From the time we are born, perhaps even in the womb, human beings begin to respond to music. From the Baby Mozart compilations that entertain to the soothing sounds of classic lullabies, and sing-along songs for toddlers on television and at preschool, our appreciation for music is honed early in our lives, when our minds are the most ready to soak up the world around us.
That same theory is at work at Wheaton Yamaha Music School, where the youngest of musicians are becoming music lovers, through social-centered classes in musicianship designed to foster a lifelong passion in its young participants.
“We teach musicianship here – not just music lessons,” says Beverly Griffith, school director. “There is singing, rhythm, and lots of fun, and all the while, they also are learning the keyboard.”
The school's programs provide the young child with an introduction to basic principles of music — relative pitch, notation, melody, harmony, and rhythm — all in an atmosphere that is nurturing, rewarding, and fun. Children play to learn, and their natural musical abilities flourish.
“ Music need not be forced in, just brought out,” Griffith says.
Weekly group classes for the youngest students involve a parent as well, and the sessions begin with students as young as three and a half years old, in a program called “Music Wonderland.” This program introduces very young children to the world of music through listening, singing, dancing and playing the keyboard. Emphasis is on expressing emotion through music and learning that music can say many things. This class meets for 45 minutes once a week for 15 weeks.
At four and a half through six years old, the students progress through primary levels one through four, learning more about rhythm and notes, melodies and harmonies. This four-semester program builds on concepts introduced in Musicland: musical notation, rhythm, ear training, singing, keyboard, solfege, melody, harmony, transposition, and ensemble.
By six and a half, they move on to the “Young Musicians” class. Its goal is to develop each student's fundamental musicianship and to introduce basic keyboard skills, music reading, singing, playing-by-ear, rhythm, and improvisation.
“Each lesson offers more,” she says. “You start in one key, and it builds each week. Their ears are developing, and musical fluency is assimilated like any other language. Our children have incredible ears.”
Students work within a group to become a music ensemble which generates individual effort. As part of a group of up to a dozen other children, they become active listeners, a valuable life skill. Once they complete the group classes, they can continue privately.
“When kids come in, they’re younger, and it’s hard to say at three-an-a-half what kind of musicians they’ll be. But they explore all the sounds the electronic keyboard offers, a good foundational instrument. This is a wonderful place to open the possibilities to whatever they want to play.”
The Yamaha courses began in the mid-1950s in Japan under the direction of Gen’ichi Kawakami, the president of what today is known as the Yamaha Corporation. Kawakami established the non-profit Yamaha Music Foundation (YMF) in 1966 for the purpose of developing and promoting music education across the world. Today, YMF guides the development of the Yamaha Music Education System in 41 countries.
Wheaton Yamaha Music School has been a fixture in the community for 45 years. Teachers have extensive music backgrounds and hold their degrees in piano performance. In addition, teachers undergo rigorous screening, training and exams through the Yamaha Music Education System. Seven teachers, five of them certified Yamaha instructors, lead the more than 260 students currently enrolled in the Wheaton programs.
For Margie Fawcett of Winfield, the experience has been all she had hoped for her children, now 10 and 8, who have taken classes at Wheaton Yamaha since they were 4 years old.
“The classes are fun and engaging,” she says. “Wonderful music theory and ear training are hidden in fun games. For the very young child, learning simple music they can play brings excitement, joy and energy.”
Fawcett said her children experienced a great sense of accomplishment when they’d work at a piece of music and master it.
“I have a budding singer and a budding composer at my house and they both use the piano as the foundation for these new music adventures. I am thrilled to have Wheaton Yamaha as a partner in introducing my children to the world of music.”
Enrollment is going on now for programs beginning throughout February.
For families seeking just a taste of the program, before making a long-term commitment, basic music camps are offered three times per year, in spring summer and fall. These offer a sampler of the program.
Call 630-682-1334 or visit wheatonyamahamusic.com for details.