By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
— Chris Floyd and her 4-year-old son quietly listened Monday to the sound of a bell tolling.
How many times did it ring?
“One. Two. Three. Four. Five,” the mother-son pair counted out on their fingers.
The exercise was part of a Kindermusik class in Kokomo for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds.
Raye Jean Swinehart has been teaching the early childhood music program for nine years.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, parents, grandparents and their small children meet with Swinehart in the basement of Highland Park Church to develop a foundation in music and movement.
Children learn how to keep a beat and match pitch. They learn what words like tempo mean.
“This is really important,” Swinehart said of the class. “It makes all the difference in the world.”
Floyd knows that. She said she’s been bringing her four children to the class for six years now.
Her 6-year-old really needed it when he was a toddler, she said.
He used to be really shy and clingy, Floyd said. But as he sang, played instruments, rolled and skipped during class, he started to open up.
“I saw him grow a lot through music,” she said.
In June, though, Swinehart will leave Kokomo. Her husband lost his job at Delphi, and the couple will be moving to Michigan for a new job.
She will be leaving her 65 students behind.
“It will be sad,” Swinehart said.
But Kokomo-Center School board members voted Monday to take over the program, so those students will still have a class to go to.
The district will offer the classes at Wallace School of Integrated Arts starting in August 2013. It will be independently funded by the parents who enroll their children in the program.
The timing is right, said Wallace Principal Charley Hinkle.
He said the Kindermusik program will create the necessary foundation for students considering his integrated arts school for kindergarten.
And because of the increased demand at Wallace, the school will have to add a second classical violin instructor next year. That teacher will also be in charge of the Kindermusik classes then, Hinkle said.
Heather McKillip said Swinehart will be hard to replace.
“My kids grew up with her,” she said. “They know her. You can hear her. She’s so good with them.”
She is glad that the school system will keep the program afloat, though.
The classes give parents a chance to bond with their children, she said.
They have other benefits, too.
“Through music, children may benefit from language development, pre-literacy and word recognition,” Hinkle said. “Through movement, children increase their fine-motor, gross-motor and loco-motor skills. This program also develops the whole child by learning sharing, self-regulation and self-control.”
There’s a century of research showing the benefits music has on brain development and motor skills, especially for kids under the age of 5, said Kokomo High School Band Director John Pinson.
Swinehart said she thinks Kindermusik is the best music and movement program in the area for children. It’s based on research in child development.
Officials say it’s a perfect fit for Kokomo-Center Schools, too.
“Kindermusik fits nicely into our arts curriculum,” Superintendent Jeff Hauswald said. “I am excited to be able to add another quality fine arts program to our growing and successful programs.”
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