Tunes from early childhood education classes are music to DFW parents' ears

FORT WORTH -- At 3 months old, Abigail Dzurik's mild colic would melt away at the sound of music. Her eyes would grow bigger, and her arms would sway.

So her parents, Matt and Yvette Dzurik, enrolled Abigail, now 11 months, in early childhood education music class at Texas Christian University. Once a week, the family sings, claps, dances and plays instruments together.

"My husband and I are both clueless about music. We know nothing," Yvette Dzurik said. "But we wanted to help her be musical and expose her to music from an early age."

No age is too early, music educators say. At TCU, classes are offered throughout the week starting at birth. Children as young as 3 weeks old have attended Saturday music classes at the University of North Texas. In Watauga, Creative Soul School of Modern Music added a class three years ago for infants and toddlers in response to interest from parents.

At a recent class for newborns to 4-year-olds at TCU, children sang about pizza, danced with imaginary teddy bears, banged on drums, strummed guitars and clapped to the beat.

"My daughter is sort of shy, and she really responds to the music and movement," said Kathleen Bundy, of Colleyville, whose 2-year-old daughter, Claire, tapped her knees to the beat and twirled to music. "This encourages us to sing together all week."

Parents listed a variety of reasons for joining, many noting research that shows music is beneficial to the development of a baby's brain. Some said they wanted to introduce their children to music now, because they worried fine arts programs would not exist in public schools. Nearly all said they wanted their children to learn about music with kids around the same age.

"Children are sponges at this age, and they learn everything from watching their parents and other kids," said Jennifer DeSantis, TCU's early childhood music program coordinator. "If you have fun and dance to the music, they will, too."

TCU started its early childhood music program more than 20 years ago, but classes have grown in the past three or so years as more parents recognize the benefits, such as language development, DeSantis said.

When Warren Henry started the early childhood music program at UNT 15 years ago, he said parents and others frequently asked him, "Why on earth would babies need music class?"

"That question is asked less frequently now," said Henry, associate dean for UNT's College of Music. "As a country, we have begun to recognize how critically important music is as a foundation upon which everything else is built. We've come a long way."

Attendance at Creative Soul has increased in the past couple of years, and director Casey Thomas said he foresees that trend continuing as parents want to ensure their children receive a well-rounded education in the face of public school budget cuts. In class, which is called Kindermusik, infants and toddlers learn basic movement, rhythm and vocabulary.

"It's like learning a foreign language," Thomas said. "You want to start as early as possible."

At TCU's class, children responded to music by cooing or babbling, sitting quietly or swaying. Yvette Dzurik said she has occasionally thought her daughter, Abigail, did not even pay attention, only to get home and see her clapping or swaying to the beat of the same songs.

"We're sometimes surprised by how much she picks up," she said. "You can see her perk up when the music starts."

Sarah Bahari,