Monty the Maestro and his Marvellous Magical Orchestra is a series that enables you and your children to get to know the musical instruments of the orchestra in a fun and fantastical way. By reading the colourful picture books with the accompanying audiobooks your children will learn what the musical instruments look like, understand how the instruments work and discover what they sound like individually and all together.
While absorbing this information, children will be entertained by the humorous plots, amused by the narrator’s character voices, stimulated visually by the stunning illustrations and be captivated by the musical soundtrack. All together this creates a thoroughly sensory experience.
For a child wanting to learn a musical instrument it is a very exciting time, but often deciding which musical instrument to play is made for the wrong reasons. Above all else, there should be one main consideration when making this decision and that is whether the child loves the sound of their chosen instrument. This enchanting series is the ideal tool to expose children to the wide variety of wonderful instruments on offer and is an engaging way to help them decide which instrument they really want to play.
Gabrielle Amelia Ridgeon is the creator and director of Monty the Maestro and his Marvellous Magical Orchestra. Gabrielle’s passion for wanting to engage young children in music comes from wonderful memories of her own musical upbringing.
Gabrielle’s introduction to music started by learning the piano at the age of 5. Although the piano remained her favourite instrument, at the age of 9 her school gave Gabrielle the opportunity to start the flute. However, by the time she turned 11, Gabrielle had swapped it for the bassoon and later that year Gabrielle was awarded a place to study at the Royal College of Music Junior Department in London. Here she experienced the orchestra first hand every week, and the rest was history!
At fifteen, Gabrielle had started to write her own music and by eighteen she moved to London to study for a degree in music and was regularly performing at prestigious music venues on piano, bassoon, and voice. Three years later, Gabrielle was awarded a scholarship to study for a masters degree in film music composition at the Royal College of Music.
Gabrielle has gone on to compose concert hall works (including pieces performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra & Southbank Sinfonia), original scores for animations, audiobooks, award-winning documentaries, and films. Gabrielle has worked as an orchestrator and copyist for a number of critically acclaimed composers and musical directors for feature-length films, award-winning musicals as well as the Queen’s Jubilee Concert. Gabrielle is also an arranger and has created a large number of arrangments for orchestral musicians, professional ensembles and music teachers.
Aside from her compositional work, Gabrielle is passionate about music education and engaging children with music. Gabrielle is the creator of Monty the Maestro and his Marvellous Magical Orchestra, where she is director of the company and author and composer of the series. Gabrielle writes the picture books, audiobooks, and online content, as well as running Making Music with Monty classes, workshops and book signings across the country including literary festivals and libraries.
As a music educator, Gabrielle has a wealth of experience teaching piano, composition, and general musicianship to students of all ages and at a variety of levels. This includes teaching in schools, at home as well as running international summer schools, outreach projects and weekend academies for schools and music venues.
Charlotte Gallagher is delighted to be a part of Monty the Maestro and his Magical Marvellous Orchestra. She is currently working with poet Kimberly Campanello on The Con|Eva Project, a work commemorating The Easter Rising (London Irish Centre). Theatre includes: The Judas Kiss (West End); Medea (Riverside Studios); The Tragedie of Cleopatra (UCL). Film and TV includes: Captain Webb (Marathon Films); Love Me Till Monday (Hardy Pictures); Jesus Decoded (National Geographic).
Charlotte’s solo show, Carlotta De Galleon – A Fool For Love, about love and romance novels was part of the 2015 Camden Fringe Festival.
Kate Slater is a freelance illustrator, author and designer-maker. She works in collage, sometimes using this to create suspended, relief illustrations. These 3-dimensional collages often look a bit like tiny, chaotic paper theatre sets which Kate photographs to produce the ﬁnal image.
While Kate mostly illustrates children’s books and magazines she has also produced work for all sorts of clients, including advertising and editorial, and has a growing business creating her own range of stationery, wrapping paper and homeware.
Making Music with Monty classes are the perfect way to introduce your child to music. Captivating and fun, these classes teach children all the musical skills they need before they start to learn a musical instrument.
By introducing music through storytelling and the magical world of Monty the Maestro and his Marvellous Magical Orchestra, children are given the opportunity to explore new musical concepts and will be instantly engaged.
Each week Monty takes the children on a music-making adventure and prepares them with everything they need to know along the way. With the focus of the classes being around musical creativity, children are encouraged to interact, excited to participate, eager to experiment and enjoy exploring their imaginations to the fullest.
Once they reach the end of their classes each child will really be raring and ready to go on to the next chapter of their musical journey!
Classes run after school and are for children aged 4-7. We are located near Andover in Hampshire but easily accessible from Stockbridge, Winchester, and Salisbury. Please register here for more information!
It’s that time of year again and the BBC Proms are back. Sometimes it’s tricky to know with children whether concerts will be appropriate or not, so we have handpicked a selection of proms which we think will be suitable. Take a look at the concerts we have picked!
Prom 19 & 20 will see Naomi Wilkinson from CBBC lead a musical adventure inspired by the BBC’s Ten Pieces project. The Ten Pieces scheme is specifically geared to introduce children to classical music. Many of the pieces within the programme feature stories making the performances more accessible for young listeners to appreciate
Performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers, this programme will include Eric Copland’s ‘Hoe-Down’, the much loved ‘O Fortuna’ from Karl Orff’s Carmina Burana and a selection of variations from Edward Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ Variations. This prom will include a very special guest appearance from the Ten Pieces Children’s Choir.
Prom 18 will see Teodor Currentzis conduct Beethoven’s 2nd and 5th symphonies. A great introduction to the orchestra and a fantastic opportunity to witness periods instruments being performed by MusicAeterna.
Prom 28 will see the NYO perform orchestral favourites, A Night on the Bare Mountain and La Mer, as well as Tamara Stefanovich taking on the infamous left-handed Piano Concerto by Maurice Ravel.
Prom 38 will see John Wilson and his orchestra take on the concert version of West Side Story. Performed by students from ArtsEd and Mountview, this prom promises to be one to get tickets for! Recommended for older children (12+) due to the plot.
Prom 48 will see Sir Simon Rattle conduct Maurice Ravel’s fairy-tale ballet Mother Goose and Shéhérazade.
Every season there is the chance for children to get involved. Proms Family Chorus will see faces of all ages gather together to learn and sing Kerry Andrew’s No Place Like Home from the BBC Ten Pieces project. Suitable for families!
For older children who dream of having a career in music and have questions they want answering, then the Proms Children’s Press Conference is the place to be! This is a wonderful opportunity for children to ask some of the top musicians in this year’s Proms series about the industry.
This blog is an area designed especially for parents and teachers. It’s a place you can visit for more information on the content covered within the Monty series and where we hope you will find the answers to questions you may have regarding your children and their musical education.
In our regular blog updates we will cover a range of topics however if you would like us to cover something specific then please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to include these in our posts.
The early years
Baby music classes are a fantastic way for parents to introduce their children to music right from the beginning. If you can find a good class near you it’s a fun way to introduce singing and movement to your baby, as well as being a great opportunity for new parents to meet each other too!
Classes like these do pull on the purse strings though, so If you’re unable to justify the expense or can’t commit to classes on a long-term basis, attending just a half term of classes will be enough to watch a professional at work and perfect for you to learn the basics of what you could be doing yourself at home. Many first time parents doubt whether they’re doing the right things, so by going to a few classes, you will quickly build your confidence.
Sing, sing, sing
Singing is something that everybody can do with their children at home and even if you think you’re a terrible singer, you should never be embarrassed to give it a go. Your child will respond to your voice because they recognise it, regardless of how good or bad you sound! When they’re little you could start by singing traditional nursery rhymes (with your own made up words if you can’t remember them) and then as they get older you can start singing along to your favourite band, solo artists or their favourite film soundtracks. All are great ways to engage your child with music. Many recordings created especially for children will include fun effects and recognisable sounds, which they will quickly engage with.
If you’re singing and your child looks like they want to join in, encourage them to sing along with you. Encourage your child to copy lines of your chosen song back to you in parrot fashion (call and response) or alternatively, you could encourage them to sing along with you at the same time, in unison. Most children will pick up the melody of a song, first of all, so encourage your child to ‘la’ the song with you, until they’re at the stage where they can grasp the lyrics too. If a song doesn’t already have any actions, then a further way to engage your child with the song would be to create your own movements.
Listening to music
Playing music for your child to listen to is an invaluable way of encouraging their musical interest. There is a vast selection of music out there to listen to and the greater variety of music they are exposed to, the quicker they will find music they really love and identify with.
Playing music can be introduced to children from birth. In the early years, playing soothing music can relax your child or help them get to sleep. Although this technique works for many parents, be warned! Some children can be stimulated by all types of music, so you may find that silence is best for your little one at bedtime.
Music is an expressive art form and benefits the social development of children. As they get older, children will start to explore different feelings and emotions when they listen to music.
As they start to understand more about what they are hearing, you can make listening to music into a game. You can do this by asking your child questions about what they can hear or you can encourage them to make up actions when they hear and identify specific sounds.
When children are babies their instinctive reaction is to respond to music physically. Many will start by moving their arms and legs! As children grow up they will respond by dancing. A great way to develop their musical interest is to actively encourage your child to dance when they hear the music.
That way, your child will automatically associate music with an enjoyable activity and feel comfortable to express themselves and what they are hearing. Associating movement with music early on will help them understand the physical aspects involved if they decide to play a musical instrument later on.
It is common for a child’s physical inhibitions to increase as they advance developmentally (and become more aware of their aptitude), so it useful to get them used to express themselves physically before they start to become too self-conscious. That way it is already ingrained as part of who they are and is second nature to them.
Let them be inspired
Whether or not your child loves music, giving them a taste of what it is all about will definitely kick start their excitement for it. One of the best ways to do this is to go to a live concert. For a child, seeing the spectacle of a symphony orchestra, a rock band or a musical can have an enormous impact on them and it will give them an excellent flavour of how wonderful being involved with music can be.
Your child will see and hear a group of people playing together and feel the effect it can have on an audience! I can still remember the first live performance I went to as a child and it’s one I’ll never forget. I would add that it’s important to pick your concert carefully though – I was taken to see an opera at 4 years old and although I loved every second, it was also totally and utterly terrifying! Concerts can be pretty pricey (especially if you have to factor in the cost of travel as well), however free or subsidised events are often put on throughout the year for families and they sometimes include outreach projects with specialist children’s workshops too.
One of the best aspects of music is that it is sociable. Children will often be misled by seeing their peers performing solo at school events and get the wrong idea. So it is important to let them know that being in a band, an orchestra, a choir or a theatre production is no different to being part of a football team and they will love the sociable doors that making music can open for them. By taking them to see a large scale concert you will be able to demonstrate to them first hand how sociable musical participation can be and it probably won’t be long before they are want to experience it for themselves.
When to encourage?
It is common for parents to encourage their children to start learning music in the early years of primary school and if money allows parents usually begin by suggesting their child starts music lessons on an instrument.
Eight times out of ten, the intention behind this idea is great. It is wonderful that there are still parents out there who recognise learning a musical instrument as a valuable skill and long may this continue, especially when children are now growing up in an instantaneous world surrounded by technology. However, if you are considering music lessons as the next step for your child, be careful to assess that the timing is right for them, else they will get nothing out of it!
If your child is asking you whether they can play the piano, guitar or another musical instrument then the timing is definitely right for them to start. If your child enjoys listening to music, is always singing, or responds to music in other expressive ways then the time is right for them too. If you are the one steering your child towards music but they have different ideas and there is something else that they would rather be pursuing, then definitely give them the opportunity to explore these alternatives first.
If the approach you use to introduce your child to music is too clinical (or forced), then they will be much more likely to view music as ‘another thing they have to learn’ and rebel against the idea. Sometimes introducing music to a child too early can result in them never wanting to try it again.
If you or another member of the family plays a musical instrument, then share it with your child because this could trigger their enthusiasm for it. It is a common trend that when one family member learns a musical instrument, another sibling will want to follow in their footsteps. Children will usually be intrigued after watching someone close to them play an instrument and then might feel inspired by that person to want to give it a go for themselves. Don’t feel nervous or worried about introducing your child to music yourself if you know what’s involved – go for it, you’ll soon know if you’re doing the right thing!
If you find yourself in this fortunate position where everything appears to be going well, don’t be disappointed if your child turns around after a few weeks and decides that they don’t want you to be the one teaching them! This is very normal. Even if you do know what you’re doing, be wary not to push back or you could experience a lot of tension. This is the point when you should seek advice from a music teacher and find someone else (emotionally unattached) to teach them instead. Even teaching your own child the basics when they’re not willing to listen to you, could be enough to put them off learning a musical instrument forever.
The techniques mentioned in this post give you the key stepping stones you will need to encourage your child’s interest in music. By being subtle in your approach and engaging your child with music through play, you’ll definitely find your child will be want to explore music more. And if after reading this you feel that your child is actually ready and raring to go, then what are you waiting for?! You have a very exciting time ahead!
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Lots of research has been carried out into the effects of exposing young children to music; while in the womb, as newborn babies, and into childhood. It has been suggested that some babies have responded immediately to music on the outside world that their parents have played to them while they were in the womb, indicating that sound recognition occurs in babies before birth.
Not only do babies recognise sound but they quickly associate those sounds with how they feel when they hear it. They will usually associate the unique sound of their parent’s voices with comfort, white noise with bedtime or take an instant disliking to a loud sound that they’ve not yet been exposed to and are unfamiliar with. If babies can decipher between particular sounds and make connections to them, then why not introduce children to music from the very beginning?
Many parents encourage their children to have music classes aged 3+, as they’ve heard about the ‘Mozart effect’ study, research which suggests that exposing children to music (and Mozart in particular) can make them smarter. Although there is much to be said for this interesting study, I shall be putting it to one side to focus on the bigger picture in order to show that musical participation can offer children so much more than developing their intelligence.
There is no question that musical training helps develop our motor skills. Research shows that by engaging in music, we can prime our brains to think and work in certain ways. We only have five senses but when we learn a musical instrument or listen to music, up to three of them (sight, sound, and touch) can be used simultaneously.
Learning to play a musical instrument can be approached in a variety of ways. Some will play by reading notation, others prefer to learn by ear, many will use a combination of both methods. It is widely believed that the skills we acquire from learning music are the same skills that help us with problem-solving tasks. Research shows that those with musical training can be more successful at tasks involving spatial awareness and identifying patterns.
Children who learn to play a musical instrument by reading music will be quick to develop the ability to identify patterns visually as they are required to highlight patterns in their notated music and then translate them onto their instruments.
Learning a musical instrument by ear hugely improves cognitive and behavioural development. By learning to identify musical patterns by ear, a child’s aptitude for listening will increase and so will their perception and awareness of their surroundings. When a child listens to music astutely it will encourage their attentiveness and consequently develop their communication and social skills as a result.
When engaged in musical activities, children will also use touch and become increasingly aware of their own physical capabilities. In the earlier stages before learning a musical instrument, the basics of shaking a rattle or hitting a drum allow children to get to grips with coordinating and the concept of control. When they hit a drum with force it makes a loud sound but when they strike it gently it’s quiet. When children discover that they can decide what the drum can do, many children will enjoy the newfound control that they have, instigating creativity and encouraging them to experiment.
Allowing children to be expressive and explore without there being right or wrong is very beneficial to their development, however, music can also be a creative way to address discipline. Is your child hurting their (or your) ears by hitting the drum too loudly? Music provides families with the opportunity to experiment with the subject of crossing boundaries in an interactive way, testing a child’s listening skills while at the same time encouraging play and experimentation.
Some children might not be as outgoing or keen to experiment as others, so may require gentle encouragement to be exploratory. As they get older it is natural for children to develop inhibitions because they will become more conscious of getting things wrong. Musical activities are an excellent way to encourage children to question right from wrong and experiment creatively within a safe environment. The earlier a child is introduced to these ideas, the less they will be afraid of making mistakes in adulthood.
There are so many different reasons why exposing children to music can enrich their development and it’s never too late for it to become a part of their lives. It is undeniable that music helps to develop children’s motor, cognitive and behavioural skills and creates new pathways in their brains as they learn. It engages their senses and provides them with an open invitation to experiment with their creativity, explore new ideas, express themselves and socially interact with others. Music has the capability to provide children with a safe haven for self-discovery but most importantly helps children discover more about themselves. We can choose to expose them to music at any time, so why wait to find out whether it’s something they love when you can start now?