Discover How Music Builds Essential Cognitive Skills In Our 4-Week Online Course. 


The Smart Start Teacher Training course is designed for both teachers who would like to become a certified Smart Start teacher and teach classes in a private studio or school as well as educators who are seeking professional development and would like to learn more about music and cognition. 


The course material is the same for both tracks (Certification and Professional Development); however, the weekly projects have been designed to better align with the goals of each track. 


If you’d like to teach Smart Start in your school or studio, learn how you can bring Smart Start to your community.


For Teachers and Parents! Download our Free Smart Start Handbook which includes:

  • Musical activities from the Smart Start curriculum
  • Curated articles about the connections between music, language, cognition, and learning
  • A handy guide to enrollment and getting started with the SmartStart app



Which track is best for you? 






Want to teach Smart Start Classes 


Already have a Provider License


You are a musician 


Currently a music educator 

Love of music but no formal musical training 


Early childhood or K-12 educator  


Want to learn more about music and cognition 


Do not intend to teach Smart Start Classes 


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    Course Description


    A key foundational idea of the Smart Start philosophy is that the quality of music instruction significantly impacts musical and cognitive development in young children. The Smart Start Teacher Certification Training course is specifically designed to provide teachers with an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the foundational cognitive skills, musical skills, and methodology of Smart Start, empowering them to deliver an unparalleled learning experience for young children.  


    This training does not focus on the repertoire of the program, rather it dives deep into the concept of the interdependence of cognitive skills and music as well as the design, pedagogy, and best practices of the curriculum so that teachers are equipped with both the knowledge and skills they need to successfully run a fun and engaging Smart Start class for young children.

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    Learning Outcomes


    By the end of this course, you will be able to: 

    • Identify and discuss how cognitive skills are fostered by music learning 
    • Discuss the methodology and pedagogy of the Smart Start curriculum 
    • Effectively lead Smart Start activities Identify the cognitive and musical skills taught through each activity and describe how these skills are being taught in Smart Start 
    • Create their own Smart Start activity using the Activity Prototype Method 
    • Set up a classroom for a Smart Start class 
    • Demonstrate artistry and creativity as teachers and musicians Deliver a fun and engaging Smart Start class to young children
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    Course Outline


    Lesson 1: Smart Start: The Blending of Music and Cognitive Skills 

    • The Smart Start Philosophy and Curricular Goals 
    • What Are Cognitive Skills 
    • The Relationship between Cognitive Skills and Musical Skills 
    • The Cognitive Role of Diversity 
    • Activity Prototypes and Their Cognitive Skills 


    Lesson 2: The Four Cognitive Skills of Smart Start 

    • Attention 
    • Memory 
    • Perception 
    • Cognitive Flexibility 


    Lesson 3: Music Skills in Smart Start 

    • Pitch and Singing 
    • Beat and Rhythm 
    • Form 
    • The Progression of Playing Instruments 
    • Movement 


    Lesson 4: The Smart Start Class 

    • Watch a Smart Start Class 
    • Transitioning Between Activities 
    • Managing the Classroom 
    • Teaching Babies 
    • Transitioning Care Providers Out of the Classroom 
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    Meet Your Instructors


    Catherine West

    Catherine West has an internationally renowned author, workshop clinician, course instructor, and arts-in-education consultant, and is the Pedagogy Leader at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada. She is a lead developer of Smart Start. She has worked with the GRAMMY’s Leonard Bernstein Foundation, the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra, the Napa Valley Symphony Orchestra, Opera Delaware, the Coalition for Music Education in Canada, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Tafelmusik, Opera Lyra Ottawa, and the Kuné Global Music Orchestra amongst many other arts organizations. She has presented numerous Orff workshops in Canada, the United States, China and Australia and is now developing curriculum and a teacher education course for Vietnam. She has coordinated and taught courses on music education for teachers for the University of Toronto’s Faculties of Education and Music. She was an Instructional Leader in music with the Toronto District School Board as part of her many years of working with that board as an elementary music specialist, and has served on numerous arts education boards as a volunteer. 


    Dr. Sean Hutchins

    Dr. Sean Hutchins is the Director of Research for The Royal Conservatory of Music. He founded and currently leads The Royal Conservatory’s Research Centre, focusing on experimental studies of music neuroscience and performance. He received his PhD from McGill University in 2008, and is trained in experimental psychology and neuroscience, with a specialization in the field of music cognition. Dr. Hutchins has held positions at l’Université de Montréal and the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Hospital in Toronto, where he studied vocal perception and performance and the relationship between speech and singing. At the Royal Conservatory, Dr. Hutchins co-developed the Smart Start early childhood music education curriculum, and has researched the effects of early music training on cognitive, linguistic, and musical development.

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    Course Reviews


    “We had a wonderful experience taking the Teacher Training course with RCM for Smart Start! Our team of faculty learned first about the cognitive skills and developmental research that Smart Start is founded upon. We were then trained on the teaching tools and skills that were necessary in getting our classes started from how to address caregivers to how we transition from one activity to another during class. Having the combined experience of learning both the research and the practical skills allowed our teachers to feel empowered and ready to begin their classes.” - Keelin Davis 


    “The Smart Start teacher training course provided me with incredibly valuable insight into the foundational cognitive processes that are involved with musical activity, and most importantly, it helped me to understand how to harness the immense potential of music education to obtain maximum results in child development. I believe that my discussion in a recent job interview I had about the exciting research and curriculum I have been learning about through Smart Start was something that made me more attractive as a potential employee - I did end up getting the replacement job in classroom music, and the interviewers seemed really interested in learning more about how I will translate what I have learned about cognitive development and music into the K-3 classroom.” Emma House 


    “It was fascinating  to learn how the musical activities affect different cognitive abilities (in particular, attention, perception, memory and cognitive flexibility) at different ages.  I highly recommend the Smart Start training to anyone who wants to teach young children.” - Faith Kippenhuck 

Ready To Join Our Growing Community Of Smart Start Educators?