Music Play Program

A Cooperative Community Education Program

The University of Buffalo and Villa Maria College teams together annually to present Music Play, a cooperative community education program that benefits infants and toddlers. To learn more about the benefits of music education for your child, please download our brochure. For more information, call Connie at 716-961-1815.

Download the Music Play Information Sheet


Your Infant or Toddler and Music

Musical sounds surround a child, even before the moment of birth. Whether a child is listening to music, singing a song, or moving creatively to the sounds around them, music is a vital part of a child’s life. Young children often create music as a part of their play experiences, thus sustaining imagination and creativity. Furthermore, music enables children to express feelings and release energies and emotions in new and novel ways.

Early childhood is an opportune time to reinforce children’s natural music abilities. Although music is not a language, music is learned in much the same way that a language is learned. Children need to hear and experiment with extensive amounts of language before they actually learn to speak, read and write. Imagine placing a child in a school setting where they were asked to read before they had been exposed to a wide vocabulary and developed a speaking vocabulary of their own. In the same way, children need to hear a wide variety of music and experiment with it before they can sing accurately, chant rhythms with precision, and eventually read and write music.

What to Expect in MusicPlay Classes

Music Play provides a rich music environment for children. Classes expose children to a wide repertoire of songs and chants. Many of the songs are performed without words, which helps children focus on the musical content. Teachers model simple, creative movements and encourage children to move in a sustained, continuous, and relaxed way. Props such as scarves, balls, egg shakers, and hoops are utilized to help children engage with the music and movement.

Class activities are orchestrated to create a playful environment where music becomes the toy. Children are encouraged to interact with the music in whatever way they feel most comfortable. Correct responses are not required from the children. Instead, each child’s uniqueness is valued. Any vocal or physical response the child makes becomes part of the activity and a springboard for creating a music dialogue. Facilitating music interaction and building upon children’s natural responses are key components of a Music Play class.

Depending on their own individual stage of development and temperament, some children will be active participants, while others will prefer to watch and absorb. Although a child may appear to be simply playing with or staring at the teachers—important music learning is taking place. Children are actively listening to a wide variety of music that provides the foundation for later music responses. Eventually, children begin to give random responses to the music, including their own “dances” and vocal babble. Gradually the movement responses become rhythmically accurate and the vocal explorations begin to sound more like music. As this occurs, children’s music vocabulary grows in leaps and bounds and they attain the music readiness for audiation – the ability to comprehend music.

The Role of Parent or Caregiver

A parent or caregiver is required to attend and participate with each child. The primary purpose of the caregiver is to help maintain a safe environment. In addition, parents/caregivers will learn a new repertoire of songs and become familiar with how to nurture their child’s music behaviors at home.

Parents/caregivers need not be musicians to enjoy what happens in class or to be of musical value to their child. MusicPlay can be a learning experience for the whole family; the most valuable gift you can give your child is to model singing and movement, as you feel comfortable. Children should never be forced to participate or do a specific movement, but should be gently guided to interact with the music in their own unique style. Please keep talking to a minimum so that children can focus on the language of music.

Audio or video-taping of classes is encouraged and can help reinforce music learning outside of class.

About the Curriculum

Music Play activities and materials are based on the research of Edwin E. Gordon, internationally renowned music psychologist—and former UB music education professor. In his book, A Music Learning Theory for Newborn and Young Children, Dr. Gordon looks at the critical importance of preschool music education in a scholarly way and describes how to guide young children in music learning. His work has been portrayed on the NBC Today Show, in the New York Times, in USA Today, and in a variety of European and Asian publications. The Music Play name is used by permission of G.I.A. Publications, Inc.

About the Teachers

Maria Runfola is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education at UB. She received her education at Nazareth College of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, and the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she completed doctoral studies with Edwin E. Gordon in 1976. She has authored numerous teaching materials and articles and has served as consultant in the design of school music curricula throughout the country. In addition, she has served as a consultant for the music toys designed by the Fisher Price Toy Company, and is on the Executive Board of the Gordon Institute for Music Learning.

Beth Etopio, a former public school music teacher, holds a doctorate in Early Childhood Education from the University at Buffalo and was recognized by the University Graduate School with an excellence in teaching award. Dr. Etopio is a frequent presenter at regional and national conferences on young children’s music and creative movement responses. Her research interests include the professional development of early childhood teachers, the music learning of young children, and the relationship between children’s music learning and social, emotional, and cognitive development. She has 10 years of experience teaching MusicPlay classes for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, and holds certification in Early Childhood Music Levels 1 & 2 from the Gordon Institute for Music Learning.

MusicPlay Website:

Villa Maria College
Center for Life Long Learning and Workforce Development
240 Pine Ridge Road
Buffalo, NY 14225
716-896-0705 Fax
[email protected]

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