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Our guest post this month comes from Mark Gordon, composer, founder of Score Draw Music and one of the producers behind Yukee, a new CBeebies show that puts music centre-stage. The programme, which hit TV screens in February, gives its preschool audiences a gentle introduction to musical concepts, and crucially, shows them that music is for everyone. 
Here, Mark explains where the idea for the show came from, and how he and his team set about bringing it to life with the help of some talented musicians and educators. Read on to learn more and access the show’s free learning resources… 

Early years music TV that brings fun and learning 

My name’s Mark Gordon and I’m a children’s music composer and television producer, part of a family of music companies called Score Draw, and I’m based just outside Belfast in the greatest of all countries - Northern Ireland.  
I’ve been lucky in my time, writing music for very young children to work alongside some incredible singers and musicians. I’ll never forget being in a tiny studio just outside Pigeon Forge, Tennessee at 7:30 in the morning waiting for a certain Dolly Parton to arrive who was singing songs I’d composed alongside lyricist Sean Carson for a Nickelodeon Jr show. In times like that, there’s nowhere for poor songwriting or content to hide, and thankfully she both loved the songs and sang them beautifully. 
Guest author Mark Gordon, of Score Draw Media
Guest author Mark Gordon, of Score Draw Media 
Working on songs and Score shows for BBC, Netflix, Amazon, Disney and more taught me a lot about how production companies and broadcasters value music as part of a show offer for very young children (and most of my work is in pre-school media, which in television means from the age range of about 2-6 years old). 

Yukee’s origins 

Several years ago myself and two children’s writers - the aforementioned Sean Carson and Sam Barlow - started talking about these trends that we could see. It felt as if music, and songs especially, were being used in one of three ways for very young audiences: 
1) Songs to teach you about other stuff – i.e. a song about brushing your teeth, a song about what a dinosaur is and how it’s different from a cat, a song about counting… 
2) Songs where the content is all about body movement, 
And our personal bete-noir… 
3) Really poorly delivered nursery rhymes, badly produced, with low rent visual content, that were on an endless loop - Room 101 style - that felt designed just to mindlessly occupy children. Content with no nutritional value. 
An idea formed about whether we could think about creating a TV show where we could both have fun adventures with a gang of music loving and music playing characters, but also introduce some very gentle learning. And this is where our CBeebies show “Yukee” was born. 
The world of Yukee is not too dissimilar to Winnie the Pooh in that we have a single human (Yukee herself - a six year old ukelele playing Irish Chinese girl) and then a magical garden of anthropomorphic animal friends - a guitar playing badger called Stripes, an accordion playing troubadour fox called Sonny, a double bass playing toad and many more besides. 
A still from an episode of Yukee, featuring Yukee and her gang of musical friends

A focus on preparation 

Working with a music consultant, the next step in the television show was to insert the music education learning content for our audience of 3-5 year olds. Our consultant is a passionate believer in using Kodály techniques and so the head writers and songwriter followed these principals - most of the songs also have very simple pentatonic melodies. 
As Kodály said, “children learn best that which they already understand”. Yukee focuses on the first of three stages in a child’s musical journey - the preparation phase of learning, designed to engage pre-school children at their level, using aural, visual and kinaesthetic musical experience to introduce musical concepts. 
Traditional music teaching tends to start with presentation of musical concepts, followed instantly by performance, missing out this preparation phase. Children who start in this way as performers often become discouraged as they have to deal with mastering both the physical skill of playing and musical concepts simultaneously. 
To quote Kodály again, “To teach a child an instrument without first giving him preparatory training... is to build upon sand.” 

A wealth of musical talent 

Having laid this groundwork - we had one final ambition with the CBeebies series - and that was to flood the episodes with extraordinary music talent. 
In this endeavour we could not be more happy with results. I can think of no other environment where in any random episode an audience member might encounter Dame Evelyn Glennie as a percussive woodpecker called Tap Tap who FEELS music, Femi and TJ from the 2023 Mercury Prize winning band Ezra Collective talking about music improvisation as “The Jazz Frogs” and the rock band Wet Leg using an Acapella song to let the audience know that the very best instrument we have is our voice. 
TJ and Femi Koleoso of Ezra Collective with their characters from show
TJ and Femi Koleoso of Ezra Collective with their characters from show 
Outside of the show we’ve, as Score Draw, also been lucky to develop additional learning resources in partnership with music educationalist Ann Bryant to help early years teachers in the UK, designed to give them more games and activities to do with very young musicians (of the future). These resources use Off, Kodály and especially Dalcroze Eurhythmics methods - feeling the rhythm and the other elements of the music through movement and action. 
It’s wonderful that all the episodes and all the resources are free to access - that’s why we wanted to partner with the BBC on this show - we as musicians want to equip the musicians of the future with the best possible grounding at the start of their lifelong music adventures, and we really hope that Yukee is a useful addition to the canon of fun and provides nourishing early years music content. 
Episodes of Yukee are currently airing daily on CBeebies or can be viewed on BBC iPlayer. You can also find learning resources linked to the show at https://www.yukeemusic.com/education 
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