It’s been proven that the arts help kids succeed in all areas of their lives. Taking this to heart, lots of parents are beginning to investigate ways to incorporate artistic activities into their children’s schedules. One of the easiest ways may be Kindermusik, a structured program from which children as young as newborns can benefit.

Locally, licensed Kindermusik educator Marie Dicke runs Kindermusik out of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Peoria. "The purpose of the program is to provide early childhood learning and enrichment opportunities through an eclectic program built upon developmentally appropriate music and movement experiences. Kindermusik is offered by qualified educators for children through seven years old," she said.

The roots of Kindermusik, which means "children’s music," can be traced to the late 1960s in the former West Germany, Dicke said. "A strong interest in and support for early childhood music education led to the development of a music program for young children, ’Musikaliche Fruherziehung.’ At that time Fulbright Scholar Daniel Pratt was studying at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne. In the early 1970s, the program was translated into English, adapted for American families, and named Kindermusik. Pratt, who was then a college administrator and faculty member at Westminster Choir College, established teacher training for the program’s U.S. debut."

Responding to the growing interest in Kindermusik, Pratt opened an office on his back porch in 1984 for Music Resources International (MRI), the Kindermusik distributor for the U.S. and Canada, she said. "In 1988, the entire program was revised for culturally diverse audiences, and MRI became the publisher and sole owner of Kindermusik throughout the world. MRI was renamed Kindermusik International in 1993."

Dicke explained in a Kindermusik class, educators lead a group of parents (or grandparents) and their children through joyful activities using music and movement. "Parents learn more about their child’s unique developmental process, and the shared learning experience creates a unique bond as the child associates learning with fun, musical play. Each Kindermusik class is a world of discovery and adventure. In every class, you witness a child’s developmental evolution in language skills, literacy, listening, problem solving, social skills, self-esteem, and musicality. And it happens within a nurturing environment full of energy, imagination, music, dancing, and playful delight."

Kindermusik provides the time and tools to help bring the power of music into a family’s home and a child’s life forever, Dicke said. "An integral part of every Kindermusik program, the Kindermusik At-Home Materials, includes the highest-quality music CDs, creative activities, beautifully illustrated children’s books, and specially designed instruments-all created to complement the music and Kindermusik classroom experience. By adding new concepts and challenges along the way, each age-appropriate program acts as a stepping stone to the next, paving the way to a musical journey that can last seven magnificent, musical years."

She said Kindermusik is structured into curriculums for four different age groups: Village (newborn to 18 months), Our Time (18 months to three years), Imagine That! (three to five years), and Young Child (four to seven years). Sessions run eight weeks for the youngest age group and 15 weeks for the others, and each group meets one or two times per week.

The curricula provide children with new experiences and skills, she said. "In Village, through a unique blend of multi-level activities that includes creative movement, vocal play, object and instrument exploration, and a colorful literature component, a baby’s growth and development are stimulated, and all of his senses engaged. In Our Time, singing, imitating sounds, rhyming, and object identification foster language skills. Creative movement to various musical ’moods’ develops a sense of balance, timing, and spatial awareness. Listening and turn-taking encourage blossoming social skills. In Imagine That!, pretend play activities are integrated with music, vocal development, storytelling, movement, and literature to capture a child’s potential to learn and to encourage cognitive and literacy skills, creativity, and individuality. And in Young Child, Kindermusik provides the opportunity to explore voice development, rhythm, notation, musical symbols, and authentic pre-keyboard string and woodwind instruments."

The Trinity Kindermusik program is only a couple of months old. Dicke and her husband, Martin, moved to Peoria in August when Martin accepted the position as cantor (music director) at Trinity and Marie was hired as his worship assistant. "Martin and I noticed that although Trinity is one of Peoria’s oldest churches, there were a lot of children in the congregation and it had a very active family ministry. Also, Trinity places a high value on quality music, making it a priority in its ministry. The Worship and Fine Arts Board had a goal to establish a comprehensive music program that offers music opportunities to people of all ages. We suggested Kindermusik classes to achieve this goal and at the same time enhance the family ministry program. They were very open to the idea."

Even though classes have only been available for a short time, parents are already enjoying the benefits of Kindermusik. "One parent from the Village class remarked that after the first class, seven-month-old Lauryn was now clapping her hands to music. Attendance has been great, and everyone enjoys using the at-home materials throughout the week. A couple of moms commented that they were musically illiterate, and that’s why they were bringing their children to Kindermusik. They know what they’ve missed and want their children to have the ability to enjoy music to the fullest."

Dicke said the most challenging aspect of teaching Kindermusik has been memorizing all of the new songs for each curriculum. "Also, as a new program, it was difficult to schedule class times that would fit the needs of the families who wanted to register."

The best part has been getting to know the moms and grandmas who bring the children to class, she said. "I have a lot of fun singing and dancing with them and observing the responses I get from each child. It’s very satisfying and fulfilling to know I can really make a lasting difference in the lives of these kids."

For more information about Kindermusik at Trinity, call 676-4609. AA!