Volume 10, Number 3 September 20, 2002

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Project will give inner-city kids benefits of music education

- Extension's programs already giving hundreds of children valuable exposure to music -

By Michelle Boulton

"Everyone deserves to have the beauty of music in their lives," says Lorna Roblin, Co-ordinator of the U of S Extension Division's Community Music Education Program (CMEP).

Music Education Class
Lorna Roblin, Co-ordinator of Extension Division's Community Music Education Program (CMEP) and Music in Early Childhood Program, says, "Art and music are the great equalizers."

Photo courtesy of Extension Division

Not only is music beautiful, Roblin says introduction to music at an early age has also been shown to improve brain development, reduce behavioral problems, and improve language and communication skills.

Over the past 17 years, hundreds of Saskatoon children have realized these benefits through the Music in Early Childhood program, which is part of CMEP.

According to Roblin, "Art and music are the great equalizers." Because they are a form of self-expression and not necessarily a competitive activity, everyone and anyone can participate equally. It doesn't matter who you are or where you are from.

Unfortunately, the reality is that children who grow up in poorer neighborhoods may not benefit from the same exposure to the arts as children from more affluent neighborhoods - and Roblin wants to change that.

Thanks to an 'ArtsSmarts' grant from the Saskatoon Foundation and a unique partnership between the Extension Division and St. Mary's School, she will be launching a new music education outreach program this fall.

As stated in their ArtsSmarts grant application, "This project will introduce early childhood music education to a Grade 1 class of marginalized and transient children who have little or no previous exposure to music."

Roblin says the program will not only stimulate the children's musical interest, but will also contribute to the development of their math, language, creative, and social skills.

"I initiated the program because I had a vision about how music could help these kids learn," she says.

"I don't think I'm going to change the world, but I'm going to give them something."

Roblin will instruct both the children and their teacher. She will develop a curriculum-based teaching aid that will be delivered in collaboration with the teacher. "One of the most important things about the program is instructing the teachers and giving them something they can continue to use after we are done," she says.

The techniques Roblin will use are based on the world-renowned philosophies of Zoltan Kodaly, a 20th-century Hungarian composer. The fundamental principles of the Kodaly educational philosophy are that music education must begin when a child is very young and that it should always start with the child's own instrument - the voice.

These are the same techniques used in the Music in Early Childhood Program. Through developmentally appropriate activities, instructors help children discover the elements of music. Children participate in music activities, such as nursery rhymes, singing games, folk songs, chants, and movement, which set the foundation for music literacy and work toward the goals of reading and writing music.

"The program is designed to expose children to music," says Roblin. "We want to plant the seeds and then nurture a love of music."

Founded in 1986, the Music in Early Childhood Program has expanded to include a number of other programs under the CMEP umbrella:

  • The Parenting with Music Program, designed for children from newborn to 34 months, provides an opportunity for parents to share the joy of making music with their children and develop parenting skills at the same time.

  • The Children's Choral Program, the Choraliers, provides choral music training and an opportunity for musical growth for young singers ages 6-16.

  • The Music in Early Childhood Outreach Program is also offered to daycare centres in Saskatoon and surrounding areas.

According to Roblin, when it comes to music education "the earlier the better, but better late than never."

CMEP is part of the Extension Division's Community Arts Program, which co-ordinates lifelong learning opportunities in the arts and culture

In addition to offering the music programs for children, it also puts on the Dramatically Different Art Program for children and young adults, which focuses on visual arts, art history, and crafts. Adult programs include drawing and painting, photography, stone carving and sculpture, glassmaking, textiles, music, and drama. Community Arts is also responsible for the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus and the U of S Arts Council, which runs the Kirk Hall Gallery.

For information about Community Arts Programs, call 966-5530.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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