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Positive Note : When Parents Introduce Children to Music, It's a Lifetime Gift

December 05, 1991|Maureen Brown | Maureen Brown is a writer and mother of four.

As parents bustle to the shopping malls to select the "perfect gift" for their child for Hanukkah or Christmas, I submit a suggestion that many educators, parents and students deem to have lifetime value--the gift of music.

North County has many homes in which families have incorporated music into their lives and schedules. For some, attention is focused on school programs; for others, it is concentrated on privately organized lessons or groups.

Interesting children in music often begins with a parental commitment. It can start with listening to music in the home and include trucking kids back and forth to lessons, scrimping to purchase an instrument and listening to not always pretty practice sessions.

"Eventually the child gets excited," said Viola Panman, a musical educator in the Carlsbad Unified School District.

"There is a balance of creativity and expression in music that is needed in today's world," Panman said. "Students involved in music practice regularly, develop concentration, focus, dexterity and flexibility. Ultimately, as they integrate these skills in their daily life, they are helped in their studies."

Before 8 a.m. each school morning, the Poway High School Marching Band is marching to the rhythmic sound of a high-pitched meter instrument on their playing field. Last month the band performed at a Chargers football game and most recently it returned from a band competition in Texas.

At that same Chargers game, a male quartet from Poway High School's choral program sang "The Star Spangled Banner." First tenor Trevor Ellingson, second tenor Jeremy Wuertz, baritone Josh Wilson, and bass Robert Burgoyne make up the quartet. They work with choral director Barbara Fletcher.

Wuertz also plays in the Jazz Band; Ellingson is a drummer in the band; Burgoyne is involved in drama and student government; Wilson participates in water polo and swimming.

The members of the quartet see music as a meaningful part of their education. "It's a great opportunity to make friends--like on a team," says one. "Music is a foundation. It helps you communicate better."

Requirements for high school graduation and college demand full schedules for most students. The quartet members attest to having difficulties squeezing music into their high school schedules. It has meant going to summer school to fulfill requirements in subjects such as math.

The students acknowledge that although music is now an integral part of their lives, there was some parental maneuvering to initially interest them.

"My mother was the accompanist for the school choir," Wuertz said. "I stayed after school for a ride home. I didn't want to just sit by mom who was playing the piano, so I joined the choir."

"My mother," Wilson adds, "said she would pay for my driver's training if I would take choir."

"My mother said she would get me Nintendo in seventh grade if I would do a musical play. Then along came choir," Ellingson says.

All four students believe that they will continue their singing and music in college in some manner.

Donna Hill and Pam Allen are choral directors of the Ramona Elementary Honor Choir. The choir, made of selected students from the Ramona elementary schools, present two choral concerts a year and will perform at Knotts Berry Farm Dec. 12.

The choir meets once a week after school and has been an effective means of introducing young students to choral music. At a recent Ramona High School Cabaret Night, Allen noted that more than half of the performers had come up through the choir. Parental involvement is one of the keys to the success of the choral program, she said. "It's a commitment for parents as well, who must provide transportation to our rehearsals once a week."

Martha Jane Weaver, an accomplished mezzo-soprano from San Marcos, drives her two sons, Keith, 11, and Eric, 8, at least once a week into downtown San Diego to sing with the Cathedral Church of St. Paul's Choristers.

"It's a lot of driving into San Diego," concedes Weaver, "but the boys are enjoying it. They even appreciate the small stipend they receive from the Cathedral for their 'work.' Keith will be singing in the forthcoming San Diego Opera performance of 'Der Rosenkavalier.' "

Weaver is an advocate of early musical education. "My mother took me to church when I was a little girl in Pennsylvania. I got started in the cherub choir, you know . . . little red gown and the white collar. Later in school, I became involved in the chorus."

Weaver's sons, who attend Rhoades School in Encinitas, were exposed early to music by virtue of living with a professional musician. "They could even sing parts of 'Messiah' they had heard at home when they were very small," Weaver recalls. "Consequently, they are now interested in music."

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