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OBU Music Prep Department Looks Forward to August Start

June 22, 2004

The department began in 1985 and offers many musical opportunities to students from birth through adult for Shawnee and surrounding areas. Under the umbrella of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts, the Preparatory Department offers private piano, guitar, voice, string, and instrumental instruction, as well as class voice, Keyboard Readiness, Keyboard Concepts, String Ensemble, Vocal Discovery and Kindermusik classes for babies and preschoolers. The Shawnee Honor Choir, the Concert Honor Choir and the Youth Honor Chorale are also a part of the preparatory department.

The OBU Preparatory Department is the largest department of its kind in the state with over 350 students presently enrolled, and has served as a model for several other universities in developing similar programs. Conchita Hansford, OBU music faculty member since 1990, serves as director of the preparatory department.

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. Furthermore, students who study music tend to perform better at spatial-temporal tasks and score higher in academics. Adults are also encouraged to participate in Preparatory Department offerings.


Kindermusik Village

The newest program, Kindermusik Village, which meets Monday at 10 a.m. and is designed for newborns to children 18 months of age, focuses on the developmental benefits of music and movement for the child.

"The most exciting hallmark is its focus on the very special infant-parent relationship," Hansford said.

The classes are for lap babies, crawlers, and walkers and a parent or caregiver.

"By including different ages of babies in one class, parents learn from each other about the many stages of their child's development," said Hansford. "They learn how to foster their baby's learning through activities such as singing and reading aloud, movement activities such as touching, rocking and bouncing, and object and instrument play."

Kindermusik Classes

Other Kindermusik classes are offered for two, three, four and five year olds which provides a wide range of fun musical experiences and activities through singing, moving, listening, playing simple rhythm instruments, chanting and expressing feelings through imaginative play.

Children perform appropriate musical activities for their age such as finger plays, musical game songs, and musical dramatizations of stories. Children work on steady beat, the singing voice, and basic musical concepts such as up/down, high/low, loud/soft, and fast/slow.

The program helps develop coordination, crossing the mid-line, and even pre-reading and math skills. The curriculum encourages individual musical development and fosters group interaction, and is often the child's first opportunity to experience and appreciate music. Preschoolers develop their verbal, motor and social skills through participation in many musical activities and exploration of music through play.

The classes, taught by Conchita Hansford, meet in the Early Childhood Music Suite in Ford Music Hall at 9 a.m. or 11 a.m., Monday, for the two-year-old classes, 10 a.m. or 11 a.m., Wednesday, for the three-year-old groups and 11 a.m., Thursday, for the four- and five year-old group.

Keyboard Readiness

Keyboard Readiness is a class for five- and six-year-old children interested in studying music and the piano.

"The class provides a wonderful, motivational atmosphere for learning music as well as a fun, active, and non-threatening setting to learn the piano," Hansford said.

Students explore musical concepts including up/down, high/low, loud/soft, and fast/slow. Emphasis is placed on singing, listening to music, moving to music, keeping a steady beat, and learning to play pieces on the keyboard.

Aspects related to the keyboard are introduced, including the music alphabet and note names. A significant part of the class is devoted to learning to read music and play simple pieces on the piano.

The classes, which meet on Tuesday, 5 and 6 p.m. in Ford Music Hall, are taught by Stephanie Norton, an OBU graduate with a degree in piano performance with emphasis in piano pedagogy. Class time is divided between large group activities, small group activities, and short private piano lessons.

Students who have first participated in Kindermusik often continue their music experience by enrolling in Keyboard Readiness. While Kindermusik is not a prerequisite, any early music experiences will enhance a student's enjoyment and progress in the Keyboard Readiness class. Interested parents and students are contacted by the teacher for a preliminary conference prior to the beginning of classes.

Keyboard Concepts

Keyboard Concepts is a class for second and third grade students interested in beginning piano study, and meets on Monday, from 3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., in the electronic piano lab in Raley Chapel. The class is limited to eight students. The children receive 30-minute group instruction and a 30-minute private lesson taught by OBU piano students every other week with alternating weeks spent in a one hour group instruction. The course is designed to teach beginning piano and basic music theory. The class, taught by Conchita Hansford, fosters a healthy desire to come prepared and able to play the assigned pieces in a class ensemble setting.

Class Voice

Class Voice is offered to elementary and junior high students who wish to learn to develop the voice and to sing correctly. The class for elementary students called Vocal Discovery is designed to help the child develop the whole range of his singing voice specifically the head voice and to sing on pitch. Many children progressing through this class, which is taught by David Briscoe, have been able to advance to Shawnee Honor Choir.

String Instruction

Violin and cello students receive a thirty-minute private lesson with a traditional approach combined with Suzuki materials. Students are also taught basic theory. Violin teachers are Royce McLarry and Athena Cajas. Thresa Swadley offers cello instruction.

String Ensemble

String Ensemble is offered to students who have studied a string instrument for at least one year. This group enables the students to learn to play as an ensemble while improving sight reading skills, bowing techniques, intonation and rhythm. Students who are involved in an ensemble are usually more motivated and progress at a faster pace. A beginning ensemble as well as an advanced ensemble are offered. Thresa Swadley is the string ensemble director.

Private Lessons

Traditional private piano, guitar, voice, string and instrumental lessons are provided to students on an ongoing basis to foster the student's continued musical development. Lessons in a thirty or 45- minute format are available. Students range in age from kindergarten through adults.

Some piano teachers incorporate group lessons into their teaching calendar. These lessons gather four to six students according to age and skill and give them the opportunity to play their favorite pieces for each other, bolster their theory skills, play games which reinforce what the students are learning in the private lesson, experience ensemble playing and learn about different composers and styles of music.

Some teachers use different computer software programs in their teaching. Some of the programs are theory-related games that help students understand and learn to read music; and other programs are designed to make music along with the students.


Shawnee Honor Choir

Beginning its 22nd year, Shawnee Honor Choir, directed by Conchita Hansford, is an auditioned group of fourth through sixth graders from Shawnee and the surrounding area. Students represent 17 different schools from Midwest City to Seminole. The children study and perform a wide variety of music ranging from simple unison songs to the more challenging two- and three-part choral treble literature.

The playing of Orff instruments, hand chimes, and rhythm instruments is also an enjoyable aspect of the choir experience. The choir performs annually in twelve area schools, presents two formal public concerts, and frequently presents programs at community events. The choir, which meets on Tuesday afternoons from 3:45 to 5:15 p.m., has performed three times for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association State Convention in Tulsa.

Concert Honor Choir

In its tenth year, the Concert Honor Choir under the direction of Dr. Darla Eshelman, is an auditioned treble choir of sixth- through ninth-graders in and around Shawnee. Sixth grade students new to the prep choir program may audition for either the Shawnee Honor Choir or the Concert Honor Choir according to experience, development and parent consultation.

This choir is designed to provide advanced singing experiences which increase individual musicianship and enhance personal growth and development and also serves as a laboratory choir for OBU music education majors providing an ideal "hands-on" learning experience for their preparation as future teachers.

The choir meets on Monday afternoons from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., and performs several concerts throughout the school year. Recent performance highlights include the Organization of American Kodaly Educators National Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia and the Oklahoma Music Educators Association State Convention in Tulsa.

Youth Honor Chorale

The Youth Honor Chorale is offered to students in grades 10-12, as well as junior high boys with changed voices. This ensemble of select students is designed to provide opportunity for singing experiences which enhance both personal and musical growth. The group also provides an advanced, mixed voice ensemble into which younger students may feed.

Students are motivated through diverse, exciting and quality literature and performance opportunities. The choir, which meets on Monday from 7 to 8:30 p.m., is directed by Dr. Darla Eshelman.

Apprentice Choir

The Apprentice Choir, for non-auditioned singers in grades two through six, is offered to help children develop their voices and prepare them for future choir success. The class meets on Tuesday from 5 to 6 p.m., and David Briscoe is the director.


The faculty includes Conchita Hansford, piano, voice, Shawnee Honor Choir, Kindermusik, Keyboard Concepts; Kimberly Watson, piano, web page designer, supervisor of piano student teachers, Dr. Carol Bell; piano, David Briscoe, voice, piano, Apprentice Choir, Vocal Discovery; Athena Cajas, violin; Dr. Don Clark, voice; Dr. Darla Eshelman , Concert Honor Choir, Youth Honor Chorale; Rhetta Hudson, voice; Aaron Jameson, trumpet; Tabitha King, violin; Jo Lewis, piano; Royce McLarry, violin, viola; Sherry McWilliams, flute; Casey Mobley, trombone; Stephanie Norton, piano, Keyboard Readiness; Caleb Raney, guitar; Joni Rice, percussion; Janelle Rominger, piano; Laura Sowell, clarinet; Thresa Swadley, cello, String Ensemble; Jeannie Tyler, piano; and Keith Whitmore, piano.

In addition to OBU faculty and adjunct faculty members, the department presently has several student teachers. All teachers in the program, except the students, have earned bachelor's degrees in music with a large percentage holding master's degrees or doctorates. Six are full time OBU faculty.

Classes begin in late August, but according to Hansford, you are encouraged to call early to assure enrollment in specific classes and private lessons. For more information or to register, visit the Prep Department webpage, call (405) 585-4329 or email