Introducing music at an early age can be very beneficial. For example, at At Templeton Elementary School first-graders are pickin’ and grinnin’ with the help of the IU Jacobs School of Music.

Even though the guitars are half the size of an adult version they still look very small on these budding musicians. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that their sound is small too.

“They’re good at loud,” Katy Strand said with a laugh. She is an associate professor of music at Indiana University.

Twice a week, Strand, Chris McConnell, Petar Jankovic and assistants who are music education and performance majors at IU meet up with Kathy Nesbitt’s first-grade class.

During each lesson, 23 students can be heard down the halls as they sing and strum songs such as “Jingle Bells” under the guidance of McConnell, a graduate of IU’s music education program.

The trick to teaching such a young group is “keeping activities short and moving from one to another,” McConnell told The Herald-Times.

The students start with a chant as they take their instruments from their cases. “Left hand neck and right hand body. Turn it sideways very gently.

On the left knee like a cradle. Rock the baby just a little,” they said in unison.

The chant helps the students learn not only how to hold a guitar, but also how to care for the instrument. The half-size guitars were donated to the program by Yamaha, and the C chord is marked with a small, orange sticker, while the G7 chord has a green sticker.

Introducing music at an early age truly has both learning and engagement benefits!

“Show me your best posture,” McConnell reminded them, and the first-grade musicians sat up straight on their stools. When he announced they’d be playing “Jingle Bells,” the class erupted in cheers and wiggles.

Once McConnell got them settled down again, the young musicians not only strummed the guitars, they also sang while they played and read notation.

“Jingle Bells” lyrics were displayed on a screen at the front of the room, and at the end of each line was a colored bell icon. One orange bell meant one strum on the C chord, while two green bells meant two strums with G7 held down.

“Bite down on the orange chord,” McConnell instructed as they played, and the students pressed down on the string with their tiny fingers. Then, he guided them along, counting, “1, 2, 3, rest.”

introducing music at an early age The students watched McConnell and listened carefully, eager to brush their fingertips against the strings at just the right moment.

If they needed help, one of the assistants walked over and helped them with their fingering or reminded them of how the guitar should be held. “Several assistants allows the lead teacher to keep class moving while kids get the individual attention they need,” Strand said. It’s definitely easy to see why introducing music at an early age helps students learn music and other subjects more quikcly.

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