If music is the universal language, as Longfellow famously asserted, then — with little kids, at least — motion must be a close runner-up.
The seven children, seven moms, one dad plus Kindermusik teacher Danielle Smith gathered in this mirrored room at A&K Dance & Acro in Killeen are energetically combining simple songs, rhythm and movement.
The goal? As stated by Kindermusik International Inc.: “Music is the best vehicle for early childhood learning.”
An animated, smiling leader, Smith also plays the trumpet and earned her music degree at the University of North Texas. She’s a Kindermusik “licensed educator” and has been with the program since 2006. A former band director in Copperas Cove ISD, Smith lives in Killeen with her husband and their two children, ages 4 and 7. She is a Kindermusik instructor at UMHB and also holds classes on her own.
Seated on the floor with their parents, the children participate in singing, shaking and striking basic percussion instruments. Recorded music accompanies Smith as she leads the uncomplicated melodies. Bounding to their feet, the children and parents are given mini hula hoops and offered several suggestions for simple dance-like movements. Each segment is brief and seems well-tailored to short attention spans.
“Today we’re working on transitions,” Smith explains, meaning the mental and behavioral shifting-of-gears from one activity to another. An easy, familiar song that’s sung when it’s time to stop watching TV and take a bath, for example. Each week, according to Kindermusik, a new “thematic unit” is introduced into the music and movement program.
When asked what most parents seek from the program, Smith answers promptly. “Two things: first, the educational value of introducing music at an early age; second: an outlet for socialization for moms and kids without pressure.”
She notes that children with Asperger’s and autism frequently suffer speech delays, but often “they can sing what they can’t speak.”
And the moms at this class are unanimous in their praise of Smith. Tracy Lowe and her son, Jacob, 13 months, are transplants from Georgia, where they were first introduced to Kindermusik.
“Danielle really loves to teach us,” Lowe said. “It’s obvious that she’s completely dedicated.”
Ron and Christina Campbell have brought their son, Jake, 3, and daughter Paisley, 10 months. “Music opens kids up,” Christina said. “Kindermusik helps them develop their social skills.”
At the end of this morning’s class, Katheryn Kumpf gathers up son Maddox, 10 months, and gazes back as Smith puts rhythm instruments in storage boxes. “I wanted him exposed to music,” she said, “and this is a great introduction.”