Kari Thomas Kovick lives in the one-stoplight town of Floyd, Virginia. She moved there in 1999 with her husband and 2 daughters to follow her bliss: to share her favorite children’s music in a community setting where she could grow up alongside kids and their parents. She created Heart of the Child Music Education, a joyful, interactive music program, and has watched it grow organically and persistently over the past 18 years.

Heart of the Child Music Education began by serving one classroom of Floyd Head Start preschoolers. It now serves 33 classrooms (over 750 children) in year 2017, in public and private school settings all over Floyd. Its mission is to not only deliver high quality music education, but also to offer consistent, positive connection for its students’ social and emotional lives as long as they live in Floyd. It uses research based trainings in Music Together®, Education Through Music and Orff Schulwerk to inform its music programming. Studies in attachment theory, positive discipline, and mindfulness help serve its students’ inner lives in the most positive way. Kari draws her song selection from her friends in the Children’s Music Network, songs which honor, celebrate and educate children on prosocial and pro-environmental ideals. Heart of the Child Music Education has many fans in the thousands of students, parents, teachers and administrators it has served, and Kari enjoys Rock-Star status when she runs into her 5 and under students in the local grocery store.


More details on Kari and her background as a teaching artist...

Kari Thomas Kovick is the Creator, Director and Master Teacher of Heart of the Child Music Education, LLC. She graduated from Duke University in 1986. Her extensive vocal training and studies in neurobiology there laid the foundation for her current work in social and emotional learning through music. Her program is based on music education training she received from Orff Pedagogy, Music Together®, and Education Through Music® classes. She is an active member in the Children’s Music Network (CMN), a nonprofit association made of performers, songwriters, and music educators across the United States and Canada. She gets many of her songs from these peers, who together celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas and creating community.
Kari has been teaching Heart of the Child Music Education program since 2001 in Head Start, Virginia Preschool Initiative, special needs preschools and public and private school classrooms in Floyd and Roanoke. She also works as a consultant, teaching parents and foster care providers how they can use music as a tool for positive attachment and emotional regulation. Before moving to Floyd in 1999 with her family, Kari studied and taught Orff music classes in Durham, NC. Orff music pedagogy shared her ideal of teaching music in a way that is natural to children. She wanted children to feel and express music before intellectualizing it, worrying about written notation and getting it “right”. Music and children, she knew, were things she enjoyed intrinsically, so she hoped to find a way to introduce them to each other in a joyful way. She also wanted music to bring people together to experience a sense of safe, supportive community.

Shortly after moving to Floyd, she connected with a local non-profit, The June Bug Center, which contracted her to teach Floyd’s single (at that time) Head Start class, plus a community music class for babies through preschoolers. Her first classes were very successful, and laid the foundation for her program’s further development. Wanting to strengthen the structure of her classes, she traveled to Princeton, NJ in 2001 to take her training in Music Together®, a nationally respected early childhood music program. There she learned a model for teaching these youngest students in research-based, developmentally appropriate way. She followed their model closely for the next several years, but found that she liked songs from other sources even more, particularly from the Children’s Music Network (CMN).

CMN members like Pete Seeger, Sarah Pirtle and Bob Blue were important leaders who used children’s music for social change. Kari fell in love with their songs and their way of using music to create a better society by supporting the emotional lives of children. She began attending regional and national gatherings, and integrating her favorite CMN songs into her classes. In 2002, she recorded her own version of these songs with a homemade digital recorder and a guitar, and gave the collection to the families of the children she taught. The children and parents loved the homemade CD, and the fusion was made in Kari’s work of high quality teaching and high quality children’s music that has important empowering messages for its singers.

In 2007, Kari found grant funding to bring Heart of the Child Music Education to two more preschool populations housed at Floyd Elementary School, its Therapeutic (“special needs”) Preschool and it Virginia Preschool Initiative classrooms.

In 2008, a local Floyd educator and counselor, introduced Kari to Linda Lantieri, a leader in the field of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Lantieri’s work with New York City “Ground Zero” school students who had been directly affected by the events of September 11th, 2001 had started a movement to bring emotional intelligence into mainstream education. Through Lantieri’s work, and her organization CASEL, (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), Kari found an entire field of educators and researchers who validated everything she was already doing with her Heart of the Child Music Education program to help Floyd children develop secure, happy and successful lives. At the invitation of her counseling friend, Kari began augmenting her music program with specialized lessons plans in SEL for students they taught together in a public school project in Roanoke, VA.

The curriculum she created, How Smart is My Heart! Social and Emotional Learning Through Music, has since been brought to Floyd public elementary schools to students in Kindergarten through 3rd grades. It is designed to help children calm their bodies, regulate their emotions, and build safe relationships with each other by practicing compassion and emotional intelligence through songs and musical activities.

Over the past nine years, Kari’s work in the public schools has helped her develop both the lesson plans and assessment tools she uses to evaluate the musical, social and emotional development of the children she works with. Kari’s first recordings for her program have included her family, her students, and members of the band Windfall, a four piece Americana Roots group she and her husband Michael Kovick shared with friends Dave Fason and Rusty May from 2006 to 2014. www.windfallweb.com Recording and performing are two of Kari’s favorite activities. Taking her favorite SEL songs to Canadian producer Ken Whiteley helped realize her ultimate dream for her work. Whiteley has produced many notable artists, including the icon of children’s music, Raffi. Most importantly to Kari, she has always loved the combination of excellent musicianship and real human connection that is the hallmark of Ken’s work. Under his direction, It’s You I Like was manifested with exactly the spirit that Kari hoped possible. No matter how many times she listens to it (and considering it took a year to create it, that’s been A LOT!) Kari still loves everything about it. She hopes it will reach many many children all over the world.

In the future, Kari plans to create a video training program of her work that will help other teachers and musicians use music and social and emotional learning tools for more children’s benefit worldwide. How to reach the largest number of children without having to leave her one stoplight town for too long? That will be the question.

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