Barbara Cass-Beggs was born in Nottingham, England in 1904. She studied at the RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music) and taught music to children. In 1939, she moved to Canada and served as the director of the University Settlement Music School in Toronto, taught at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Regina in Canada, and founded the Regina (later Saskatchewan) Junior Concert. She collected and recorded a number of Canadian folk songs. She initiated music courses for teachers of preschoolers at Algonquin College, Ottawa, in 1969, and taught music to children while lecturing to teachers.
Cass-Beggs was awarded the Children’s Service Award by the Association for Early Childhood Education in 1982.
Barbara wrote many wonderful books, including:
Barbara was well ahead of her time in making connections between research, child development, and the importance of programs for children. In addition to writing age-appropriate songs for very young children, teaching music to children, and training teachers, Barbara wrote extensively on music in connection with the skills babies are born with and what they are capable of:
- using the voice as an instrument,
- music as a way to trigger speech,
- promoting positive body image through body awareness,
- creating optimal learning environments,
- expressing emotions,
- dealing with stress and learning how to relax, and
- promoting security through recreating the atmosphere of the womb.
She also wrote about:
- the need for repetition with variety,
- learning through play, including movement,
- music as an equalizer, and
- the importance of lullabies and croons.
For teachers of music, Barbara promoted the importance of being enthusiastic, using nursery rhymes, recognizing different learning styles, using musical instruments, and following a structure. She told leaders not to worry about whether or not they were professional singers; she gave some singing tips but asserted that enthusiasm, motivation, personal warmth, and connection with the children were most important. Barbara also mentioned the value of using music for children with disabilities and for bringing together people from different cultures as a universal language.
Barbara passed away in 1990, before technology enabled in depth studies on baby brain development. Despite this, she knew how to look at research on infants and music and draw conclusions that were startlingly similar to what has been proven recently about the connection between brain development and optimal learning environments, ritual, repetition with variety, connections with caregivers, language development, emotional health, movement, social skills, and relaxation.
Barbara’s work is a gift to all of us. Barbara wrote in language that is easily understood and her words make so much sense! If you would like more information about Barbara and her work, please consider reading her books Your Baby Needs Music and Your Child Needs Music.