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Rockford College introduces music to children at very young age

Wednesday, February 16, 2011  
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By Elizabeth Davies
RRSTAR.COM
Posted Feb 16, 2011 @ 07:00 AM
Last update Feb 17, 2011 @ 01:01 AM

ROCKFORD —
In every soul, even from birth, there is music.

There is rhythm, even for those who can’t seem to keep a beat.

There is melody, even for those who can’t carry a tune.

And in the years before we worry what others might think, little bodies are made to simply revel in music. From the soft song of a mother singing her baby to sleep to an early game of "Here We Go ’Round the Mulberry Bush,” music fills the lives of preschoolers.

So natural it seems, then, that children as young as 6 months gather at Rockford College each week for music classes that encourage their budding melodies.

"This has intrinsic value,” said Martha Franz, director of the Music Academy at Rockford College. "Moms and babies should be singing. We sing, and we teach them from the very beginning through these little songs. They bond, they learn. It’s a great way to emotionally connect even before words are involved.”

The music program, called Prelude, is a steppingstone to music education for older children at Rockford College. Aimed at children from ages 6 months to 6 years, Prelude exposes children to a variety of music from throughout the world. They learn about music as it’s developmentally appropriate — and have a good time doing it.

"They develop a base of knowledge,” Franz said. "They have a certain literacy.”

Classes are small, with a maximum of 10 children. And sometimes, they might seem a bit chaotic — as any room filled with 10 infants or toddlers might be.

"The kids will all take it on in their own ways and at their own speed,” Franz explained.

But, without the children realizing it, they’re learning about structure, memorization and fine motor skills. Whether they’re dancing to music or waving ribbons and scarves, children have the opportunity to embrace a musical world.

Prelude has been at Rockford College for 18 years. Of its four instructors, two came through the school’s Music Academy themselves. Their aim is to share their love for music with the children around them.

"There’s such joy here, and affirmation of how wonderful young people are,” Franz said. "It’s 45 minutes a week to sit back and celebrate what young people do.”

Parental involvement is core to Prelude, and that’s a special time for Mary Hampilos and her 2-year-old daughter, Demi.

"What’s nice is the interaction you have with your child,” she said. "It’s a time of bonding.”

Demi has been a Prelude student for about a year. Before that, Hampilos brought her older daughter through the program.

"I had heard it was a really great program,” she said. "It’s been really positive, that’s for sure.”

Her reasons for enrolling her daughters varied: She wanted to expose them to music. She hoped to develop musical talent. And she wanted to give them a fun, exciting outing.

"Children are born with natural instincts of music,” she said. "It seems all the children there really love it. They learn pretty simple songs, and they’re catchy. She’ll come home and remember them.”

Hampilos can’t say for sure whether her older daughter, now 7 years old and a violinist in Rockford College’s Music Academy, got a head start musically because of Prelude.

But she knows one thing.

"It sure can’t hurt to expose them” to music, she said. "She’ll never remember not being musical.”

This story appeared at http://www.rrstar.com/news/yourtown/x1240516713/Rockford-College-introduces-music-to-children-at-very-young-age on February 16, 2011.

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