The Washington Market School is so fortunate to have Evan Garfield as our music teacher. In Evan’s role as the music studio teacher here at WMS, his music therapy background guides him to always consider the children’s social-emotional development as they explore singing, movement, and a variety of instruments together.
In 2012, Evan earned his Master’s degree in music therapy from NYU and spent the next several years working as a Board-Certified Music Therapist/Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, primarily with preschool-aged children with developmental delays and disabilities. Music therapy focuses on utilizing music to address non-musical goals - in his work, this often meant using musical interventions to support emotional regulation skills, language development, social skills, and more.
Evan has developed a curriculum for his music classes that enables our young learners to build fundamental musical skills, an appreciation for diverse musical styles/artists from around the world, and grow more excited and confident around their music making - all the while offering opportunities to explore and express their inner worlds.
Music can be a very powerful tool in helping to build self-regulation and coping skills. To paraphrase child psychologist, Dr. Becky Kennedy; children are born with all of the feelings, yet none of the skills to cope with them. As language is still developing in early childhood, musical experiences can help children to more easily process and explore their emotional worlds. In music class, this might involve the children sharing specific feelings to insert into one of their ‘feelings songs’, or it might look like using instruments to express emotion nonverbally - these opportunities help to validate the children’s self-expression and build familiarity around their emotions, ultimately making them easier to navigate as they arise in the future.
One of Evan’s favorite songs to use in class is an adaptation of a Sesame Street & Dave Matthews collaboration called, “I Need a Word”. The verses lyrics vary a bit depending on what the children are feeling in the moment, but the song typically includes a verse about sadness that sings;
When I am crying and I need a hug
I might be feeling so sad
I might need a friend or a moment alone
It’s not bad, it’s just sad
The chorus then repeats:
I need a word to say how I’m feeling today
I need a word to say how I feel
Dr. Becky also reminds us that “we can’t cope with feelings that we don’t allow ourselves to have”. The song above grants the children permission to simply feel what they’re already feeling, and reminds them that there are no “good” or “bad” feelings. It’s striking how effectively songs about feelings captivate the attention of the children. There is something very powerful in hearing our own experiences reflected back to us in a song, reminding us we’re not alone.