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GOAL vol­un­teers Gabe Listro sings and Madeline Jeffes (flautist) make music with children at Head Start Preschool. Sofia Krusmark | Col­legian.

Their eyes dance in awe as they watch the flute. For some, it is their first time. Little jaws drop as the sound lingers in the air at the end of “Twinkle Twinkle little Star.” Wisps of music scarves follow behind the mini feet that move to the music.

For the first time, the “Music in the Com­munity” GOAL Program has part­nered with the Com­munity Action Agency Head Start Preschool. Goal Leader and sophomore Gabe Listro hopes to bring music to every area of the com­munity. In times past, “Music in the Com­munity” has vol­un­teered at Drews Place, an assisted living home.

“I wanted music in the com­munity to be more than singing at Drews Place. I wanted to reach kids as well,” Listro said. “I want it to be edu­ca­tional for them. I want them to be able to say, ‘That one time I remember them seeing an oboe.’ They’ll just know more about music than turning on the radio or lis­tening to a song on YouTube. Music will mean more to them than that.”

Sue Walberg, Head Start teacher for 30 years, said stu­dents first started vol­un­teering at the preschool during the first Hillsdale Spring Break Mission’s Trip in 2016, after which alumna Katherine Lewis ’17 began the CAA GOAL program. Stu­dents have been vol­un­teering there ever since, and when Listro ini­tially approached Walberg about the new project, Walberg said she was “over­whelmed.”

“When they came to us about doing this, we were just like, ‘Wow,’ we just do CDs,” Walberg said. We now have our own per­sonal music time and it’s just really neat for them to get to have that. And for them to be exposed this early to live music and to have all these stu­dents come in? It just makes a big dif­ference.”
The children attending the preschool are low-income stu­dents and often at high-risk, Walberg said. Often times, she said, these kids come from rural areas.

“A lot of times these kids are iso­lated, and they may learn the rural aspects of things, like taking care of the farm,” Walberg said. “But to expose them to these dif­ferent things that Gabe does, it’s really nice. They’ve never seen these things. This is brand new for them and they are very excited for this.”

Every Thursday morning from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., stu­dents introduce dif­ferent musical instru­ments to 34 preschoolers. From showing the kids dif­ferent instru­ments to singing the ABC’s, Listro aims to give them a fresh per­spective on music.

“There is beauty to music that these kids are expe­ri­encing and they don’t even know it. The harmony, the sym­metry. It’s all there and they can’t express that, what makes some­thing beau­tiful,” Listro said. “It’s giving the kids some­thing beau­tiful that really they’d typ­i­cally never expe­rience. It also helps form the cre­ative mind.”

Sophomore Madeline Jeffes, weekly vol­unteer for “music in the com­munity,” said that music teaches the children invaluable lessons.

“Music can teach kids the dif­ference between right and wrong before they can reason because they know what fits together and what doesn’t musi­cally,” Jeffes said. “They can apply that knowledge to higher things when they grow older.”

When asked how this program affects the kids in the long run, Walberg said the effects start now.

“They will go home and talk about it. There are so many dif­ferent things that are hap­pening in these kids lives; many of them are at risk children,” Walberg said. “This affects them at the moment. This makes their lives pos­itive and happy.”

And talk about it, they do. While in line at the grocery store, Listro said, a little boy looked at Listro and smiled at his mom.

“He didn’t rec­ognize me at first,” Listro said. “But then he said, ‘You’re the music guy!’ And then he looked at his mom and said, “Mom, mom! That’s the music guy!”

But these kids aren’t the only ones receiving. There are some things, Jeffes said, that only children can give to us.

“It’s easy to forget the simply joy of learning that comes with the amazement of learning some­thing new,” Jeffes said. “You can expe­rience this joy through the kids. It reminds you to take pleasure in learning for its own sake.”

Many have heard the mantra, “It’s the little things.”
“At school you’re never sur­rounded by little people,” Listro said. “It’s really fun to just see them live life. This sounds weird, but I just like seeing their snotty little faces some­times.”