Class gives tots their tune time

August 15, 2002|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

Some studies have suggested that music exposure might improve intellectual development. And just in case they're right, 18-month-old Mason Buswell has been getting the saturation treatment since before he was born.

His dad used to put headphones on his mom's belly when Mason was in utero - playing everything from New Age jazz to Led Zeppelin - and now the toddler is enrolled in a weekly music class in Clarksville.

Scott Buswell, Mason's father, says that while he doesn't know if it's having any effect, it sure is fun. "He's been dancing since he was able to stand," Buswell said, "and he loves these classes."

Buswell was one of nine parents and guardians at the River Hill community center yesterday morning, each with a kid age 1 to 3 in tow, letting loose in a way that certainly looked like lunacy.

All of them sang greetings, croaked like frogs, twirled in circles (while waving neon scarves) and banged away on lollipop-shaped drums. But the exercise, said instructor Olenka Bren, was not madness, but controlled - and educational - chaos.

"We sing and dance and play a lot, but the idea is for the kids to discover music through rhythm and sound," said Bren, who lives in Elkridge. "For them, it's like learning a language, and the best way to learn a language is to speak it, or experience it, when you're very young."

That is the philosophy behind "Music Together," an introductory program for children ages 1 to 5 that started in New Jersey 15 years ago and has spread around the world - including to Olenka's School of Music in Howard County.

Kids are taught through experience, movement and general exposure. During the class, they learn songs and gestures to accompany them, experiment with various instruments and listen to music from cultures around the world.

"Miriam sings all the time now," said the 2-year-old's grandmother, Marilynn Sheetz. "I'm amazed by how much she's picked up."

Bren discovered the program while researching ways to teach children music. A classically trained pianist, she emigrated from Ukraine in 1990 and started her music school after moving to Maryland in 1993.

This is Gabby Eng's third session, but the 21-month-old's mother said it does not get old because the curriculum and instructors change. Bren said the school has nine separate "Music Together" programs.

Information: 410-309-0770.

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