“The kids came in, and when she was done playing flute, they were going crazy,” says Eric Salazar, assistant director of community engagement at Classical Music Indy. “I was like, ‘Oh, no, they’re out of control.’ She just sat down cross legged and sang a song.” To his amazement, Page soon had the kids sitting quietly, ready to participate with hands folded in their laps. Words by Crystal Hammon. Adapted from Classical Music Indy’s NOTE Magazine.
Music & Me helps preschoolers grow into music
Two years ago, Eric Salazar was standing aside, casually observing one of his Classical Music Indy (CMI) colleagues at work when the idea for CMI’s newest program began to percolate. On this day, Salazar was studying Jenna Page, a CMI musician hired to help students in central Indiana build music literacy skills in an after-school program. Salazar was wowed by Page’s skillful way of engaging preschoolers with music.
“The kids came in, and when she was done playing flute, they were going crazy,” says Salazar, assistant director of community engagement at Classical Music Indy. “I was like, ‘Oh, no, they’re out of control.’ She just sat down cross legged and sang a song.” To his amazement, Page soon had the kids sitting quietly, ready to participate with hands folded in their laps.
The expertise Salazar noticed in Page and other CMI musicians instigated a new CMI program that uses an engaging curriculum and lesson plans geared for this age group. In 2018, CMI formalized the program, Music & Me, and began presenting it 10 times a year at Family Development Services, Marion County’s sole provider of Head Start. Head Start is the nation’s largest early childhood education program focused on school readiness and socialization skills.
In Music & Me, preschoolers learn pitch, rhythm and other music skills that lay the foundation for a lifelong relationship with music. Early music education has been credited with enhancing motor skills, reading skills, language and brain development. Some studies suggest that learning to play an instrument can also improve math learning and increase SAT scores.
CMI musicians work with 15 to 20 kids at a time in sessions that last 12 minutes. “Any longer than that and you’ve lost them,” says Page, a flutist who graduated from the University of Indianapolis in 2011, and got a master’s degree in music performance from Butler University in 2014. In addition to her CMI commitments, Page performs as a freelance musician and teaches college level courses at University of Indianapolis and Marian University. “I started working with preschoolers and kindergarteners at my church when I was in high school, so I’ve always had a heart for working with this age group,” Page says.
Music & Me focuses on making sure the first experience children have with classical music is fun. “My hope is that there is a spark of imagination and creativity that clicks inside them during that 12 minutes,” Page says. “If we can get younger kids really interested in the arts and show them how amazing and awesome it is, then we’ll have this beautiful genre of art that will continue for many generations.”
Page says she and the other CMI musicians who present Music & Me enjoy watching the reactions kids have to the music. “When I start playing, their eyes get really wide,” she says. “The room gets quiet. You always have a few kids who are just doing whatever they want to do, but with some kids, you can literally see the gears turning in their brains. It’s like their mind is blown because they’ve never experienced anything quite like it.”
Preschool teachers appreciate CMI musicians’ thoughtful approach to getting students involved and active. “The program kept their attention and allowed for great conversation when we returned to the classroom,” says Marissa Williams, a preschool teacher at Family Development Services. “These visits were educational, and we look forward to seeing more of what they offer.”