BERKELEY HEIGHTS, N.J. - For some students of the violin, learning to play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart brings back fond memories -- others, including their parents, may have a different view.
Youngsters from 4 to 6 and one of their parents will have the opportunity to learn to play the violin at the first-ever session of the Suzuki Violin Program at the Judith G. Wharton Music Center said Michelle, "Miki," Hatcher, the String Specialist at Wharton.
There will be two 12-week-long sessions offered - one in the late morning, the other in the early afternoon at the school.
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The addition of the Suzuki Violin Program has both Hatcher and Karen Deschere, the Executive Director of both the center and the New Jersey Youth Symphony excited.
Deschere said, "We wanted to strengthen the early childhood education" offerings at the center and adding the Suzuki program does just that.
Hatcher said while "many parents have heard how important music is to a child's development," they are non-musicians and don't know how to incorporate it into their lives. The Suzuki program, in which children and parents train together, helps bridge that gap. "It's very intensive and requires parent involvement," from the very beginning.
The children begin with a pre-violin, on which they learn the parts of the violin and how to take care of a violin. After a couple of weeks learning the basics, the child gets a child-sized violin on which to learn. The school lends the parent a violin, "so they can experience what their child is going through."
Each child takes a 15-minute lesson with a parent; participates in a 30-minute group class with the other parents and children and also is observed for 15 minutes. "There's a lot of individual attention," said Hatcher. "The group lesson reinforces what was learned" and the observation time permits the instructors to see how their students learn best while they are having fun, since everyone learns differently.
The parent is in "the class as a model and, at home, as a teacher to reinforce the learning," said Hatcher. The child can also become a teacher to the parent. There is "mutual respect built into the relationship," said Hatcher. In the end, the program "creates a love of music," she said.
"They also learn fine and large motor skills, posture, different bow movements, get lots of positive reinforcement and gain in self-confidence," Hatcher said. "Getting comfortable sharing their first accomplishment is very important, so when they get on stage they don't panic," said Hatcher. The self-confidence part shows up when they are on stage and execute one of the early skills they are taught, how to take a bow, something which always brings a smile to her face.
The Suzuki Method, developed by Shinichi Suzuki, is more than 50 years old and has been used all over the world. It's based upon the way children learn to speak and relies upon repetition and a partnership between the child, parent and teacher. One of the main benefits of teaching an instrument by the Suzuki Method is that "We want children to start correctly, so we don't have to fix" bad habits, said Hatcher.
As for the "Twinkle Variations," there are 12 of them, they are still the first songs that students learning to play the violin will tackle, Hatcher said. "When kids 'get' Twinkle, it's like magic. It's an amazing moment when they get it."
To find out more about the Suzuki Violin Program, visit the website. The classes, for children ages 4 to 6, will be offered from10:15 to 10:45 a.m. and from 1:45 to 2:15 p.m. on Tuesdays, beginning with a Family Orientation on Sept. 15.
The Judith G. Wharton Music Center is located at 60 Locust Avenue, Berkeley Heights. It can be reached by phone at 908-790-0700 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The complete course listing can be downloaded from the site.
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