The lush, green Israeli Galilee is studded with mountaintop communities, each with its own distinct theme and personality. The inspirational views and panoramas have motivated many of its residents to become artists, creative writers and musicians; but none so prolific as the musical team of Helen Doron and Niko Levy, who have collaborated on over 450 children’s songs over the past 25 years— and are still going strong. Among their shared credentials, both of them were among the founders of Hararit, a remote, pastoral village based on Transcendental Meditation (TM). Both Helen and Niko taught TM and still integrate it into their lives daily, as well as incorporating veganism and exercise into the very healthy lifestyles they live—an important balance to the hectic business world Helen Doron orchestrates.
A household name in much of Europe, Israel and Central America, Helen Doron has become synonymous with English as a Second Language (ESL) from very young children up through adolescents. A linguist by profession, Ms. Doron pioneered the internationally renowned Helen Doron methodology of teaching English to young children in the same way as they learn their mother tongue. Nearly three decades years later, her very successful methodology is franchised in 39 countries, and over 3 million children have learned to speak English thanks to her pioneering methodology.
Niko Levy’s unique, colorful personality and alternative musical seminars are popular draws for overseas and Israeli tourists visiting the Galilee. People yearning to get in touch with their spiritual side, as well as those who make it a regular practice, often find themselves at Niko’s haven in the verdant hills.
Together, this very talented pair merged to write an amazing number of songs from nearly every genre in existence.
Helen Doron described the importance of music in her approach, “Music is the most important element of my methodology. When you have music, you have the feeling, the meter and the rhyme of the language. When you recall songs from your childhood, it gives you a warm, tingly feeling and you remember what you liked. When you learn a language through music, the grammar and vocabulary are built right in. We do a lot of work to make sure that grammar is taught and reinforced, although we don’t actually teach grammar rules. The students love the songs and we also do a lot with movement, so they also have the kinesthetic side of learning. It doesn’t matter if the kid is 3 months old or 18 years old, they love the music and learn through it. “
“Children ages 0-7 learn as if English is their mother tongue and with an authentic accent. Niko Levy composes original songs and even for the youngest ages, none of them are banal. They have rhythm and meaning and comprise a full range of ethnicities and styles including: African, Samba, Oriental, Middle Eastern, Latino, Rock, Twist, Pop, Rap, Tango, Folk, Hip-Hop, Yemenite and more.”
Niko enthusiastically added, ” I am not limited in any way and therefore, the music appeals to everyone. Helen gives me complete freedom to write music in any style I see fit, which is a dream come true for a composer. Her support and belief in me allows me to create whatever type of music I want to. She goes along even with my wildest musical ideas: very unconventional harmonies, complicated melodies that one wouldn’t think are appropriate for young children, and you can tell a lot of originality and great thought goes into each song. Today’s pop music is three chords, and we go MUCH further than that.”
Helen Doron’s more than 3,700 teachers claim they never get tired of teaching these songs, as they are fun, interesting and even challenging. Most English for kids programs have simple, boring music, as they don’t feature repeated home listening as the Helen Doron English programs do, and they underestimate what children can absorb musically. Children can deal with strong, complex musical themes and Niko Levy’s pieces include harmonies and tempos that teach a child music appreciation, along with melodies and cadences. “His creations are sophisticated and even complicated, so the children don’t get tired of hearing them.” Ms. Doron explained, “Niko refuses to go to the banal, even when composing for the babies. He works on each song for days and even weeks, and each composition’s music relates to the text. “
Niko reflected, “I remember when we had been working together for 5 years and I attended my first Helen Doron conference. After being introduced, I will never forget that one of the German teachers approached me and said, ‘I never get tired of listening to your music, even though it was written for children and even the parents marvel over how much they enjoy it.’”
Hand-in-hand, Helen Doron and Niko Levy have meshed their styles to produce 25 years of musical excellence and both of them agree that they’ve only just begun!
Experience a sample of their music here from the Helen Doron Song Club on YouTube: