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Mr. Everybody's Musical Apartment Series Review by Cecilia Young

Myles Music
10313 S. Lockwood Ave
Oak Lawn, Illinois 60453

I am a tone-deaf mom with zero musical knowledge except that I love music and musicals and wish I were musically gifted. So imagine my surprise when my six-year-old daughter came to me one day with the keyboard, asking me to teach her to play music. Now, when I said I know nothing, that was not entirely true. I can play Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with the best Kindergarteners out there! Honestly, though, I know nothing of notes, timing, or even musical vocabulary, then I was given the opportunity to try Mr. Everybody's Musical Apartment Series (for keyboards and xylophones).

Mr. Everybody's Musical Apartment Series can be purchased as individual lessons or as a complete set. The whole set has everything you will need to teach young students basic music notation as well as learning to play the music. The main set for keyboards and xylophones includes storybooks one through three, teacher's manuals one through three, and CDs for each of the three books. Each of these books includes character and note letter stickers that can be placed on the piano or xylophone for a visual aid, and the CDs are like teaching guides that read the story for the children and allow them to follow along.

The set also includes large treble clef quiz cards (size 8 ½" x 11") for teacher use and small treble clef quiz cards specifically for students to quiz themselves or each other. I also received a reward chart with stickers to reward students for their progress. And all of these are given with permission to reproduce for your students for around $100; all you need to get started after purchasing this set is a keyboard or xylophone and a willing student (or more than one). Finally, it should be noted that many videos on YouTube can be referenced during the lessons, and the company encourages the use of these videos as well. While the author did not give a specific YouTube page, the books explain that these videos can be found by searching the product name in the search bar.

This curriculum is specifically designed with children in grades first through third but can be beneficial for about any age, and I am proof of that as I have been taking time to learn beside my first grader. You can do this with or without the cd, but I think my kiddo preferred listening to the voice on the cd rather than me. The CD is a read-along; It tells the story of Mr. Everybody and the people who live in his five-story apartment building. The neighbors include the four ghosts living in the in-between spaces and a cat and dog living in the basement. The CD student will then play to learn better the note and where it is on both the keyboard and the treble clef staff. Every time a new "character" (note) is introduced, there are three songs to practice until the student is comfortable and has mastered where the new note is on the staff as well as the keyboard and can read and play the note together. The system is a mnemonic device, so you have Mr. Everybody is "E," Dizzy Dog is "D," Crazy Cat is "C," and so on, which makes it even more fun to learn and easy to memorize. The letters in the character names correlate to the notes, and in order spell out Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge while the last name of the ghosts spell out F A C E, which are the notes they represent.

Not only does this system teach musical notes and how to read them, but it also teaches symbols and their meanings. By the end of the third book, the student will know the flat and sharp signs, the repeat symbol, time signature, and more. Each note is well explained, teaching the difference between a colored in or blank note and what connected stems mean. And it explains these things in a way that children can understand. They add it to the story with some interesting characters and make it fun and funny all while teaching.

Mr. Everybody's Musical Apartment series is set up in an excellent way for use in a traditional class setting and a homeschool setting. I am a homeschool parent and used it for only my daughter, but I also decided that I could use it for a small group of children together. Not only does the curriculum work well for educational purposes, but it is something fun to learn, and my six-year-old requests to practice her "piano" (keyboard) almost every day though we have been doing lessons just twice a week. Also, if the student can read, little instruction is needed from a parent or teacher. This frees them up to work on other tasks or with other children during lesson time (though you should listen to their progress and administer the quizzes to ensure they retain the information).

The lessons can be short or long, depending on how long your student wants to practice. You will start by listening to the cd while reading along in the book. When the cd section is done, the narrator will tell you. You will also be able to listen to the practice songs being played and sung on the cd so the student can hear how the music should sound. The student will then play the practice song or songs until they have mastered them and are ready to move on to the next lesson. As noted in the instructions, younger students can play one line at a time until they learn, while older students can play more than one to their comfort level. For example, my first grader began playing the first line of the song; then, she would play the first and second and continue like that until she played the music with no pause, help, or mistakes.

My daughter and I are very much enjoying this series, and I think it does the job of teaching music notation very well and in a manner where anyone can understand. The book one teacher manual gives an outline on what and how to teach through book one as well as premade and create your own tests. The other two teacher manuals just have some fun reproducible characters pages for a side art project and the tests, but no actual instruction on teaching.

While these extras in the second and third teacher manuals are fun, it would be beneficial to add a mock class/lesson schedule and break the lessons up more clearly. In addition, in manuals two and three, there are no guided instructions, so you must rely on the cd and go through the student book page by page. While this may not be difficult for a seasoned music teacher, I found this a bit trying as a home educator, especially with planning.

Overall, we love Mr. Everybody's Musical Apartment series. It has everything needed to teach children music notation and beginning keyboard instruction. If a child can identify letters of the alphabet on their own (specifically the letters associated with reading music), then they can start this program. I feel it could easily be used for children as young as four (again, if they can identify letters of the alphabet) and as old as me. I am sure older kids might think the story is a bit cheesy, but that alone would not stop them from learning with this system. Not only would I recommend this to others, but I plan to use it with others and am quite excited about doing so.

Product review by Cecilia Young, The Old Schoolhouse® January 2022