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Monday, December 22, 2014

Outreach program brings music to little ones

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

(left to right) Robin Giebelhausen, professor of music education; Julia Church Hoffman, director of UNM Music Prep School; Katherine Oldberg, program coordinator of Music Prep School and Regina Carlow, associate dean for College of Fine Arts, share a laugh while cleaning out a room at Popejoy Hall on Aug. 14. This room will soon be filled with the sounds of young students learning the craft of musical thinking.

Students are lining up to attend classes for the fall semester at main campus, but they’re a little younger than the usual college student.

Julia Hoffman, UNM Music Prep School’s director, said the school started 22 years ago to fill a gap in the Albuquerque Public Schools system. The outreach program serves roughly 500 families from the community each semester, she said.

“These people come to us and we go out into the community,” Hoffman said. “It is a reflection of what we have here.”

The music prep school offers early childhood and parent-child programs, such as Music Play Infant-Toddler Classes, Fun with Singing, Mallet Madness and Say, Sing, Play: Instrument Exploration, she said. The UNM Music Prep School also offers classes in marimba and world percussions, piano, guitar, wind band and ‘chuppers,’ she said.

“Parents and children come together with other parents and children and it builds a beautiful community,” Hoffman said. “That’s as good as it gets.”

Holly Gilster, who teaches Mallet Madness and Say, Sing, Play: Instrument Exploration, said she has been a teacher for the UNM Music Prep School for 20 years.

“Musicianship is the right of all people,” Gilster said. “Much like water is an essential ingredient, if we do not provide exposure and experience to our community at large in the arts, we are robbing an entire generation of access to their birthright.”

Mallet Madness was created in order to reach children who have had experience in general music, but are not ready for guitar, piano or marimba, she said.

“We are modeling a constant high-level teaching skill based on sound research as to what brain development needs and the level of the child is at in terms of what kind of skills you can expect and how much of it is internally and externally processed, which is why we have classes for babies and classes for 4-year-olds,” Gilster said.

Regina Carlow, artistic director of the UNM Children’s Chorus, said the prep school also offers a chorus, which includes five different classes. The program sets itself apart from other children’s choruses, Carlow said, because it offers an accessible place for children to express themselves through song.

“I feel very strongly that every child should be allowed to sing,” Carlow said. “It’s an opportunity to continually engage with children in a musical way.”

Robin Giebelhausen, who teaches the Music Play Infant-Toddler Class, said her class focuses on engagement with music and is not necessarily about responding right away, she said.

“It’s about exposure. It’s about being bathed in a musical experience,” Giebelhausen said. “It’s not necessarily about getting ready for a performance, getting ready to sing for an audience. It’s more: ‘here’s an opportunity to sing.’”

Lauren Marvin is a freelance writer for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @LaurenMarvin.