Ever since I joined the staff at the 14th Street Y, I’ve heard from parents and staff alike about this magical person named Mik. She’s been a music teacher here longer than anyone can remember. I popped into one of her classes to see for myself what everyone was talking about. I was taken back by the enthusiasm and pure joy that Mik exudes during her musical classes with children ages 5 and under. I, along with everyone in the room, felt the magic.
I had a chance to sit down with Mik and learn more about who she is and her work teaching music and movement to children at the 14th Street Y.
Lauren: How did you find yourself doing this work with children? What brought you to the 14th Street Y?
Mik: Growing up I played the accordion for 10 years. At 13 years old, I won 2nd place in a national accordion competition playing a movement from Mosart’s Symphony #40 in G minor. I got involved with singing, dancing, acting and writing. I acted in Peter Pan at a community theatre when I was 10. I went to school for acting and was a founding member of 2 theatre companies.
I traveled the world studying and performing. When I returned, I started swimming at the 14Y, which was called the Emmanuel Midtown Y at the time. I was standing at the window of what is now called Aerobics A+B, transfixed by an incredible, luminous woman who was teaching creative movement with a live piano accompanist to a group of toddlers with their parents.
Suddenly the woman opened the door, grabbed onto me and said, “Come inside, I can use your help.” Her name was Osceola Bragg. After that, I very quickly started teaching the class and assisting a music teacher named Irmgaard Carlé, who immediately retired leaving me her instruments and her classes to teach.
Soon I was starting programs at music schools and preschools around town. The Emmanuel Y closed, reopened as the Sol Goldman Y and then again as the 14th Street Y. I continued to teach and perform. When it became the 14th Street Y, I received a message from Kiki Schaeffer, the new Director of the Parenting Program [at the time]. She had heard about me and my teaching from parents in the neighborhood, and invited me to return to the 14th Street Y. Since then, I’ve been teaching both for the Parenting Program and the 14th Street Y’s Preschool.
There have been two other moments that weren’t specific to working with children that were quite significant for me in my time at the 14th Street Y. I co-lead a Lullaby Workshop with my husband to teach new parents how to sing to their babies rather than using a CD. I also acted in 4 roles in the first production of Hannah and the Moonlit Dress, directed by our very own Ronit Muszkatblit’s, Senior Director of Arts + Culture + LABA. It was very interactive with the children in the audience. Both were very special experiences for me.
Lauren: Why is it important that children experience this type of learning?
Mik: The impulse to make music comes from the heart beat and from the movement of the body. The approach that I put together from training in Kodaly, Dalcroze and Orff (three of the most time-tested methods for teaching music to children, all of which originated in Europe around the same time), Kindermusik Music Together, creative arts therapies, and Yoga Kids keeps movement front and center in tapping the innate musical capacity of young children.
My training as an actor/mime has helped in using the instrument of my body and facial expression to capture the imagination of my students, and to encourage them to risk being seen and heard. The use of body percussion and simple instruments, full-bodied movement, speech rhythms and singing, as well as projecting oneself into a character or imaginary situation are essential in capturing the entire creative mind of the child.
Lauren: Do you recall a moment of children blossoming while attending class?
Mik: A good example of the kind of blossoming that occurs in my class is a child I’ll call Charise. Charise was so afraid that she refused to even come into the room at all. The mother asked if it would be OK for her to just sit in the doorway and watch. For 9 months Charise did exactly that and the last 2 classes, completely unprompted, she walked into the room and participated in every activity, even leading some of them with complete confidence, joy, and abandon.
Lauren: What do you love most about the work you do?
Mik: First of all, I love being with the children, [ages] one through five. No matter what’s going on in my personal life, or however heavy my heart might feel on an particular day, as soon as I see the eyes of those beings, I’m transformed and ready to give my best. I love how teaching children of these ages allows me to put all my training and life experience to use.
In addition to the studying and working in theater, dance, music, and yoga, I have an education in psychology, theology, and ethics that also plays an important part in my work. As I am aging, I find the child inside of me to be as alive as ever, especially when I interact with children.
Experience the magic for yourself this spring!
MAGICAL MOVEMENT WITH MIK
Teacher, performer, and music therapist Mik Manenti is a beloved and familiar face with our preschool students. She also teaches our youngest learners twice a week in our mini-semester classes! Children dance, sing, play instruments and create musical magic together! Together with Mik and her live accompanist, students and their grown-ups with use theatrical puppets and props to captivate you and your child. Use the links below to register your child today for our Spring session.*
*Updated as of February 25, 2020REGISTER HERE
Learn more about children’s programming happening this summer at the 14th Street Y including Toddler Camp, classes in our Parenting Center, aquatics programs, and free children’s events happening around Downtown Manhattan.
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