When they hear "Happy Birthday to You," children's eyes light up like candles on a cake. It's the same light you see in class as the "Hello Song" starts, as the instruments come out at play-along time, or when mom pops in a Music Together CD on a long car ride. "Happy Birthday" and Music Together also share a history that unites the field of early childhood education and three generations of musical entrepreneurs.
"Happy Birthday" began as a variation on "Good Morning to All," a song composed by Kentucky kindergarten teachers Patty and Mildred Hill more than 100 years ago. Patty, who became a distinguished professor of early childhood music education at Columbia Teachers College, taught the song and its birthday version to her students, who then spread it around the country. Ken Guilmartin, co-author of the Music Together materials and founder of the Center for Music and Young Children (CMYC), states "My family got involved when my grandfather, John F. Sengstack, an accountant and amateur violinist, bought a small educational music publishing company." When he learned that his new company had published the original song, he informed Patty Hill of the potential royalties from the birthday version. They published and copyrighted the song as "Happy Birthday to You," and set up a foundation for early childhood organizations to receive the sisters' share of the royalties.
Years later, after the company had passed to Ken's uncle, David K. Sengstack, it was the "Happy Birthday" royalties that funded a one-man research and development department named Ken Guilmartin. Ken used the funding to start CMYC and begin work on what eventually became Music Together. "I've always thought it fitting," says Ken, "that Music Together can trace its lineage back through 'Happy Birthday' to two early childhood educators.
Ken began to explore the work of experts in both music education and early childhood. Inspired particularly by Howard Gardner's theoryof multiple intelligences and the music learning theory of Edwin Gordon, Ken founded the Center for Music and Young Children (CMYC) in 1985. The goal: to create a parent-child music and movement experience where children a.) learned through playful, developmentally appropriate activities, and b.) were supported by materials for home use and extensive parent education.
While attending a seminar with Edwin Gordon in 1886, Ken met Lili Levinowitz, one of Gordon's Ph.D. students at Temple University. Her innovative research focused on tonal and rhythm development in young children. Lili is now a professor of music education at Rowan University and the director of research at CMYC. Lili's training on how important it was in teaching music to consider how a child learns rather that how he should be taught, led to the creation of the the Music Together materials and classroom techniques, first offered to the public in the fall of 1987.
Music Together® has since grown to an international program in thousands of communities worldwide. Preschools and childcare centers have also included the Music Together curriculum into their programs. Ken and Lili continue to train early childhood educators and parents worldwide, and Music Together is continuing to contribute to the body of research in the field.