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10/05/02: Youngsters feel the beat
Toddlers develop musically through innovative class that teaches students, parents that everyone is musical

Standard Correspondent
    PORTLAND, Ind. < How many verses do you know to "She'll Be Cominı ORound the Mountain?" If you can't think of at least six, youıre no match for the toddlers in Kae Byrd's Music Together class at the Arts Place in Portland, Ind.
     In Monday morning sessions, and again in the evening, Byrd leads her
students - those old enough to know what to do with bongo drums, as well as those too little to be steady on their feet - in singing, stomping, clapping, dancing fun.
    In Monday morning's session, mothers and grandmothers joined in, too.
    "He loves it here," Sue Burk of Portland said of her 2 1/2-year-old grandson, Adam Burk. "I had heard that the class would teach them some basics about music, and I thought that would be good for him."
    Byrd, a classically trained violinist who once played with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, knows enough not to lecture her little students about the difference between pianissimo and fortissimo. She mainly teaches by example, leading the toddlers and babies in traditional songs like "Eliza Jane" and "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean."
    But in every minute of the class, with every beat of the music, she is teaching.
    "We saw some very important things today," she told the adults near the end of Monday's session. "We saw some very little people keeping a steady beat. They may not have always been with the beat, but it was a steady beat."
    What looks and sounds like fun to the toddlers and babies is critically important, said Byrd, who is the staff performing artist at Arts Place as well as a registered instructor with Music Together, a nationwide program that promotes musical learning among small children.
    "The basic philosophy of the program is that everyone is musical," Byrd said.
    Modern culture is choking out music on a personal level, as more and more people become passive listeners, Byrd said.
    "With Music Together, we like to ask people, OWhen did you stop singing?" she said. "People don't sing anymore because our culture teaches them that if they want to sing, they have to be perfect performers up on a stage."
    As a result, she said, very young children, who should be soaking up music the way a tulip soaks up rain, are growing up without ever opening
their mouths to sing. They should be moving through normal and fairly predictable stages of musical development < not just the rare child prodigy, but all children - yet educators are seeing less and less of it, Byrd said.
    "Children are arriving at school five years behind in their musical development," said Byrd, and anyone who can do the math can see that she means theyıre arriving at school with no musical development at all. "They're simply not growing up in an environment that fosters musical development."
    Carrie James of Portland wants music to be a part of her children's lives. Her son Ian, who will soon be 3, is now enrolled in his second session of Music Together at Arts Place. While he spent part of the class
dancing and part of the class hiding behind the baby grand piano in the Arts Place music studio, he was still surrounded by music, feeling the beat. His twin 1-year-old sisters, Emma and Hannah, wiggled and grinned along with their mother and their great-grandmother, Joy Fenters, who came along to the class to give James a hand.
    Music Together stresses that  parents and other loving adults have to take part. If children see the adults in their lives singing, Byrd said, the children will be more likely to sing out themselves.
    "It is important for parents to make music a part of their day," she said. "In our class, you'll see that the parents are all singing, and that's exactly what's supposed to happen. The parent is the most important role model for the child - no child was ever emotionally attached to a CD player. And if they see the parent enjoying music, the child will be disposed to like music."


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