BY REBECCA PALMER
BOUNTIFUL С In a small dance studio inside the Montessori Discovery Academy building, Tanja Anderson leads a group of toddlers in song, encouraging each to make up a silly dance as they try to break through a circle of their hand-holding, laughing friends.
A few minutes earlier, each child got to choose where to place a “note” on a magnetic staff. The choices were rewarded by Anderson’s singing appropriately high, low or middle notes.
Their moms sit quietly in a carpeted section of the room, talking among themselves and deciding whether to entrust their children’s first musical training to Anderson and her Let’s Make Music curriculum.
Andersen, a violin teacher for 9 years, started teaching classes from the curriculum for 4 and 5-year-old students this fall. The system was developed by Shelle Soelberg, a young mother who studied music education at BYU. It was designed to bring the best music teaching strategies together in one program that would have students playing piano, and loving it, by about age 7.
Let’s Make Music joins a growing market of music education for the very young. Dozens of these programs are available throughout Davis County.
Anderson’s music education started at home and at church, and she started playing the violin in second grade. Even with all that exposure, she didn’t really understand how chords fit together to make music until college theory classes, she said.
Her students will get a head start. They’ll be primed for piano lessons and even if they don’t continue to study, they’ll have invaluable musical background.
“Our biggest dilemma with all my kids going through piano is they couldn’t get their flashcards down,” said Sheri Seljaas, whose daughter Kirsten was taking the demonstration class. “If I could get them started, maybe if they could learn that at a younger age, it won’t stop them when they’re older.”
By the end of the first year of weekly classes of Let’s Make Music, the children will know how to identify the three most common types of chords in any song. In their second year, they will learn to play those chords on the piano. By the end of year three, they will play and understand the chords in multiple keys.
“There’s a window for children between ages 3 and 9 when their brains are really open for music,” Anderson explained. “With training, that window enlarges.”
That enhances brain functioning and improves life, whether in math, language studies or even attention levels and mental health, Anderson believes.
In Anderson’s Bountiful studio, the small students had no problem paying attention to the demonstration class. In addition to the singing and dancing, they all got to play an autoharp. Because upbeat, friendly music was part of each moment, there was no time for running around, causing trouble or distracting the teacher with irrelevant questions.
The high activity level and early involvement with instruments is intentional. Kids learn best when they are using their bodies, and can understand surprisingly complex things when they do, according to information about the curriculum posted online at letsplaymusicsite.com.
“I think maybe we put a little too much stock in being born with natural talent and not enough in environment,” Anderson said. “I think anyone can develop musical talent.”