Imagine you are an early-childhood classroom teacher responsible for molding the minds of a room full of four to six-year-olds. Now imagine you have just been told you are to teach these children music in the classroom. Your knowledge of music is limited to the few songs you were taught back in elementary school. Do not despair yet.

Thanks to a team of experts lead by the Eastman School of Music Professor of Music Education Donna Brink Fox, your life has been saved. Fox is the leading member of a team including Karen Farnum Surmani, Christine H. Barden, Gayle Kowalchyk and E.L. Lancaster, who recently published the first volume of an early childhood music curriculum entitled “Classroom Music for Little Mozarts.”

Based on a previously published piano curriculum, “Music for Little Mozarts,” the curriculum not only stresses organized group music-making activities, but also encourages freestyle “playtime” music activities within the four to six-year-old age group. Within the instruction, children will follow the story of several characters, including “Mozart Mouse” and “Beethoven Bear,” who reside in the music classroom. Plush characters are also included, so the children can interact during playtime. Each of the three volumes of the curriculum is made up of 10 lessons and amounts to a year of instruction.

Lessons are also based on the standards set by the Music Educators National Conference. Over the course of the first year, the students become acquainted with hearing music and recognizing patterns and begin to relate sound to the sight of notation. At the same time, they are encouraged to make their own discoveries in music without the aid of a teacher or instructor.

Originally meant to be a music curriculum for classroom teachers with little or no music background, this book has apparently also become popular with parents and their children at home too.

Recently, the book has earned a Parents’ Choice Award – a distinguished honor from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, a not-for-profit evaluator of children’s products. Only products that exceed criteria set by the Foundation achieve this high standard of approval.

Growing up in a “musically-capable” family, though not particularly musically-inclined, Fox vividly remembers her first grade class’ rhythm band. Although she herself did not have a formal music teacher until high school, she recalls this music time as being very special and poignant in her life.

Looking back, this may be the reason she is now an internationally acclaimed expert on early childhood music education. According to Fox, her husband thinks she “is making up for lost time.”

As far as advice for those pursuing music in education, Fox strongly recommends learning as much about children as possible.

She says to spend time with them, learn how they become interested and know what they are able to do. In her words, “Consider the learner – understand the children as much as you possibly can.”

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