The Young Children's Division was founded by Rachel Buchman, at the request of the former Dean of the Shepherd School, Michael Hammond. Classes meet on a weekly basis 12 times a semester. We follow the Rice academic calendar. Class size is limited to 8 or 10, depending on the age of the children. Children are enrolled once a year.
Young Children's Division classes are energetic, educational and joyful, for music-loving children ages 2-9. Classes created by Rachel Buchman are based on the eurhythmics principles and teaching philosophy of Emile Jaques-Dalcroze. Miss Rachel and her team of trained Brown Fellow Graduate Students, bring the world of music alive through age-appropriate singing and ear-training, eurhythmics and creative movement, percussion and piano improvisation, learning about instrument families, listening to and learning about orchestral music, and notation. In a creative, relaxed environment, children explore fundamentals such as dynamics, tempo, pitch, rhythm, phrasing, and form, while expressing their own musical feelings and ideas through singing, playing and moving. These classes are highly recommended for children taking instrumental lessons, as well as those who might do so.
For classes during the academic year, we have a group of about 44 children who participate. Children usually enter at age 2 or 3 and continue through the program for 3-6 years, just as students enroll in college and continue through for 4 years. This means we don't have many spaces opening each fall for new children. The families already in the program have priority when we register each fall. If a place opens up, it is offered first to a sibling of a child already in the program. After that, it is offered to a child who we have taught in summer camp. Summer camp is not a prerequisite for joining the fall program, however, during summer camp, we have a good opportunity to get to know the children well, and evaluate whether or not they would thrive in the fall program, which is much more rigorous than the summer program.
We have many families whose children only attend during the summer. One week of summer camp is almost the same number of hours as the whole academic year, and if a child attends camp for two weeks, they actually are in more hours than the children during the academic year.
There is no waiting list.
Parents are the "first responders" and most important in a child's musical education. Just as we wouldn't take our child to reading classes at age two because we read at home to our children, introduce them to letters, sounds, stories, improvisational language (that is - speaking!!!), so I believe children can be introduced to music in the same way. Music making and developing a child's natural musical aptitude is a hands-on activity best done at home. When parents come to my classes, I hope to give them the tools to do so, but more importantly, help them realize that they can do so.
I wish we could expand the program, and hopefully, one day we will. However, we'll never have enough space or teachers for all the children who love music, since ALL children love music and a great majority of them have a high degree of aptitude when they are young. In fact, it seems that music making is a natural human aptitude, much like the aptitude toward language. So, as with so many aspects of education, especially artistic and spiritual education, it is the responsibility of every parent to bring music into their child's lives, just as they bring books and language into their lives. When I liken the situation to baseball, parents seem to understand. Parents spend hours watching baseball, playing baseball, explaining baseball, to their children before they ever get near a little league field. Shouldn't and couldn't it be the same with music?
I do firmly believe that no musical development is "lost" if children aren't in classes, as long as their parents are singing, dancing and listening avidly with them at home. I urge you to spend time singing and dancing with your child at home, though I'm sure you already do so. It is the most important thing to do to develop your children's natural musicianship.
I am often asked about instrumental lessons for young children. Before the age of 5 or 6, it is essential and much more age appropriate and musically advantageous, for young children to participate in classes like ours, and participate in musical activities such as I mentioned above, rather than take instrumental lessons. Singing is the most important preparation a child can do. Remember, your child needs to develop musical fluency before learning to read music and play an instrument, just as children learn to comprehend, speak and improvise fluently before learning to read and write a language. I've posted many suggestions for parents about how to bring more music into the lives of their children. Please look at the Young Childrens Music Resources. You will find much of the musical material we use in class.