108-10 72d Avenue, Forest Hills, NY 11375 - TEL. 718.261,2237 E-mail:Directors@belleartiny.com

The benefits of music at an early age

Why did you choose Belle Arti Center for the Arts? Why did you stay?

We were looking for two things: music and convenience. Music is a big part of our child's enrichment. We believed that we must provide our child with an opportunity of experiencing musical education. Convenient location was a big factor in choosing Belle Arti. It wasn't a place someone recommended (this was Belle Arti's first year). We both work full time. Bekka's preschool was a full-time program. We simply couldn't travel somewhere far. There are schools in South Brooklyn that were recommended by Russian parents. There are schools in Flushing that we could have tried. We simply didn't see a point of dragging a pre-schooler through traffic for a lesson she may or may not benefit from. We stayed because of music and convenience. We enrolled in Musical Aurora® and piano. Both were difficult for her. I was able to help at home to some extent. Piano classes and home practice became a thing of habit/routine. I knew immediately that the child is not a piano prodigy. Neither are we. But, unlike dance and gymnastics and other things that we tried, music had a cognitive, social, and emotional purpose for us.So we gave it a year and another year and..... here we are.

Is Musical Aurora® the first class you did with Bekka? We tried the piano only in the first semester and didn't go the recital. In the spring we were invited to participate in a Musical Aurora® class and Bekka loved it. So we stayed for the semester. Musical Aurora® gave her a fun look at theory. No one says fun and theory in the same sentence, but this program made learning a new and highly conceptual and complex language of music accessible to a young and developing mind.
Would you recommend Musical Aurora®? Why? Yes! As an educator (not an early childhood specialist) I see the rhythmic and motor awareness of the music and tactile value of the manipulatives. In other words, if a child can touch, make, and experience the sound through various objects and activities, she will be able to grasp theoretical concepts of high/low sounds, harmonies, scales, etc. later on. As a matter of fact, my nephew's daughter is enrolled in a baby program and they LOVE IT! The child is 15 months old and she is making music. Some might say that it's the same noise a percussion set from Target. They don't realize the structure of this program that teaches various aspects of music in age-appropriate sequence.
Do you find that the Musical Aurora® class structure helped your child? Musical Aurora® definitely helped with theory and general awareness of a music class. We always had music on at home and in the car. We clapped and sang and danced (still do), but Musical Aurora® helped solidify the structure of music education - an opened a path to understanding that music is not just pleasant noise. It is a structured, theoretical, complex art.
Did Musical Aurora® play a role in preparing Bekka for pre-K? Pre-K and Musical Aurora® was a simultaneous experience. Musical Aurora®, of course, is less formal and more physically engaging than a school. But it does have a role in establishing routines and patterns of peer socialization and classroom environment.
In what ways did Musical Aurora® help Bekka succeed when she started learning the piano? Bekka is not a musically gifted child (to say the least). Rhythm, high/low notes, the coordination of eye, hand, and ear are extremely difficult for her. Musical Aurora® was a step. The teacher did games and activities to develop the part of brain that would have been lying dormant otherwise.
How do you think Musical Aurora and music in general has helped Bekka overall?
1. Structure - this is what we do after school. Children must be engaged in enrichment activities. Parents must support them (NOT nag and hover), but provide space, time, and purpose to an activity.
2. Character - music is and always was hard for Bekka. The easiest thing would be to give up a long time ago. Learning to play an instrument, read music, and memorize takes an acquired mental fortitude. We are a culture of immediate rewards. Bekka learned to not expect immediate result of fluency by sitting at the piano for 10 minutes. She knows now what it takes to be proficient at a skill. Whatever she decides to do, she will apply herself over an extended period of time.
3. Something to do for herself - she often takes a song book and sight reads and sings a show tune or a popular song. It's a great way to take one's mind off of stress.
4. Socialization - piano is a lonely business, but it opens social doors. Because of piano and music, Bekka got into a Select Chorus in her school (NYSSMA gold for three years) and Concert Band (NYSSMA gold and silver). She auditioned and was accepted to Borough wide concert band (clarinet) and performed in Carnegie (!!!) HALL!!! Now, she is a part of All-City Marching Band (next parade is November 11th - Veterans' Day). She continues to be around wonderful children and making friends for life.
5. Academic work - There are theories on music and math connection. There is definitely a mental and physical fortitude connection between ability to learn a piece and sitting down to figure out a problem in geometry and not giving up. Even the highly conceptual aspects of music and math are connectable. I can't speak to meta-cognition of music, but if one can sightread music, one is automatically a more fluent, thoughtful reader at school.
6. Discipline/focus - Bekka is studious and compliant by nature. She aims to please her teachers. She cares about what others think of her. So, discipline is not an issue. But music definitely disciplines the parents. Unlike school, Belle Arti is not a place to deposit your child so you can run errands. Music requires equal organization and dedication on behalf of parents. Scheduling, sustained practice, recitals, emotional support, etc. must be in place. Even though daddy never learned a note, he learned to make this activity a part of the family. But it's incomparably easier (and less expensive!) than travel sports.
7. OPPORTUNITIES - Because of Belle Arti we got into an amazing middle school of our choice. She was not zoned for Halsey (JHS 157), but because she had a music background and could sight-read, she was offered a spot in a band. In middle school she excelled in a grade band (first clarinet), Concert Band (by audition), a highly competitive Select Chorus. She performed in Carnegie Hall, and city parades. She auditioned for Frank Sinatra HS, but chose a law program instead. Only three years from now we will start looking at colleges. Music might become a tangible asset and a scholarship opportunity (for marching band).
Over the years, has learning music/to play an instrument helped Bekka to strengthen/overcome any weaknesses/challenges?
It was a slow start. Many years of seemingly endless and meaningless drag. We knew right away that concert pianist she is not. Most of her peers outperformed her in aptitude and skill. And she saw it. But over the years we noticed most of the kids leave. They become interested in other things. Their parents give up because it's too much work for them or they realize that the kid is not Vladimir Horowitz. We stayed. We pushed through and we got results. Bekka sees kids her age who are talented, but they never got the opportunities that she has had. She has learned that inherent disadvantages (being born a certain way) fade in comparison to hard work and perseverance. Albert Einstein once said, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." She has learned to overcome challenges by staying with the problem longer.
Do you find Belle Arti Center to be a positive environment? Why?
Belle Arti Center for the Arts is a clean, supportive, nurturing environment. There is a palpable atmosphere of genuine love of music, children, and musical education. Claudette Munné and Massimiliano Facchini (and all support staff) are aglow with passion and pride on the first day of school, at recitals, and every day in between. Belle Arti Center seems hardly a business, but rather a lifestyle. What is the biggest value you get out of Belle Arti Center? Very affordable... Also, it's a school, a community of aspiring musicians. I can't imagine taking music this far for Bekka if we had a music teacher coming to our home for private lessons. Belle Arti provides a package of music education - instrument, theory, music appreciation.