Help Your Child Discover the Joy in Music


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My 3-year-old son inevitably creates his own soundtrack when he plays, singing to himself as he putters with his trains or rides his tricycle. Every night I sing him to sleep, and he's most expressive when we watch him dance to music.

Exposing young children to music provides some unexpected benefits and, according to at least one study at Northwestern University, childhood music lessons can have a lasting effect, improving the ability to learn and listen. Research also shows that children who take music lessons have improved coordination, higher IQs and better language development. Aside from the many cognitive benefits, banging a drum, strumming a guitar or singing in a choir adds joy and beauty to kids' lives.

From movement classes to Suzuki violin lessons to rock and roll camps for teenagers, families in the Triangle have a variety of options for children's music education. Here's how to get the most out of music programs for children of all ages.

Options for every interest

It may be impossible to get your impulsive 3-year-old to practice the violin, and your teenage son may rebuff your suggestion to join the school chorus. Fortunately, there are many ways to engage young people with music, depending on their interest, level of concentration and personality.

"There's not a right age for introducing a particular instrument," says Serena Wiley, who has a master's degree in jazz studies from NCCU. A saxophonist and radio DJ at WNCU, Wiley was drawn to music as a young child.

"I started taking lessons when I was 8, which is considered early for the saxophone, but it was right for me," she says. "Not all kids are ready for a full hour lesson that young, but there are lots of different ways to introduce them to rhythm, movement and melody."

Programs like Kindermusik offer ways to connect very young children with music, while also providing parents with the opportunity to spend uninterrupted time with their child.

"Our program starts children as early as 3 months (old)," says Julia Cobley, owner of Kindermusik Village in Cary. "We play instruments to work on beats, bounce children on our laps, lift them high for high sounds, low for low sounds."

Perhaps most importantly, the program fosters the joy music can bring. "We encourage the parent to be purely present during the class," she says. "We dance, we're joyous and the babies love it."

Even at a young age, children have an incredible ability to learn how to play an instrument. "Kids are amazing in the possibilities that are lying within them," says Katie Wyatt, the executive director of KidZNotes in Durham. Based on El Sistema — a free classical music program for young children from highly impoverished backgrounds that started in Venezuela — KidZNotes offers eight to 10 hours of classical music training for kindergarten-aged children in underserved communities in Durham. The program will expand into Raleigh next year.

"The idea is to provide high-level conservatory level instruction for kids who would not otherwise have the opportunity," she says, and the program has successfully tapped into children's innate capacity to learn music. "Our kindergartners have already blown through the core standards for third-graders when it comes to music."

Whether it's violin, choir or West African drumming, music education isn't limited to one form of music or one type of instruction. Helping your child connect with a program or experience that appeals to him or her can be transformative.

"When I started playing music, I really came out of my shell," Wiley says. "It changed me as a person, and that's what it can do for a lot of kids."

Benefits extend beyond talent

Don't worry about whether your child is particularly talented. "Every child is musical in some form or another," Cobley says. "There's a music program out there for everyone."

Kids also can gain a lot from music lessons that isn't related to rhythm or harmony. "I think about music lessons the same way I think about teaching art," says Sarah Spencer White, an artist, pottery teacher and mother of three. Her daughters take Suzuki violin lessons at Morehead Montessori in Durham through a program offered for free by the school, and she sees great value in the opportunity.

"They may become musicians, or they may not. But music lessons help them learn concentration, determination and focus," she says. "Musical education can open kids up to new ways of learning."

Cobley says music education helps kids with language and to become more sociable.

"There's even research that shows that exposing children early to music can help them if they want to enter sports," she says. Music helps them be "a well-timed child. They have that sense of beat in their bodies."

Some programs explicitly state that the focus is to develop self-expression and esteem. "Music is an incredible vehicle for building self-esteem and collaborative skills in girls," says Hannah Shaw, director of operations of Girls Rock NC. "At Girls Rock camps, we encourage girls to love themselves and to appreciate and respect their peers as they work together on building an original song. They learn that their ideas and voices are important and beautiful, and that the contributions of their peers are important and beautiful as well. They learn that it's OK to be loud, to be angry, and to express their feelings and experiences."

Learning to listen

Listening and appreciating different kinds of music is just as important as participating in formal music programs. Learning how to be a good listener is also a critical aspect of a child's musical education.

"Listening is a learned skill," Cobley says. "It's something we can foster in children."

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music can stimulate cognitive functioning in children and can even be used to address delayed speech and language skills. Music therapists use listening to music to help young children deal with stressful and painful situations.

Clive Robbins, one of the founders of the field of music therapy, characterized it this way: "Almost all children respond to music. Music is an open-sesame, and if you can use it

carefully and appropriately, you can reach into that child's potential for development."

This observation translates to all children, regardless of their developmental stage or ability, says Brooke Kesterson, school and family performances coordinator at the Carborro Arts Center. "As soon as the music starts, something transforms," she says. "There is something visceral that takes over the space."

Music is an important addition to children's education, Kesterson says. "Music opens kids up to other types of learning, and it can take kids to places that they don't quite expect. It can transform kids in a split second. As soon as they hear music they're rapt. That speaks a lot to the art form."

Jill Moffett is a freelance writer and editor, and mother of a 3-year-old son who lives in Durham

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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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It's your last chance to catch the Wolfpack at home this season! Help RED OUT Duke by wearing your favorite RED NC State Gear to the meet. The first 300 fans will receive an exclusive RED OUT...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Willis R. Casey Aquatic Center
2611 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27695
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Preschoolers (ages 3-5 with an adult) learn what wild animals do in winter by pretending to be animals that hibernate, migrate or just stay warm in the cold, winter woods! Take a hike, do a craft,...

Cost: $3

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
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Explore nature through play!  The Main Library is partnering with local Tinkergarten leaders Heather Murphy and Kate MacCartney to bring the fun of nature indoors.  Join us as we investigate...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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January Story Time, Puppet Show & Art Activity Puppet Show Incorporated https://www.puppetshowinc.org/ presents the classic Aesop fable The Lion and the Mouse. Activities include a story time,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Carrboro Library
900 Old Fayetteville Road
Inside McDougle Middle School
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Carrboro Branch Library
Telephone: 919-969-3006
Contact Name: Beth Hawkey
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Want a wild start to your new year?When you’re facing the after-holiday blues after packing up the decorations and taking down the tree, never fear. Come celebrate the new year in a thrilling,...

Cost: $20 - $26

Where:
Animal Park at the Conservators Center
676 E Hughes Mill Rd
Burlington, NC  27217
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Sponsor: Animal Park at the Conservators Center
Telephone: 336-421-0883
Contact Name: Taylor Sharp

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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Skate on an ice trail or free skate on 17,000 sq. ft of ice. Located in the Upper Pond of the Whitewater Center, the skating environment features three distinct programming areas and an on-ice...

Cost: 20

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
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Lights is a half-mile walking trail that leads viewers through a series of immersive light installations featuring  honeycombs, vines, crystals, and other natural features integrated into the...

Cost: Free

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
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Spanish Alive is providing Family Spanish classes starting in January! Join us to learn Spanish as an entire family in an immersive, fun environment. Our teachers are trained Spanish educators and...

Cost: $75-$216

Where:
Spanish Alive
156 E. Chatham St
Cary, NC
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Family Wildlife Series: Owl Prowl Saturday, January 18, 6-7:15 p.m. Venture into the night on a Blue Jay hike.  Learn about owl habits and adaptations as we listen for these nocturnal birds....

Cost: Free

Where:
Blue Jay Point County Park
3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Telephone: 919-870-4330
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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2019-20 Education Guide offers 718 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. In our 2019-20 issue, explore 1,028 resources for family fun.