GAIL WHITE Mixing arts makes kids dance classes magical

"Hello everybody. So glad to see you!" sings Laura Pellegrini, director of The Boardman Dance Institute.
Laura and her pupils continue singing until they have sung "Hello" to everyone in the class.
"I sing in all my classes," Pellegrini admitted. "I have for years."
Along with singing, Pellegrini's dance classes for small children include playing musical instruments and dressing up. Many times the fluorescent lights are turned off and strobe lights illuminate the "stage."
"I try to create a magical atmosphere for the kids," she said, smiling.
"They like the circus ballet the best," she said, pointing to various animal costumes.
What will not be found in The Boardman Dance Institute's class curriculum are recitals.
"Learning a dance to perfection is different than learning to dance," Pellegrini insisted. "I am more interested in the process; developing a lifelong love for the arts."
Recently, Pellegrini has learned just how beneficial and appropriate her style of teaching has been.
Certification: Pellegrini is one of four dance instructors in Ohio to be certified in the internationally recognized music program, Music Together.
Music Together involves both the parent and the child in developmentally appropriate songs, rhythms and tonalities.
"All children are musical," said Ken Guilmartin, founder of Music Together. "Music is a birthright."
A second basic principle of Music Together involves parents.
"The participation and modeling of parents and caregivers, regardless of their musical ability, is essential to a child's musical growth."
Music Together is a series of song collections featuring various instruments.
Parents and children sing and play together to tunes featuring the flute, bongo and fiddle as well as many other instruments.
Music Together emphasizes experiencing music, rather than learning concepts or information about music.
"We mostly consume music," Guilmartin said. "Our vision of what music involvement can be for families, teachers and preschool environments helps everyone reconnect with the making of music."
"I have seen the two-left-feet folks dance, heard the tone deaf sing, and watched the virtuosos sit on the floor and actually play with music, perhaps for the first time in their lives," he said.
There is an incredible benefit of this program, which insists every person has a musical birthright.
Composers: Music Together has a link to two kindergarten teachers from Kentucky, who taught more than 100 years ago.
Patty and Mildred Hill composed a song, "Good Morning To All," which they sang each morning to their bright-eyed pupils.
They began singing a "Happy Birthday" variation soon after.
Patty Hill became a distinguished professor at Columbia Teachers College. She shared her tunes with these pupils as well.
The tune, accompanied with cake and candles, soon became the popular serenade for birthday celebrations.
Patty Hill and a businessman, John Sengstack, recorded the song and set up a foundation for early childhood organizations to receive the sisters' share of the royalties.
Use for royalties: Guilmartin, who is Sengstack's grandson, later became the recipient of a portion of those royalty funds to open the Center for Music and Young Children.
Music Together began as an educational project of CMYC. It is now an internationally recognized music development program.
"I've always thought it fitting that Music Together can trace its lineage back through 'Happy Birthday' to two early childhood educators," Guilmartin said. "I think the Hill sisters would be pleased too."
XFor more information on Music Together classes, call (330) 758-8690.