Coming Fall 2023
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is Smart Start?
Smart Start is a program that uses music, supported by other art forms, to teach the
cognitive skills of attention, memory, perception, and cognitive flexibility to young
What are cognitive skills?
Cognitive skills are the basic mental abilities that support us in our everyday activities.
Skills such as attention, memory, perception, and cognitive flexibility are crucial both to
daily tasks and special projects, and help us in activities as varied as reading,
mathematics, planning, games, and socialization.
Why teach cognitive skills? don't children just pick those up?
Research shows that cognitive skills can be developed from a very early age, and that
music is one of the very best ways to help develop these skills. Children who learn
these skills do better in every sphere of their lives, and research shows that starting
early is associated with better cognitive skills.
How does it work?
Cognitive skills are a natural part of music education. For example, in a class, a child
might be remembering a new song, paying attention to the teacher, and switching
between patting the beat and clapping the rhythm. This kind of activity is good practice
for cognitive skills as well as musical skills and is just one of the many ways that our
teachers help to develop these skills.
What makes Smart Start special?
The Smart Start curriculum builds on the RCM's sixty years of fine music pedagogy in
early childhood. Now, under the Marilyn Thomson Centre, The RCM has brought
together leading subject specialists from across Canada to develop a unique and
exciting early childhood program. Together with The RCM's Director of Research,
neuroscientist Dr. Sean Hutchins, our early childhood music specialists are allowing a
current understanding of cognitive skills to evolve our teaching of music.
Modern educational practices help us understand that children learn in many different
ways, and it is important to differentiate the way that we teach to serve the learning
needs of the child. Supporting music with the arts (drama, dance and visual art)
creates a full-bodied learning experience, including physical, visual and interpersonal
How do other art forms contribute to my child's musical and cognitive growth? Art
forms such as Visual Arts, Drama, Dance enhance your child's musical growth, and
help to exercise a broader range of cognitive skills than music can on its own. Smart
Start teachers incorporate these other art forms from time to time in order to enhance
the learning of musical concepts.
Will my child learn to play an instrument in his/her Smart Start class?
Children in Smart Start develop fine motor control, rhythm, creativity and sophisticated
musical understandings through their exploration of a wide variety of percussion and
Orff instruments. This learning is wonderful preparation for lessons on a specific
instrument later on. Some children will also add an RCM instrumental program,
through the Music Enrichment Program, to their Smart Start program. Please discuss
with your RCM Smart Start Teacher or Student Services Representative which program
is right for your child.
Will my child learn to read music in his/her Smart Start class?
Smart Start classes provide age-appropriate instruction in music reading through
games and play-based learning activities. The Smart Start curriculum is designed to
align with and feed into the RCM Celebrate Theory Program, which begins at age 7.
Cognitive Skills! This all sounds pretty serious! Will my child have fun?
Smart Start teachers understand that young children learn best when they are
engaged in playful activity. They are highly skilled in using a great variety of teaching
strategies, including stories, play and games. And don't forget, children naturally enjoy
both mental and physical activity. From memory games to creative play, cognitive skill
development, especially though music, can be more fun than work.
How does research factor into Smart Start?
Research plays an important role in the development, evaluation, and continuation of
Smart Start classes. Our curriculum is based on recent psychological and
neuroscientific research on the role of music education in cognitive development. Our
teachers receive training in this research, and we continue to refine our curriculum and
practices based on it. In addition, in order to keep refining and developing our practices,
we conduct original research on the outcomes of our Smart Start classes. This
voluntary research is maintained through community support and is vital to our
continued improvement as an educational institution.