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Teacher changes pace

December 14, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - Kelly Klein says the key to successfully teaching music to very young children is simple.

That's right, it's simple.

Klein is in her first year of teaching general music at the Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education, having previously taught at E. Russell Hicks Middle School.

"Coming to an elementary school from a middle school means simplifying," Klein said.

The only instruments she has introduced to this age group are members of the percussion family, such as bells and drums. The rest of what she teaches is singing.

A plus for Klein has been her ability to change her approach to mesh with the younger musicians.

"I get to be silly once in awhile, and that's fun," she said.

The first big challenge for Klein's 80 first-graders came on Dec. 10, when they performed at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Funkstown as part of the traditional Olde Tyme Christmas.

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In an interview before the performance, Klein said she was not only teaching the children songs to sing but also giving them some tips on performing for the first time in public.

"I have been showing them how to focus on the audience," Klein said. She said she tells them that their moms and dads will be out there and will want to see their faces and hear their voices.

The youngsters first practiced with rough drawings as an "audience" and then later with other Funkstown teachers, Klein said.

"I found these kids love to show off," she said.

Mixed in with standard Christmas carols were songs of Kwanzaa - an African-American celebration - and other holiday observances, Klein said. Most of all, she wants the children to enjoy themselves.

Tonight, the first-graders are to present the mini-musical "Holiday Alphabet" at the school at 6:30 p.m.

A graduate of Boonsboro High School, Klein is the daughter of Tom and Sue King. She and her husband, Walter, who is also a teacher, have a 9-month-old daughter, Charlotte.

After earning her undergraduate degree in music from Frostburg State University, she pursued her master's degree at the University of Louisiana. She plays the saxophone and piano.

"I wanted to explore a culture different from Boonsboro - the different music, food and people there," Klein said of her five-year stay in the south.

She has been teaching in Washington County for five years.

So far, Klein is happy with her decision to teach music at the elementary school level. She said, after all, that is where she got her start.

"My kindergarten teacher told my mom that I had an ear for music and that I should start piano lessons," Klein said.

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