Babies sharpen musical skills at TCU

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People walking through the basement of TCU’s music department might see a bunch of children sharing the halls with college students.

Jennifer DeSantis, assistant director of the university’s music preparatory division, has been teaching early childhood music for children ages 4 months through 4 years for the past 15 years. She said she has dedicated her time to this particular age group based on research which suggests that the earlier children are exposed to music, the more musically inclined they will be as they grow and develop.

“There is research that suggests that music enhances learning in other areas; for example, language development, problem solving, coordination, fine motor skills, concentration and social interaction,” DeSantis wrote in an email.

Although babies cannot talk, they respond to the music during an early childhood music class by shaking their limbs and making all sorts of noises, DeSantis said.

“The parents are more important music educators than the classroom teachers,” said Meg Kennedy, an early childhood music instructor. “If a parent wants their child to sing, it is imperative that at least one parent models singing and music behaviors.”

Parents are deeply involved in each music class, Kennedy said. It provides a bonding experience between parent and child, and music research backs up that parent behavior is a key to musical development.

Tamra Cumbie, a parent at the music class, wrote in an email that her son, Grey, takes what he learns in the music class home with him.

“Grey insists that we listen to the take-home CD of the class songs every single day,” Cumbie wrote. “He just lights up when he hears his familiar favorites in class each week.”

DeSantis and Kennedy agree that more parents are recognizing the benefits of exposing their children to music at an early age.

One reason could be the amount of research that has come out in recent years encouraging parents to incorporate music into their daily lives, DeSantis said. As a piano instructor, she has seen the benefits of exposing young children to music education first hand.

“Playing an instrument is not easy, but these students are at ease with the piano and have a deep understanding of music,” she said.

Anyone interested in more information or to sign up for early childhood music classes can visit www.musicprep.tcu.edu/earlychildhood.asp.

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