My name is Kylie van Dam and I’m an Australian living in Holland with my Ausie/Dutch husband and our three English born children. We moved here from the UK in 2010 in a now-or-never attempt to make the life we imagined for ourselves every time we visited the Netherlands and which made us homesick every time we returned to the UK. So, we found a job, sold the house over coffee, locked the front door, caught a cab to the airport, chucked the kids into a local school and bam… living the dream. After 20 years of life in both Australia and the UK, I can report with bright eyes and a bushy tail that seizing that opportunity was one of the smartest decisions we’ve ever made.
And that’s why I write music now.
What? How did that happen?
I never intended to bed down in another country and start imposing my own language on the local inhabitants. In fact, one of the driving reasons for shifting was to give our children a second language and ourselves the experience of learning a second language in, lets say, middle age (which I’m assured by some very lovely and generous Dutchies is a difficult thing to do). As any Dutch native speaker can see from some of my films, that project’s still on the boil and certainly not yet fully cooked! However, having English as well as the new experience of learning a second language has given me a sense of where the sticking points between the two languages are and how I can help other people get over them. Mmmm…actually…that’s quite handy.
When the head-teacher of my children’s school asked if I’d like to do some voluntary work teaching 4 to 8 year olds English through music, I panicked, thinking, ‘I’ve never wanted to be a teacher, I’ve never wanted to be a English teacher and I’ve certainly never wanted to be a music teacher’. But, she’s clever that head teacher. She can spot a thing or two.
To clarify, I didn’t come to this career-move entirely from the cold. I do have many years of musical training through a specialist music high-school in Adelaide (where we grew up) as well as half a degree in music at the local conservatorium and in both cases, my instrument was voice. I also have a full degree in English Literature from the University of East Anglia in England. And I have enough experience in amateur drama as well as years of experience with children as a nanny and as a mum to help kids play and tell stories.
So…there we were, getting little kids to sing Moo instead of Boo (Dutch and English cows speak differently on Old Mac Donald’s Farm) when we thought we’d try working with the older kids as well. But working with older children often involves them learning the words to pop songs because musically they’re fun to sing and everyone forgets they’re learning something. I don’t know if you’ve listened properly to the words of many pop songs, but they’re pretty well preoccupied with, what we’ll call here, girl/boy relations. I didn’t fancy further developing their knowledge of that vocabulary, even if we focused primarily on pronunciation and grammar: surely kids learning a new language need vocabulary that will stand them in good stead over a wide range of life’s experiences and not just their teens and early 20’s.
So…I thought I’d try and write something myself.
And again, it turns out I’m quite good at it and enjoy it much more than writing adult fiction (which was my plan before this all fell into my lap).
The reason for the website is so that people, particularly young children and their carers, can access the music, stories, poems and dance tracks that are right for them without having to trawl through my You Tube channel. It also acts as a classroom from which to teach as well as a platform for my adults songs finding their way in the world. Those songs are always my songs and will forever remain my songs, but I’m very very happy to have them go out and live their lives. If money gets made I am indisputably their creator but if you’re using them in education, have a great time and please send me videos of what you do with them. I’d love that!!!
Just to return briefly to the goal of the children’s songs and their use as tools for learning English and music. This body of work is not intended as a formal program for either and won’t teach children the rules of grammar, spelling, music notation, keys or even time signatures. It’s about exposure to the English language and musical consciousness, the vocabulary that hopefully fits their own lives and how it feels on their tongue and in their limbs as they think about pronunciation and rhythm. It’s about the conscious consideration of the differences between what they know and what they’re being taught and primarily, it’s about doing all of that without really knowing they’re doing it.
A note on most of the images used on this site: we’re exceedingly lucky to live in the era of the internet and I must thank Unsplash for allowing people like me to use their excellent quality images for free.
I hope you enjoy what you find here and please contact me if you’d like to use any of my music or have something you really think I aught to know.