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Making music for children with an Oriental tone

FOR children, music from different cultural backgrounds can be a great fun to play, learn and grow with. Asian music, rich with many unique instruments and a tonality that can be different from Western music, is now available at Gymboree's Play & Music Program, a developmental program for children aged up to five.

Amazingly, Chinese music elements account for 70 percent of Asian genres.

"Asian music is especially important for kids, and Chinese music is the representative," says Helene Freda, Gymboree Play & Music Senior Program developer and trainer. "We feel it is valuable for young children everywhere to have this kind of musical exposure."

Through the class activities, parents and children learn the names and the sounds of the classical Chinese instruments, such as the erhu, gong, bells and lute. Old folk songs sung on occasions such as Spring Festival and Dragon Boat Festival are taught as well.

Other music styles such as African, European, Caribbean, Latin American and the Pacific Islands are included to add diversity. The program also brings American genres to children with an exploration of jazz, rock 'n' roll, Broadway songs and R&B.

As well, there are subjects like The Beatles, ABBA, Pop Divas, Queen and Elvis Presley.

There have been many benefits from the Asian music styles, Freda says.

"Most traditional Asian music has a slower tempo than Western music. It helps children learn about tempo and challenges them to learn to match a slower beat when they dance and play instruments," Freda says. "For parents in Asia, this musical genre offers them a way to share their culture and childhood songs with their children. It is important that they can pass on songs to their children as a way to preserve and share culture and tradition."

During the class, parents are encouraged to sing along with the songs that they know. An increasing involvement of parents and more interaction with children in the classes is conducive to quicker learning.

"The more that parents participate in singing and making music during class, the more their child learns. When children see mommy, daddy or nanny dancing, singing and enjoying the music, they learn that music is something to enjoy," Freda says.

"When parents participate, it encourages the kids to begin singing. I also find Chinese families bring these songs home and sing them together. It really helps support the child's musical learning outside of class," she adds.

The new musical style incorporates a unique teaching style, called PDC (Prelude, Development and Coda). It is a special technique that Gymboree music teachers are trained in.

It helps teachers present a key learning focus for each activity and insures that each activity is presented in a way that is both exciting and challenging for children.

Li Yuhua, a mother of a six-year-old son, says she is delighted to share songs she remembered from her own childhood with her kid.

"I think the most important benefit is that sharing songs and music from around the world makes the young souls feel truly universal," Li says.

Gymboree Gubei Center

Address: 5/F, 1665 Hongqiao Rd

Tel: 6278-4727


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