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AEYC brings professor to explore music in early education

Posted: March 25, 2012 - 12:00am

“Music can be a bridge. It’s not a bridge because it’s music, it’s a bridge because of the person who’s bringing music to the children.”

That’s Dr. Thomas Moore, a professor of early childhood education at Benedict College in North Carolina, a consultant and musician — first and foremost, he emphasizes his role in early childhood education.

Moore will be in Juneau for the Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) Juneau conference, taking place March 29-31 at Centennial Hall — a big deal as AEYC celebrates 30 years. Moore’s big day will be Friday, March 30, when he will give a keynote presentation and host a few breakout workshops, followed by a 6 p.m. concert open to the public.

Despite obtaining a degree from the Manhattan School of Music, Moore knew that his real passion was early childhood education, leading him to pursue further education, earning his PhD in early childhood education from Indiana State University.

“I was drawn to people who take care of the elderly as well as young children and I found my home. I just felt more at home when I was visiting older people and visiting classrooms.” Moore said.

Part of the appeal is the acceptance and openness of children. Moore felt they needed someone to stand up for them, to speak for them. And to further understand them.

The basic philosophy Moore holds is that children learn by doing. “And the more opportunities for them to do things with us, and this is why, again, having the time with children and their families and their teachers all to come together to sing together is giving children an opportunity to experience their community, the greater community.”

Moore has also volunteered for several years with children who were hearing impaired, with whom he felt just as comfortable, he said.

But, “I just love what music does with people.” Moore said, “And just about any child that you introduce “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to, they’ll begin to sing with you. And that’s the magic of music.”

He believes that music is a very natural thing for children, and it’s not until negative criticism is introduced that children and adults stop singing.

“One of the most important things for early educators is that we will not harm them physically or psychologically, and some children are harmed by adults who tell them they can’t sing or don’t dance well… we don’t say things to children like that. I can’t tell you how many adults I’ve talked to throughout the years who have told me that when they were 4 or 5 or 6, someone told them they couldn’t dance or sing.”

Some years ago, Moore told a friend of his, “she had a very special voice. I told her, “not many people can change keys five times while singing “Happy Birthday to You,” and she just kind of chuckled at it. That was about 20 years ago, before then, she had stopped singing, she had stopped singing for like 40 years because someone told her when she was 5 years old that she couldn’t sing.”

And before you think Moore was being facetious — he was not.

“What I’ll say to them is, “I’m a voice teacher, you can sing. And I am saying also, that to be a singer, you don’t have to be a soloist.””

Moore said that songs can help children feel comfortable in their environment, which works well in early childcare and education settings. In his workshops, he will cover how to incorporate songs, how to choose songs and how to use music to make children feel comfortable.

For those parents or educators who say, “Oh, but I don’t sing well,” Moore would remind you that “it’s more than the voice, it’s the action, it’s being on the child’s level. Reading to children is important. Children learn a lot about words and language. But they also learn about words and language as you sing to them. And they also learn about family traditions.”

And science he said. “When a child wants to hit a high note, there’s something they have to do with their voices by kind of trying it this way and if that doesn’t work trying it that way, and these are things that scientists do.”

Children also make connections between songs and other things they have learned. Moore cites a student telling him all about jumping spiders because singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” reminded them.

Maybe you’ve experienced it before (I know I have, the only time I’ve been asked to sing a song again was by my friend’s toddler son Atlas) — children are accepting.

“When you offer the song, the child isn’t so much looking at how well you sing or not, the child is focused on that you are there and you’re paying attention to the child. So here I am, someone who has had training from one of the top schools in the country, trying to do just what you are trying to do. I’m honoring the child and giving the child what you have. And then the child says, “That was good. I wanna hear it again.””

While the conference is aimed more at early childhood educators, most people have a child, niece or nephew or some important child in their lives. Before you get stage fright, remember that you are about to give the performance of a lifetime to your biggest fan.

For more information on the conference, visit http://www.aeyc-conference.org/3/events.htm or to register, call Lauren at 789-1235.

For more on Moore, including videos, visit drthomasmoore.com.

• Contact Neighbors editor Melissa Griffiths at 523-2272 or at melissa.griffiths@juneauempire.com

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