By Emma Nolan
Photo courtesy of Chaos Wallpapers.
Babies love nothing more than playing with interactive toys with buttons, knobs, and sounds. Even commonplace devices like cell phones and TV remote controls are captivating for little ones. While such toys are generally made for entertainment purposes, they also largely contribute to the progression a young child’s motor skills and development.
Nathalie Elizabeth Weiss, a DJ, composer, playwright, performing artist, alternative arts educator, has found a unique way to focus on these positive attributes in children’s toys by starting a Baby DJ School in Brooklyn. Though the concept of teaching babies to DJ may seem a little bizarre at first, Weiss has evidence of the positive effects that these lessons can have on a baby’s development.
Weiss has been involved with music and music education for years; she has written and composed four full-length musicals and was the 2011-2012 Composition-Mentorship Fellow with the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Her DJ-ing abilities also led to her sharing bills with LCD Soundsystem, Steve Martin, Meryl Streep, Psychic TV, Butthole Surfers, Das Racist, and more.
While hanging out a friend’s place one day, Weiss noticed how the friend’s child had found the DJ equipment in her bag and was fascinated by it. She showed the child how to use the machinery, the knobs and buttons, and found that the child had a great capacity for playing with the equipment in a productive way.
“I was blown away by how this one-and-a-half-year-old managed to play with it,” she explains. This discovery is what motivated Ms. Weiss to look into music education for babies and young children.
“The music education that’s out there for babies is the equivalent to [the detail of] figure drawings whereas they’re only ready for Picasso and Monet,” says Weiss. In other words, while music education for babies is an extremely valuable in developing many skills, the methods that exist already are over-complicated and not necessarily conducive to the abilities of infants.
Weiss tells BTR that infants as young as three months have the capacity to recall melodies and, in listening to music with a more complex mixture of sounds and instruments, they can develop a sophisticated soundscape and spacial reasoning.
“The complex musical structure of something like Mozart is great for developing a baby’s soundscape,” she explains, “But in DJ-ing, when there are two different songs playing in each ear, it is even more complex.”
Thus, the complex mixture of sounds and melodies when two songs run into each other can effectively engage areas of neurological development in infants.
“The sense of space in orchestral music is even more prevalent in DJ-ing because of the two tracks being played,” Weiss explains, “the babies learn to notice rhythm and it helps with language development and skills also.”
The physiological abilities of babies are also put into practice in the Baby DJ School’s eight-week long program. The equipment’s interactive nature is perfect for honing babies’ motor skills and gross motor skills.
Weiss uses a version of the laptop software Traktor Pro in her classes, which she has programmed in a fashion that is accessible to children. The equipment has a midi trigger, knobs, trackers, and a sampler button that the kids push, grip, and move, thereby enhancing their motor skills and dexterity. “Just like how babies love playing with a cell phone.” Weiss notes.
“Their gross motor skills are also improved during the classes,” she says. “The babies are jumping, clapping and dancing so the gross motor skills are worked on too.”
Other features of Baby DJ School classes include exposure to instructive songs, such as the ever modern yet adorable, USB and Me. The samples the babies get to play over their mixes include “Raise the Roof!”, car horns, and sirens.
Weiss feels that the socialization of a group setting in the classes is also beneficial to the infants’ social development. They get to interact with other babies and make music, sing, and play. Another noteworthy aspect of the classes is “the shared experience between the babies and their parents,” Weiss outlines that “the parents are learning something new too. They’re learning how to DJ with their baby and the babies respond really well to that.”
While the concept of a DJ School for babies seems almost absurd initially, Weiss has many reasons ascertaining why it is not. She certainly knows what she is doing and has provided a new, modern, and relevant form of music education for infants that can contribute to various aspects of both infant development and entertainment. Ms. Weiss also claims that the babies themselves “love it!” And really, how could they not?
Find out more about Baby DJ School and how to enroll your baby by contacting Natalie Elizabeth Weiss.