If you have not yet had the pleasure to hear Julia Kamanda speak about classroom music, composition, and education, you are missing out on hearing one of the most genuinely passionate voices in the industry. The songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist uses her experience in composition and education to create music activities for preschoolers that teach them how to make music all their own.
Kamanda comes from a musical family. Her father is jazz artist Stanley Jordan, a well-known guitarist and pioneer of the hammer technique. Having learned to play the piano, Jordan experimented with tapping the strings on his guitar to make notes rather than plucking, a technique that would become widely used in both jazz and rock and roll. Her mother, Sandy Jordan worked for Sesame Street for several years and is a music industry consultant whose clients include Casio America and the International Association for Music Education.
Julia grew up in New York City, gaining critical training in music, dance, and art when she was a child. She learned to play the piano at a young age, focusing mainly on classical styles. However, her father encouraged her to explore her own creativity through experimentation with jazz. It was through that experimentation that Kamanda began to see how composition can help even the youngest children feel more connected to the music they are playing. Imagination and creation are a huge part of how she gets her students engaged.
Every student Julia Kamanda works with composes their own music early on in their lessons. Even before they learn music theory, the students are asked to write their own pieces. The reason for this is quite brilliant. Even a young child can hear some of the things that make one piece sound better than another. Once they have identified these factors, it gives the teacher an opportunity to explain why through music theory.
One of the newer developments in educating young music students that Kamanda finds promising is music-themed storybooks. She has published two of her own, incorporating her unique voice and experiences. Siku’s Song teaches students the value of combining both classical and newer styles to the world has never heard before. Haja: The Bird Who Was Afraid to Fly introduces readers to the music that lives in the natural world, teaching students that everything from heartbeats to rainstorms can be part of a song. Both lessons incorporate multicultural influences and use vivid illustrations and a compelling story to welcome young learners to a world of music they may never experience otherwise.