"ms. Joan" Walters
director, childs play
The Director of ChildsPlay, Joan studied voice and piano at the University of Northern Iowa before deciding to enter the unrelated field of nursing. Working as a pediatric nurse, she was insprired by the effect music had on her patients and switched to a career in Early Childhood Music in 2000. Joan keeps busy with her family of beloved humans and pets. 😀
An Interview with Ms. Joan
How did you first get into music? I spent the majority of my childhood annoying my family with constant singing; my sister and I would make up ridiculous songs and laugh hysterically over them. I felt like I won the lottery when I started taking piano lessons in 1st grade, which led to studying piano and vocal performance through college.
When did you realize you loved teaching? During college, I started wondering if I really wanted the performance life. I switched gears completely and worked as a pediatric nurse for over 10 years before I let my interest in Music Therapy draw me back to the world of music. I so loved working with little kids and their parents, and teaching Early Childhood Music was all the joy of music without the obsessive, competitive nature of performance life. I find it particularly fascinating to watch a child work through the details of a song; every kiddo has a different way of taking it in, and I find a lot of joy in that process.
How would you describe your approach to Early Childhood music? You know, music is this incredible thing that helps kids connect with everything around them. When a child sings a song over and over again, they start to work through the mechanics of the song or chant in a such an intuitive and meaningful way. My approach is to be sure that the classroom environment is as educational as possible, and then we happily allow kids the space and freedom to participate in any way they want. Not all children want to dance, and not all children want to sing. Observation is underrated, in my opinion, and many children simply want to sit and watch every detail. We love the spectrum of participation, our goal is for these kids to love music, not to perform for us. :)
What makes a music class successful? There are two things that make our classes really special. The first is that this program offers an amazing buffet in terms of musical exposure; kids are singing and playing to music in different meters and tonalities, but to them it's just fun. There is no right or wrong way to organize input; the sound and movement are theirs to interpret. The second thing that makes this program so amazing: the environment! Children are learning through play with the people they love best. Kids get to watch their favorite people model the fun and get past “mistakes,” laughing while they do it. Can you imagine being a two-year-old in that kind of class?! The experience becomes exponentially more meaningful when a child shares memories like this with their beloved grown up.
What kind of kids are the best learners? Actually, authentic learners are the best learners. Children that are learning naturally in the class don’t care about impressing anyone; while our culture is obsessed with performance and active/obvious participation, children sometimes do exactly the opposite of what’s expected and still are totally engaged learners. I’m always rooting for the “dark horse” learner! It’s amazing what the “extra quiet one” or “the one that never stops” or even the “very loud one” is soaking up. Some are sitters, some are movers, but all are exposed to fantastic music, laying a strong foundation and building a passionate love for rhythm and sound.
What would you say to the mama that is nervous that their child’s behavior won’t “fit in”? Oh my goodness! There is no such thing because there is no wrong way for a child to learn. In fact, not only is it ok for each child to be different and learn in their own way, it’s actually preferred! We try very hard not to have the kids run in class, as we don't want anyone to get hurt, but that is pretty much our only rule. We ask the parents to jump in and be as musical as possible, but the kids are free to experience the class however they want. It's honestly the most fun class you can imagine!