Children get a head start on learning with violin lessons

Maybe none of them will grow up to be the next Itzhak Perlman, but a group of Osceola County, Fla., pre-K students are getting a head start on their education through violin lessons.

Maybe none of them will grow up to be the next Itzhak Perlman, but a group of Osceola County, Fla., pre-K students are getting a head start on their education through violin lessons.

About 80 at-risk kids have embarked on the music program - offered at Chambers Park Community Center, Boggy Creek Elementary and the Poinciana Academy of Fine Arts - to develop skills that will help them in kindergarten and beyond.

Brain research indicates that string instruction can help preschool-age children with language, motor, social and other skills, as well as aiding focus and attention span.

The pint-sized players use scaled-down versions of the stringed instrument that was mastered by Bach, Mozart and Haydn, among others. It's the only such program for pre-K children in Central Florida.

Zion Thompson, Leah Perez and Rafael Ramdawar, all 4, take part in the lessons as part of the voluntary pre-K program at the Poinciana Academy of Fine Arts.


Professional violinist Jonita Aadland instructs the children twice a week in 20-minute sessions. The other three days of the week the children's regular teacher, fellow violin novice Rosemary Marcano, plays along with them to keep in practice.

"It's an awesome experience because you grow with them and you see differences in reading, math and concentration," Marcano said. "They pay more attention."

The kids are better able to focus and see patterns, recognize letters and count since they began the lessons in late September, Marcano said.

Musically, their instructor is impressed. "These kids are unbelievably amazing ...," Aadland said. "Many of them could have a future in music if they choose it."

During a recent lesson, the students pay close attention throughout, following along as Aadland leads them through warmups and a few selections of music. At the 10-minute mark, the first 10 violinists hand over their instruments to the other half of the class.

After each lesson, the students place their violins on the floor (string side up, Aadland reminds one young player) and take a practice bow.

After the lesson, when asked how long he has been playing violin, Rafael earnestly answers, "Ten minutes."

Leah says she enjoys the lessons but concedes "it kind of gets my arm tired too."


Zion, seconded by the other children, says he likes a song they've been working on that alternates use of the G and D strings.

"We do the number pattern of counting," says Rafael, before quickly reeling off the numbers one through eight.

"This project really isn't about making them violin players, it's about making them kindergarten-ready," said Debbie Fahmie, fine- and performing-arts resource teacher for Osceola schools.

The curriculum is based on one developed in Collier County for children who speak English as a second language. Because Osceola's student population has many children for whom English is not their first language, it has been a good fit, Fahmie said.

Though the early results have been very encouraging, the program's future is unclear. The initial grant money from the state Department of Education will run out before the school year ends.

"We're hoping to find a sponsor to get us through the end of the year, and then we'll go from there," Fahmie said.

Given the progress the young musicians have already made, Fahmie thinks the program should be offered in future years as well.

"If these 4-year-olds stick with the violin," she said, "they've written their scholarships to college."

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