May 3, 2004

Students Connect With Children Through Music

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Bridging the age gap last Saturday, Cornell students from various music groups got a chance to show preschool and elementary school-aged children their skills while teaching them about the value of music. Organized by Therapy Through Music, “World Playtime,” held at the Franziska Racker Center in Ulysses, attracted children from around the area. Events of the day included performances by the World Music choir, a Brazilian samba group, and workshops focused on specific areas of world music.

Therapy Through Music is a group of around 40 students who, since last year, have performed at area senior housing such as Kendall and Lakeside. The club was started by Jessica Schiffman ’05, who got the idea for the group from a program she participated in while in high school. “The cool thing about our group is that its very individualized,” she said.

Members often interacted on a one-on-one basis with seniors. “World Playtime” is the group’s first program with children.

“I convinced the group to do this last year,” Schiffman said. Since the beginning of the semester the group planned extensively for the event. They advertised in every area elementary school and in area preschools. According to Schiffman, the group wanted to make sure that children with developmental disabilities could participate as well. The Franziska Racker Center, where the event was held, is a center for creating opportunities for people with special needs.

“Music is a wonderful tool for empowerment,” said Sarah Burger ’04, the vice president of Therapy Through Music. “I’m really excited to be able to do an event like this,” she said.

Burger said that in a community as multicultural as Ithaca, it is nice to have an event which reflects that.

Its all about sharing the music,” she said.

“World Playtime” began with a performance by the World Music Choir. Prof. Scott Tucker, music, started the choir this year.

“The idea was to start a choir whose emphasis was participation,” Tucker said.

The group has no audition and is informal both in performances and rehearsals. The focus of the group is on non-Western music — their repertoire includes songs from South Africa, Latin America, Israel and Southeast Asia. Tucker is also the faculty advisor for Therapy Through Music. “It’s been a lot of fun,” he added.

While the group performed, children were given the opportunity to provide instrumental accompaniment using shakers that they made themselves at an activity table.

“Being at Cornell we don’t get a chance to play around with little kids,” said Jamie Newberry ’05, a member and future vice president of Therapy Through Music.

The Brazilian samba group gave the kids even more opportunities to participate, as many of their songs were dance-oriented. The group played music typical of the carnival festival in Brazil. Following these performances, the children had a chance to explore around on their own. Tables were set up with various activities, including a “musical petting zoo” where the children could interact with various instruments.

“Its definitely very hands-on,” Burger said. Other activity tables were devoted to different areas of world music, such as Russia, Africa and Ireland.

Many of the Cornell students who participated felt rewarded by the experience. “I like working with little kids,” said Jenica Abram ’07, a member of the World Music Choir.

Archived article by Ted Van Loan
Sun Staff Writer