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Parents take note

Studies show learning music early enhances academic abilities

Studies show learning music early enhances academic abilities

March 28, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

When music teacher Gena Lundblad asks her students if they're ready for the sound of the piano, 3-year-old Evie Bergquist answers by doing balletic spins.

Lundblad already has told her class of toddlers and parents that wiggling and dancing is OK, but Evie, her 1 1/2-year-old sister, Erica, and a few other little kids already know that.

They are enrolled in Lundblad's Tuesday morning class, Creative Music for Parents and Toddlers, at her TLC - A Symphony of Music Services studios in downtown Hagerstown.

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Lundblad offers classes for parents and babies as young as 6 months old.

Equipped with a Shenandoah University bachelor's degree in music therapy, with minors in psychology and dance, in addition to working on a master's degree in music therapy, Lundblad is doing more than playing.

But she and her young students - and their parents - are having a wonderful time.

Stacey and Tim McGee of Williamsport are the parents of 18-month-old Sullivan.

They enrolled their daughter in music classes about nine months ago. Stacey McGee says she's read about positive effects learning music has on brain development and correlations with math and verbal skills. She thought it would be a good thing to do for her child.

"And I just thought it would be fun," she says.

Sullivan doesn't articulate her experience in words, but she frequently emits an enthusiastic "Oooooh" and seems to enjoy counting out her mother's fingers, which are bees from a fist beehive in a musical fingerplay.

Sixteen-month-old Ryan Flint lights up when "Miss Gena" makes a song with his name and a tambourine. He imitates the structure of the song, shaking the raised tambourine then plunking it down on the second syllable of his name, the second beat.

"That's huge," Lundblad says of his learning.

The music reaches young Ryan.

"It's such a powerful tool," Lundblad says. Music goes straight to the limbic system, she explains. That's the primitive part of the brain that's thought to control emotions, behavior, smell, etc.

The limbic system is connected to all other areas of the brain, parts related to motor, social and cognitive activities.

Lundblad says that music also can help develop imagination. You can't really see or touch music.

"We don't always have to have something to hold," she says. "We need to use our mind's eye."

These kids are listening, learning rhythm, the timbre or unique sound of different instruments, sharing, working together, and it's all happening with music.

Jackie Barlup of Waynesboro, Pa., recently accompanied her grandson, Logan McIntyre, 2, of Hagerstown in Lundblad's toddler class. Logan has shown so much interest in instruments and music, she says.

Dawn Bergquist and her daughters, Evie and Erica, also are in a Parents and Toddlers music class. Bergquist, who has taught kindergarten, has read the studies that show learning music early enhances children's academic abilities. Her children have fun. Erica is technically too young for the group, but she's marching, clapping and finding a circle on a tambourine, nevertheless. Evie easily picks out the sound of the clarinet from some recorded music.

"I see such definite growth," Lundblad says of her students.

Pamela Ward and her 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Madeleine, joined classmates in marching and playing imaginary instruments. Ward says she thinks the classes help children with listening skills and in being with other children, and, hey, Madeleine just enjoys music.

"It's fun," Ward says.

Although she does give her older individual piano students stars next to their names on charts she keeps, Lundblad says she doesn't believe that kids require stickers and lollipops to learn music.

"Music is its own reward," she says.

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