New Music Program for Young Kids in Tulsa

Music provides benefits to young children.

Any parent who has resorted to singing lullabies to a crying baby at 2 o’clock in the morning can tell you, music has a powerful effect on our emotions. Just as a gentle lullaby can soothe a fussy child, a majestic chorus can make us swell with excitement. But did you know that music can also affect the way we think?

It’s true. Psychologists, neuroscientists and experts in early childhood development have released numerous studies that prove music does more for children than bring them joy; it also helps their brain cells make the connections needed for virtually every kind of intelligence.

* Quantitative. They build the spatial-temporal and reasoning skills required for math, science and engineering.

* Social-Emotional. They develop social and emotional skills that are essential for school readiness—like the ability to regulate their responses and relate to others in complex ways.

* Physical. By moving and dancing to music and playing simple instruments, children improve their gross and fine motor skills.

* Creative. Activities that encourage freedom within a fun and friendly structure spark children’s creativity and provide inspiration.

A new program in Tulsa is building on these fundamentals and taking musical learning to the next level. It’s called Seedling Symphony and was launched earlier this year by the Signature Symphony at Tulsa Community College (TCC). The educational outreach program was developed by Signature Quartet musicians and combines music and movements in the classroom with the goal of expanding the type of music in early learning programs for all children.

“We have a music program in place even though we are a school for children who are deaf or have communication disorders,” explains Jan Pride, executive director for Happy Hands Education Center in Broken Arrow. “The Seedling Symphony program offers so much more than just music. The teachers are fun, animated and use movements to engage all our children. The kids love them.”

Seedling Symphony raises the level of music beyond nursery rhymes and lullabies to expose young children, from birth to 6 years, to complex and intricate music using stringed instruments — the viola, violin and cello — in interactive sessions. In addition, teachers participating in Seedling Symphony receive a packet of information researched and compiled by TCC students majoring in Child Development to help incorporate additional music and activities into the classroom.

“We want to develop a classroom culture that uses music differently and goes beyond music appreciation to help young children with communication, behavioral and emotional skills,” said Erica Parker, Signature Quartet musician and one of the creators of Seedling Symphony.

Erica and another musician decided to create the Seedling Symphony after recently starting families of their own.

“When I had my son, Charlie, I realized that there just weren’t enough resources for young children to get the real fundamental benefits that music offers this age group,” Erica said. “I wanted to create something that would deliver on milestones and could be left for teachers to build on in their classrooms.”

Erica partnered with Tulsa Community College Child Development Department to really understand the science behind childhood learning and teaching techniques. TCC students researched the benefits of music education in children and found the “best practices” from across the country. Together they created the Seedling Symphony program, which includes four different music genres in each lesson.
“We include classical music, familiar children’s songs, cultural music and original tunes orchestrated by the quartet,” Erica explained. “We then leave behind supplemental materials for teachers following the visits so we can work together to reach milestones in areas like movement and vocabulary.”

In recent years, we’ve learned a lot about how the brain develops. Research by the Center of the Developing Child at Harvard University shows the brain architecture of a young child (0-3 years old) changes with the use of complex serve and return activities, which means an adult performs a gesture, the child copies it, and the pattern repeats. Seedling Symphony uses music and movements incorporated with each song to create this learning technique.

“The exciting part is, children that are within birth to 3 and then even on to 5 years, if they have these interactive, supportive relationships and experiences early in life, it really lays down a solid, steady brain architecture that lasts for life,” said TCC Child Development Professor Debbie Deibert.

Babies are born with billions of brain cells and during the first years of life those brain cells form connections with other brain cells. Over time, the connections we use regularly become stronger. This is the case for children who grow up listening to music. They, in turn, develop strong music-related connections and pathways.

Professors at the University of Georgia say some of these music pathways actually affect the way we think. Their studies have shown that listening to music can improve a child’s spatial reasoning, at least for a short time. And learning to play an instrument may have an even longer effect on certain thinking skills.

While the verdict is still out on whether Mozart can help your baby become the next Einstein, TCC and the Seedling Symphony say there are things parents can do to help foster a love of music and learning for their children now. Here are some ideas:

Play music for your baby. Expose your baby to many different musical selections of various styles. If you play an instrument, practice when your baby is nearby. But keep the volume moderate. Loud music can damage a baby’s hearing.

Sing to your baby. It doesn’t matter how well you sing! Hearing your voice helps your baby begin to learn language. Babies love the patterns and rhythms of songs. And even young babies can recognize specific melodies once they’ve heard them.

Sing with your child. As children grow, they enjoy singing with you. And setting words to music actually helps the brain learn them more quickly and retain them longer. That’s why we remember the lyrics of songs we sang as children, even if we haven’t heard them in years.

Start music lessons early. If you want your child to learn an instrument, you don’t need to wait until elementary school to begin lessons. Young children’s developing brains are equipped to learn music. Most 4- and 5-year-olds enjoy making music and can learn the basics of some instruments. And starting lessons early helps children build a lifelong love of music.

Encourage your child’s school to teach music. Singing helps stimulate the brain, at least briefly. Over time, music education as a part of school can help build skills such as coordination and creativity. And learning music helps your child become a well-rounded person.

“Music education is very important for kids, but also for parents and teachers, too,” says Erica. “Music fosters interactions, communication and most importantly, it brings people together.”

For additional information on Seedling Symphony, please call the Signature Symphony office at 918-595-7776.

Categories: Little Ones