The Music Preparatory Department at OBU 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, voice, guitar, string, wind and percussion instrument instruction, as well as Keyboard Readiness, Keyboard Concepts, String Ensemble, and Kindermusik classes for babies and preschoolers. A choral experience is available through the Young Singers of Central Oklahoma. The choirs included are Shawnee Honor Choir, Concert Choir and Discovery Singers.
The OBU Preparatory Department, the largest of its kind in the state with more than 400 students presently enrolled, has served as a model for several other universities in developing similar programs. Conchita Hansford, OBU music faculty member since 1990, has served as director of the Preparatory Department since 1998.
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 also are encouraged to participate in Preparatory Department offerings.
Kindermusik Village, which meets Monday at 10 a.m., is designed for newborns to children 18 months old, and 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. 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. 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. Music is an integral part of all activities.
Other Kindermusik classes are offered for 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. These classes provide 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, 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 11 a.m. Monday or 10 a.m. Thursday for the 2-year-old class, 10 a.m. Wednesday for the 3-year-old group, and 11 a.m. Wednesday for the 4- to 5-year-old group. A 5:15 p.m. Thursday class and a 10 a.m. Saturday class for 3-, 4- and 5-year olds is taught by Julie Purin.
Keyboard Readiness is a class for 5- and 6-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. 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 key names. A significant part of the class is devoted to learning to read music and play simple pieces on the piano. Classes meet on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Ford Music Hall.
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.
Keyboard Concepts is a class for second- and third-grade students interested in beginning piano study, and meets on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the electronic piano lab in Raley Chapel. The class is limited to eight students. The course is designed to teach beginning piano and basic music theory. The class fosters a healthy desire to come prepared and able to play the assigned pieces in a class ensemble setting.
Violin and cello students receive a 30-minute private lesson utilizing a traditional approach combined with Suzuki materials. Students are also taught basic theory. Teachers include Rebecca Panayiotou, violin and viola and Thresa Swadley, cello.
String Ensemble is offered to students who have studied a string instrument for at least one year. This group provides opportunity for students to perform 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. An advanced ensemble is offered for students who are more accomplished.
Traditional private piano, voice, guitar, string, wind and percussion instrument lessons are provided to students on an ongoing basis to foster the student’s continued musical development. Lessons in a 30- 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.
A drawing course will be offered for children ages 7-18 that will include sketching and concepts. “Sketching” is learning the basics of drawing what one sees, and “concepts” involves using the values of lights and darks. Rebecca Kelly is the instructor.
Beginning its 30th year, Shawnee Honor Choir, directed by Conchita Hansford, is an auditioned group of fourth- through seventh-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 12 area schools, presents two formal public concerts, and frequently presents programs at community events. The choir, which meets on Tuesday afternoons from 3:30-5:15 p.m., has performed six times as the selected honor group for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association State Convention in Tulsa.
Concert Choir is designed to provide eighth- through twelfth-graders with singing experiences that increase individual musicianship and enhance personal growth and development. Under the direction of Dr. Casey Gerber, coordinator of music education, the choir is dedicated to the philosophy that performance of quality choral literature can provide a source of great joy and enrichment for the individual and for the community. The choir is represented by students from many area middle/junior high schools and high schools. Performance highlights have included the Organization of American Kodaly Educators, National Conference in Virginia, the Oklahoma Music Educators Association State Convention in Tulsa, a tour to Arizona, and performances in Branson and the American Choral Directors National Convention in Los Angeles. Along with two on-campus concerts each year, the choir performs for area malls, schools and businesses, as well as for their favorite audience, residents of the Shawnee Care Center. The choir rehearses on Tuesday afternoons from 5-6:30 p.m.
Discovery Singers, for non-auditioned children ages seven and up, is offered to help children develop their voices and prepare them for future choir success. The class meets on Tuesday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. and is taught by Dr. Casey Gerber.