Music is Ronnachai â€œAodâ€ Thomyapariwatâ€™s life. In his early adulthood, his role as lead vocalist and guitarist of the band Keereeboon made him famous.
Today, in his mid 40’s, Ronnachai is using music as an education tool.
Ronnachai is an owner of “Keereeboon Genius Music”, an institute which teaches music to children at kindergarten and primary age.
He has spent almost eight years developing a curriculum to promote the gift of music in children, which he calls the “Keereeboon model”.
He says his curriculum and teaching methods are different from other music schools. The key principle is to make the children happy and encourage them to give their hearts to music.
“When talking about music, many people may think of an instrument like a guitar, piano, violin, or keyboard. But that’s only a tool for presenting music. The true music must come from within. Children should be happy with what they learn and the melodies they play, without being forced or pressured to do it,” said Ronnachai.
When children are happy, they will be open to receiving more knowledge and training.
“Under our method, children are unaware that we’re giving them the skills for playing music. In the end, they will unknowingly become good musicians,” said Ronnachai.
The other objective is to create a child genius.
The thinking process which children absorb in the course could be applied in the pursuit of excellence to other areas of their lives.
“These children may not grow up to be musicians, but whatever they are, we hope our course will enable them to do their best,” he said.
From musician to teacher
Ronnachai’s dream of educating people in music was inspired by his mother-in-law, Chalao Pansanit, an experienced school administrator.
Chalao developed a teaching methodology for mathematics which included music as part of the studies. She taught it at a temple school.
Children enjoyed the experience, responding enthusiastically. They were energetic in class, and none failed their exams.
The project stopped, however, when Ronnachai’s mother-in-law retired. Yet the idea of entering the field of education still lingered in his mind.
“A senior monk once told me that while I was a singer, I had committed a sin by encouraging people to idolise me and my songs. His words made me feel guilty all the time I was in the entertainment world,” he said.
Later, Ronnachai was to realise that music, even if it gives rise to public passions, still has its value.
“The Lord Buddha learned about moderation while he pondered upon the tightening or loosening of the harp
strings. This proves that music has its value. It depends on how we make use of it,” he said.
Besides, as he grew older, his thinking changed.
“I started to feel bored with music as entertainment, with those lyrics about love. I began asking myself what I could do for society, and education was the answer,” he said.
He closed his small music company and entered the world of education. He developed his own teaching model, with the help of his mother-in-law and academics in the field.
“All my advisers are keen on academic principles, while I use my creative thinking to transform that serious stuff into edutainment,” he said.
After developing a model, he began approaching a few schools to try his curriculum, only to realise that more adjustment was needed.
“What we did initially came from adults’ perspectives. It was not comprehensive enough and still lacked the liveliness needed to attract kids.
“Little by little, I kept adjusting the curriculum. In the third year we began to understand what children need, what was missing and what should be added,” he said.
A key aspect is to build up children’s emotions. Lessons are taught through songs, games, exercises and activities that are based on academic and psychological studies.
How is the model working?
“I tell parents not to believe that I will do good things for them just because I’m Aod Keereeboon, but do believe me when they see how I teach and what I can do for their children,” said Ronnachai.
His curriculum involves the use of media and learning materials to capture children’s attention, and enable them to learn music with greater understanding.
Children get involved with various kinds of media, including songs, graphic illustrations, cartoons and musical tales.
“In our class, the children learn not just music, but also other knowledge, such as maths, English, Thai, social traditions, culture and morality.
“Each media is designed to respond to the children’s needs. That means it must be fun, exciting and challenging. For example, in just one song, we are teaching them ideas, imagination, rhythm, musical notes and the thinking process,” he said.
While other typical music classes usually finish within half-an-hour, the Keereeboon model takes as long as one hour.
“Many studies say children can concentrate for only 10 minutes, but our curriculum can keep them focused longer than that,” said Ronnachai.
Children will be trained in music skills such as listening to singing, note reading and writing (learning the positions of notes on the staff).
They are also taught critical thinking and the use of reasoning in each music lesson. “While showing the children cartoon illustrations or musical tales, the teacher will pause and ask questions to encourage the students to think.
“The musical tale will train the children to listen, concentrate, differentiate the sounds, singing the notes, while the story-line and teachers’ guidance will help implant
their moral thinking.
“Some musical elements are made into cartoon characters, such as Brother C which symbolises the note doh, and Brother D which represents the note ray, to make it attractive and easy for kids to remember.”
Through these illustrations and music, children will automatically learn the musical theory.
His media also uses still images rather than animation to allow his students to use their own imagination.
“Animation may be exciting, but still images can better provoke the kids’ imagination and creativity,” he explained.
What are the results?
Many schools that have adopted the Keereeboon model report their students have better scores in most subjects, not only in music.
“One child in kindergarten told his mum that he wanted every day to be Wednesday, because it’s the day for Khru Aod’s class. Another boy refused to stay home even though he was sick. His mum said he insisted on coming to school to attend my class,” said Ronnachai.
He showed a video clip of one student who can identify the right notes just by listening to the sounds of one or two keys. Ronnachai said most of his students are able to do the same thing.
Compared to children who study typical music courses, Ronnachai said his students may make slower progress at the beginning. “While children on a typical course can perform 10 songs, our students may complete only four. But for the six songs in which they are lagging behind, they get something else instead.
“We give them a strong basic foundation, as well as other knowledge, critical thinking and moral ethics.
“However, once they have strong basics, our students will progress faster. Parents just have to choose which way they prefer,” he said.
His course has been introduced in 40 schools in Bangkok and nearby provinces.
He has hired more than 50 staff, mostly university graduates and post-graduates, to work as instructors.
He preferred teaching in schools as costs were cheaper than private classes and parents can pay less.
“I don’t want to charge steeply for my courses, because music is a skill that requires consistency and regular practice, which can’t be done in a few weeks. So why pay more?” he said.
However, for parents who want classes out of school for their children, the institute can do courses for private groups. One course covering 16 lessons — each lesson lasting one hour — costs 4,800 baht.
For more information, visit www.keereeboon.com.