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Music Brings Joy and Learning to Our Youngest Residents

Music Brings Joy and Learning to Our Youngest Residents

For more than 16 years, the Evanston Symphony Orchestra has provided free music education—Music In Your World (MIYW)—to pre-schoolers aged 3–5 in District 65’s Head Start and Pre-K programs. More recently, we expanded MIYW to our youngest and most vulnerable residents from 6 weeks to 3 years and their families in District 65’s Early Start program. ESO classes use music, movement, and experience with musical instruments. Singing develops important pre-literacy skills for these young students while building teamwork and cooperation, and instilling joy into their lives.

Charles Taylor
Charles Taylor,
Music Educator, Head Start and PreK

ESO has two talented and charismatic Music In Your World teachers. Charles Taylor has taught our monthly Head Start and Pre-K classes since we founded the program. He is a big favorite with the children and also their parents since we started parent/child evening sessions this past academic year. Matthew Perutz, known as Mr. Matt to his students, teaches weekly Early Head Start classes and also conducts weekly programs for moms and very young children in the Early Start home visiting program.

Matt Perutz
Matt Perutz,
Music Educator, Early Head Start

When District 65 closed schools in late March due to COVID-19, Music In Your World stopped for Head Start programs and Early Start, too. Early Start is a 12-month program that provides wrap-around support services to vulnerable, low-income families with children up to 3 years old who are not in a formal pre-school setting, many of whom are English learners. Social workers meet regularly with families to assess individual needs and engage them in educational and enrichment classes like music, reading to and with children, art activities, and more. The goal of Early Start is to have children kindergarten-ready by age 5 to reduce the persistent educational achievement gap between low-income children of color and their economically better off peers.

Xiomara Alfaro from District 65’s Family Center heads up Early Start and transitioned her social workers to “virtual” meetings with families in her care. She also sets up enrichment activities for them online. ESO’s Music In Your World classes are top favorites! So, beginning in May, Mr. Matt resumed classes with Early Start families online. He now teaches two 25-minute classes a week to any Early Start family that signs on. One parent reported back to Xiomara: “I think music is important for my toddler. He is learning to listen to music and to pay attention. He is also learning new vocabulary. Also, this is a good way to support him these days when he cannot see his little friends in person.”

Mr. Matt teaches finger-play songs like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and fun sing-along songs like “Little Liza Jane” and even “Baby Shark,” accompanied by his guitar. Songs and lessons are in English and Spanish, Xiomara attends all classes, notes which families are participating, and assesses the progress of each child toward learning goals, despite being confined to home. Mr. Matt also makes special music videos that he sends to families to expand their music-based learning. We hope you enjoy this one about noises you can make with a straw and the concept of pitch.

Mr. Matt says, “It has been a great opportunity to connect with my students and their families again. All of my time singing and showing the kids music has been nothing short of fantastic, and it is wonderful to see my little students smiling again with the online classes that everyone has come together to set up. I hope that everyone of all ages and everywhere gets a chance to listen to some good music while dealing with this unprecedented time and that I can help spread the joy of quality early childhood music education."

When schools reopen, ESO hopes to be back in the classrooms with all Head Start, Pre-K, and Early Head Start children, bringing them the joy of music and the benefits of singing and movement. Until then, Mr. Matt will still be joining Early Start children and families in their homes to help reduce social isolation and continue their learning.

SHOP and Support the ESO!

Are you looking to buy a gift for someone at Amazon? Need to stock up on supplies from Amazon?

Amazon has a special program called Smile, where the company donates a small amount of your purchase to your designated charity. Once you select the ESO as your Smile recipient, just point your browser to smile.amazon.com each time you want to shop at Amazon and the Evanston Symphony will benefit. It won’t cost you a thing!

Thanks, and happy shopping.

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