Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Story Time Music: Going it Alone

Today's post is the second in a series about my experiences using music at story time. Last week, I reflected on the ways I have used recorded music, and on the pros and cons of this approach. This week, I'm talking about the advantages of singing a cappella.

Deciding not to depend on any recorded music for my story time sessions was intimidating at first. There is a huge difference between singing along with a CD and leading a whole group in song with nothing but your own voice. Still, once I found the courage to try it just once, the experience was completely liberating. Suddenly, I had all these great opportunities at my fingertips:
  • I could use any song, provided I had memorized the tune and could either remember or read the words from a cheatsheet.
  • I could use piggyback songs, or write my own verses for songs I liked, for which I thought the lyrics were weak.
  • I could control the pace of my singing depending on the age of the kids, and add or delete verses depending on the reaction of the crowd.
  • I could transition easily into a song without worrying about whether the equipment would cooperate.
  • I could do story time at a moment's notice, in any space, with any set-up and never have to worry about whether there would be a CD player. (This was especially useful when I began doing more outreach.)
  • I was able to model singing for parents and caregivers who might be shy about singing with their kids, and every adult in attendance was able to take the songs home with them without having to check anything out or wait their turn for the CD to come back.
My story time audiences never complained about the lack of recordings. Some of them even paid me compliments for my singing voice, which I did not expect, but which gave me the confidence to keep going. I made sure to continue singing favorites like The Wheels on the Bus and Chickadee, even though I didn't use the CDs anymore, and I also introduced lots of new favorites as time went on. I felt much more like myself when I was doing story time in this way, and I never really missed the CDs like I thought I would. (In fact, on the few occasions I tried to bring back some of my audience's favorite recordings, they were not well-received at all!)

Finding the guts to sing without accompaniment in front of a large group also gave me confidence to take on a new challenge: playing the ukulele. The next post in this series will talk about incorporating live music into story time.
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