OBU Preparatory Department Offers Unique Musical Learning

As many public school systems struggle to identify available funds for music education, Oklahoma Baptist University's music preparatory department has staked its focus on quality music education programs for children and teen-agers.

In its sixteenth year, the preparatory department, a program of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts, is the largest department of its kind in the state, with over 300 students presently enrolled in the program. It has served as a model for other universities in developing similar programs.

"Researchers and scholars have proven that music is indeed a separate intelligence and it is crucial that students be exposed to music early in life to develop that important part of the brain," said Conchita Hansford, director of the OBU preparatory department. "Furthermore, students who study music tend to perform better at spatial-temporal tasks and score higher in academics."

Formerly called Music Readiness, OBU's Kindermusik program offers musical experiences in a classroom setting for newborns, toddlers, and 3- through 5-year-olds.

Hansford, also a licensed Kindermusik educator, believes that this program provides a powerful experience for children.

"The songs and activities in Kindermusik class enhance a child's total development by strengthening physical, emotional, social and cognitive skills at a very early age," she said.

The preparatory department's newest program, Kindermusik Village, designed for newborns to children 1 and a half years of age, focuses on the developmental benefits of music and movement for children and emphasizes the infant-parent relationship. Parents learn how to foster a baby's learning through activities such as singing and reading aloud, movement activities such as touching, rocking and bouncing, and object and instrument play.

Music Readiness, also Kindermusik curriculum, is a class for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds which provides a wide range of musical experiences and activities through singing, moving, listening, playing simple rhythm instruments, chanting and expressing feelings through imaginative play.

The restructuring and addition of several new junior high and high school choirs has expanded the OBU preparatory department choral program to include all age groups.

Bella Voce Choir is a select choral group for students in grades 10-12, as well as junior high boys with changed voices. The choir is conducted by an OBU vocal music education major and is supervised by Dr. Darla Eshelman, OBU associate professor of music education.

OBU Cambiata Ensemble is for in seventh-grade to ninth-grade boys with changing voices. This ensemble was formed in order to provide small group and individual instruction in basic vocal skills for boys who want to develop their changing voices. It also is conducted by an OBU vocal music education major and is supervised by Eshelman.

In its sixth year, the OBU Bel Canto Honor Choir, formerly the Junior High Honor Choir, provides seventh- through ninth-graders with singing experiences which increase individual musicianship and enhance personal growth and development. The choir is directed by Eshelman.

Beginning its eighteenth year, Shawnee Honor Choir, directed by Hansford, is an audition group of fourth- through sixth-graders from Shawnee and the surrounding area. Students in the choir represent 17 different schools including Midwest City and Seminole. The choir studies and performs a wide variety of music and often incorporates Orff and rhythm instruments. They perform annually in 12 area schools and present two formal public concerts.

A training choir for non-auditioned singers in grades second through sixth is taught by Amber Crawley, a voice instructor for the preparatory department.

The program also offers a number of classes with more individualized attention for growing musicians.

Keyboard Readiness is a class for 5- and 6-year-old children interested in studying music and the piano. Aspects related to the keyboard are introduced, including the music alphabet and key names. A significant part of the class is devoted to learning to read music and play pieces on the piano.

Keyboard Concepts is a class for second- and third-grade students interested in beginning piano study. The course is designed to teach beginning piano and basic music theory. Students alternate each week between 30 minutes of group instruction and a 30-minute private lesson.

New to the program, the Keyboard Ensemble is a group of up to 10 piano students who play and perform together as a group on electronic keyboards. Students must have studied piano for one year and must own a portable keyboard.

Class Voice is offered to elementary, junior high and high school students to develop their singing voice. Vocal Discovery, for elementary students, is designed to help children develop the whole range of their singing voices.

Traditional private piano, voice, organ, violin, and guitar lessons also are available to students of all ages.

Nine of the teachers in the preparatory department program are full-time OBU faculty members. In addition to OBU faculty and adjunct faculty members, the department has eight student teachers.

For additional information contact Hansford at 405-878-2319 or 273-2273.