Goshen College is launching a local chapter of a national music program called “Music Together,” a curriculum designed for young children and their parents. The program has the potential to move beyond the GC campus and out into the community.

This new program provides opportunities to strengthen family bonds, learn new life skills through musical instruments and songs, and enrich children’s vocabulary at an early age.

Brian Wiebe, director of GC’s music center, and Deb Kauffman, director of Community School of the Arts, have brought this new, research-based program to the Goshen College campus and community. The goal is to create opportunities for children and parents to experience a first-hand experience with music and arts.

This is also a great opportunity for college students who enjoy interacting with young children—also known as an apprentice teacher. Students employed by the program will receive payment for their work, as they learn to engage with children via cultural songs, music and dance lessons.

The Community School of the Arts has provided adults and children with opportunity for music lessons and choir participation since 2003. However it was not until this year that Wiebe and Kauffman decided to expand and grow beyond music teaching after attending a three-day training workshop held in New York City in March of 2008.

“The three days were long and intense and we had homework to do in the evenings,” Kauffman said. “The first day they talked a lot about the philosophy of ‘Music Together,’ although we also sang and did movement things from time to time. Music Together is huge in NYC, especially in the wealthy neighborhoods. Lots of the children came to their classes with nannies instead of parents.”

This meeting led them to training sessions, and Wiebe and Kauffman decided to introduce the program to GC and the Goshen community. Now, they are driven by their passionate love for music that will push them to make this vision come true. ““Visions are great, but you have to realize they are followed by extremely hard work,” Kauffman said. “This pushes me beyond my comfort zone because it is new. Plus, there is a lot of new material to learn for each semester, so I am beginning to go to sleep with my iPod playing each night.”

Not only will they reach families around the Goshen campus, but also to the community in Elkhart and soon Middlebury.

The “Music Together” curriculum consists of experimenting with instruments, dancing, singing children’s songs, folk songs and lullabies. Children will also learn basics such as vocabulary and how to keep a steady beat.

“It’s not just ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’” Kauffman said.

“Another purpose for this program is that children, along with their parents, experience a college campus,” Wiebe said, “and get familiarized with the Music Center and students, as well.”

Their first goal will be to make this program accessible to everyone. Classes will be offered on campus but also at Chamberlain Elementary and Prairie View Elementary in Goshen, as well as at Elkhart Montessori and a head-start program at Roosevelt Center in Elkhart.

The second goal for this program is to strengthen family bonds. “Nowadays, families are too busy and this program will provide an opportunity for them to interact,” Kauffman explained.

Wiebe also emphasized the importance of college students helping with this new program. Students will become a certified teacher by taking a three-day training session in Columbus, Ohio. After the student’s certification, he or she will be able to teach one or two classes a week for a total of 10 weeks, depending on the student’s schedule. At the end of the 10 weeks, there will be a final concert with all of the children who were involved in the program.

Classes are 45 minutes long and meet once a week for 10 weeks. Tuition is $120 for a semester and includes a beautifully illustrated songbook and CD for each family. Scholarships are available.

More information is available at the Community School of the Arts at 535-7907