's Jazz for Toddlers', bringing various instruments and improvisation to parents with babies and toddlers. So with the addition of myself and my storytelling we have now created classes that flow with stories, improvised music and song. We have the parents, grand parents and carers singing joyfully, while engaging with their babies and toddlers. These classes have become hugely popular, and a community has developed, an all inclusive circle that everyone feels they are a part of, there's no audience just true participation. No twee nursery songs (ok maybe a few here and there, usually accompanied with Oren on tuba) but mainly our own original songs, or traditional call and response songs, and the ones contained in the stories told.

When it comes to the effect that the musical instruments have on babies, it is absolutely amazing !!! When Oren begins to play any instrument all babies eyes are on him, they are transfixed, by the sounds and vibrations, which definitely pleases and amuses the adults. When I first teamed up with Oren I was unsure about how the stories would go down with babies, as I had no experience other than with my own babies. Initially it was a struggle at times to keep their attention, so I found myself adapting the stories, using much stronger intonation in my voice, and incorporated more repetition and actions, and as if by magic, I had them ! and oh what a joy. The parent truly appreciate the fact that they can go away and repeat these stories and songs to their babies. As for the toddlers and early years children, their parents often tell me how their little ones are repeating the stories, songs and actions through the week.

Much research has been done on the power of both stories*, music** and songs*** on babies and early years. These classes support these theories to me, and along with this, they offer parents of all cultures and races, in a society that can make people feel very isolated, a sense of community and togetherness through the power of story, song and music.

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