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While at first glance, one may think the fuzzy, colorful, round, little creatures on the pages of Darien native Marin Marka’s new book are monsters. Upon closer inspection, however, one will discover that they’re actually music notes.
“Here Come the High Notes” is a 32-page illustrated book intended to teach people how to read music. It’s the first book in a music literacy curriculum that Marka is writing, called FableNotes.
The book contains 13 characters and rhyming text, and tells the story of how 12 “note” creatures choose their spots around notes on lines.
There are multiple items for purchase: an e-book, hardcover book, workbook, and audio book.
To help fund the costs associated with the items, Marka has launched a Kickstarter campaign, which is live until April 29. To date, over $4,000 has been pledged through the campaign, with nearly 100 supporters.
“I designed it to make reading music fun, memorable, and more accessible for kids with different learning styles, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, or ability level,” said Marka, 25, a pediatric occupational therapist and piano teacher. She has a bachelor’s degree in child study and human development from Tufts University in Massachusetts and a master’s degree in therapy from Boston University.
“The books naturally introduces music concepts and vocabulary, bit by bit,” said Marka, a New Hampshire resident. “It makes learning to read music as easy as reading a story.”
When using FableNotes, Marka said readers develop in their mind a picture of the note — story, personality, color, location, and relationships between notes — “which makes more and more brain connections for that note,” Marka said. “More brain connections means that it’s stronger in your memory. When you understand the ‘why’ and can picture it, it’s much easier to pull it from your memory.”
For example, if “Mr. E” is feeling very flat, what would that sound like? Marka asked. “We need to give Mr. E the medicine, which would make it in a major key again,” she added.
According to Marka, FableNotes' rhyming text sticks in learners’ memories, and then they can repeat it in their head when trying to recall a note. The notes are introduced one by one and information is “chunked into bite-size bits so that each new note is easy to remember,” she said.
The notes are color-coded, “because not only is using color a proven way to help your brain keep new learning organized, it also engages young learners,” Marka said.
Music vocabulary, such as clef, staff, skip and step, is introduced in context, “so that students can pick up the new words the same way a baby absorbs language. These new words then provide a jumping off point for discussion and exploration,” she said. “Hearing these words repeated throughout creates a familiarity and comfort with the language of music.”
Reason for book
Marka said she created FableNotes to “prevent common music reading difficulties and promote a lifelong love of music.”
According to Marka, most music education resources “have fallen behind.”
“Right now, music books are stuck on the music stand. There’s no reinforcing of concepts in any other way,” Marka said. “But if you think about how we teach other concepts, you see how music is really lagging. Could you imagine teaching kids to read by only ever showing them black Times, New Roman, size 12 font? That’s unheard of.”
According to Marka, many children need more ways to learn than one standard, traditional way. “Not everyone is able to understand note reading just with the little black dots on the page,” she said. “The more methods that you have of remembering something, the better. This relates to the way that something looks, as well as its personality, and how it interacts with the notes around it.”
Marka uses the music characters in her book with her students. “I work in a school district and my job is to figure out how to make education more accessible for kids with disabilities. So, I use that same principle to remove barriers for music participation,” she said. “We would talk about, ‘What if Mr. E is feeling very flat. What would that sound like? We need to give Mr. E the medicine. Which would make it in a major key again?’”
Music reading difficulties are one of the main reasons that children stop playing their instruments, according to Marka.
“It’s not the creation of music that bores them, it’s stumbling through reading all the notes on the page,” she said. “FableNotes is making it so that kids can learn to read music quickly, so they can start playing more interesting repertoire that really speaks to them.”
She said there are “so many” alphabet books on the market with “fun, personified characters and different stories for kids to remember the shapes and order of the letters,” Marka said. “That’s what music needed, so I made it.”
Marka has created the book in her late father’s memory.
Her father, Harry Amyotte, who worked in banking and was also a professional photographer, died suddenly from an undiagnosed genetic heart condition in August 2018. He was 55.
“He was always so supportive of my creative endeavors,” she said. “After I came up with the idea for FableNotes, we would spend hours on the phone brainstorming.”
She said that everything about FableNotes has been more difficult without him, “but I try to ask myself, ‘How would dad solve this?,’ and that’s really been guiding me,” Marka said. “He taught me so much. He gave me the skills to go it alone. I had to continue it in his memory. I know that’s what he would have wanted. It’s a great honor for me to be able to carry out his legacy in this way.”
Marka plans on donating e-book copies to 50 schools in need of music resources. She also plans to visit schools across the U.S. to speak on how non-musicians can help give kids access to music.
The next book in the series will be “Look Out for Low Notes.”
“Kids have this great ability to learn and memorize,” Marka said. “All I had to do was to figure out how to harness that so they can apply it to their reading.”
For more information, visit FableNotes.com. To participate in the Kickstarter campaign, click here.