January 22, 2011 in City, Washington Voices

The ABCs of music

By The Spokesman-Review

Jeanne Erickson uses zebra finger puppets to teach singing and pitch development during her music class, Tune Tales, at CenterPlace on Wednesday. She uses games and movement to introduce children to music and music theory.
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New sessions of Tune Tales Music classes for ages 1-3 ($66) and ages 4-6 ($72) will be offered on Wednesdays Feb. 23 to March 30 at CenterPlace. To register, call Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation at (509) 688-0300 or visit www.spokanevalley.org and click on the parks/pools link.

Jeanne Erickson, owner of Tune Tales Music, spends 35 minutes every Wednesday singing, jumping and dancing in a room full of toddlers as she teaches young children the basics of music.

The kids don’t necessarily follow along to the beat as she demonstrates various simple instruments that mostly involve banging, clanging or shaking, but they still bop and shimmy across the floor and enthusiastically bang away. The kids may tiptoe in a circle, throw colorful scarves in the air or clap along to “If You’re Happy and You Know It” during a class.

Erickson, who recently moved to the area from Seattle, has 20 years of experience teaching music. She creates her own music CDs and curriculum to teach music theory and expose young children to musical instruments. She is currently collaborating with Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Department to offer a weekly class for children up to age 3 at CenterPlace. She also plans to offer a class for children ages 4 to 6 as more people learn about her program.

Classes will start every five or six weeks and parents can sign up children for as many or as few as they want. Prices range from $66 to $72 and include a copy of the CD she uses every session. The next session will start Feb. 23 and each one is different, Erickson said.

She doesn’t focus on as much music theory with toddlers, Erickson said. Instead she uses a series of short, energetic lessons to expose them to music and various instruments. “With this age group, obviously their attention span is really short,” she said.

During one recent class she brought a full-size harp along to show the children. They each got a chance to strum its strings. She brings a different instrument each week. “I’ve even brought the trumpet and the trombone,” she said. “They all get to touch it, to try it, to push the buttons.”

Hands-on learning is important, Erickson said. Kids are having so much fun they don’t even realize they are learning. “I think they retain it because of that,” she said.

Tracy Peterson signed up her 2-year-old son Jack for Erickson’s class. “I think it’s great,” she said. “He likes it. This is his school he gets to go to.” He loves to tell people about singing at school, she said.

Peterson said she enrolled her son in the class to expose him to music. “I’m not musical at all,” she said. It also gives him a chance to socialize with children his own age, she said.

Jack did a lot of wandering during the class, but he did manage to get some dancing and banging in. “It’s about moving to the music,” Erickson said.

Erickson closes each class with a goodbye song and encourages the kids to follow along. “See you later, alligator,” she sings. “Adios, piece of toast.”

The students help her pick up instruments, then get a hand stamp and a few musical coloring sheets on their way out the door. “In a while, crocodile.”

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