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.”