A parents' guide to choosing between two popular music programs for children.
Musikgarten Vs. Kindermusik
Musikgarten and Kindermusik both focus on using music to accelerate children’s cognitive development. Given the similarities between the two programs, parents should ultimately focus on the differing levels to which these companies support their teachers, and on the extent to which parents are involved in the program.
Some have said these companies were started by the same people. Regardless, Musikgarten and Kindermusk both offer “competitive prices,” a variety of locations, flexible schedules, and lessons that separate children by age, cite identical sources for their educational philosophies and methodologies, and most of the expert testimonials they offer in support of their own program are general enough to be applicable to the other. One exception to this would Musiknest, which offers expert testimonial specifically naming Kindermusik’s program as beneficial for children; however, it should be noted that Musiknest participates in the Kindermusik program and so cannot be considered neutral.
As an educator and parent, I cannot stress enough the importance the role of the teacher plays in any educational program. Also, the few parents who have sampled both Kindermusik and Musikgarten have stated that the key factor in their final choice was the teacher. Yet both programs employ teachers who may have had no formal training in music or children’s education. Also, neither program requires its teachers to obtain independent certification, but they both boast the quality of their own, in-house certification process. In terms of certification, Musikgarten holds a slight advantage: it “urges” its teachers to seek such independent certification.
How, then, can parents choose which program has the best teachers? Well, you can’t—not by comparing companies. Concerned parents must select teachers on a case-by-case basis; however, there are a few factors which can first be looked at before investing further time in your search.
Many parent comments about either Musikgarten or Kindermusik seem to focus on the involvement and energy of the teacher, and that the number of instruments and variety of activities also depends on the teacher. The enthusiasm of any teacher can be influenced by any number of factors, but in the long run the single biggest influence on teacher enthusiasm will be the support the teacher receives from their parent company. Both Musikgarten and Kindermusik teachers operate independently, utilizing materials provided by the company, but here Musikgarten seems to have the advantage.
A search through message boards by former Kindermusik and Musikgarten teachers reveals that Kindermusik has the more “commercial,” money-hungry reputation of the two. This from a piano teacher: “I did some research on [Kindermusk] … it's not that hot compared to Musikgarten. Musikgarten seems to be more pedagogically sound…. My cousin enrolled her 1-year-old in a Kindermusik program and she thought it stank." And this from a Kindermusik teacher: “I’m kinda put off by the training kit. It seems like a bunch of crap. I mean I knew Kindermusik was sort of a money-hungry company but I still expected something more from them."
The single most important factor any parent should consider before deciding which program to enroll their child is the extent of parental involvement. Unfortunately, here the two programs again seem quite similar. Both recognize the importance of parents in the learning process, and assure us that parents will be involved both inside and outside the classroom. Musikgarten promises “[y]ou will receive CDs, family activity guides and instruments to continue the bonding and fun of music with your child at home," and Kindermusik says, “We like to think of [our] classes as being two classes in one; a class for the child, as well as a class for the parent to learn new activities and ways to bond with their child."
So which do you choose? Well, if I were choosing only by company reputation, I would choose Musikgarten, if only by dint that it has the fewest number of published teacher complaints. But you should not choose by company reputation. Your child’s enjoyment of and benefits from the program will depend on the parent’s involvement and the individual methods of the teacher.
In areas where you can choose between the two companies, choose by teacher. Consult with other parents who’ve participated in such programs in your area. Consult Internet message boards. Contact your local music educators about what your local Musikgarten or Kindermusik offers. If possible, sample the two programs first, keeping in mind your own needs and resources, before making your choice. Remember: the most beneficial thing for your child’s development will be time spent doing enriching activities with their parents, so whether or not you can participate in these activities should be a major consideration.