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Scarsdale's Hoff-Barthelson Teaches Music, Movement To Babies And Beyond

Young students at Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale learn music and movement. Photo Credit: Contributed
Classes begin for babies as young as fourth months. Photo Credit: Contributed
Parents, grandparents or caregivers attend some of the classes with the children. Photo Credit: Contributed

SCARSDALE, N.Y. -- Music and movement go together like peanut butter and jelly. Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale combines the two for babies as young as four months.

“It’s essentially using the senses for learning,’’ said Dr. Ruth Alperson, Dean of Hoff-Barthelson. “It’s using motion and the contact they have with their parents to connect to music. It’s a safe place to learn. The music is speaking to them.”

Alperson and her teachers at Hoff-Barthelson use Dalcroze Eurhythmics as its basis for teaching children music and movement. A central element in the process, and one that distinguishes Dalcroze Eurhythmics from other approaches, is the use of improvised music by the eurhythmics teacher in communicating with – and responding to – the students.

In small group settings,  Dalcroze encourages learning through active participation. Exercises and games involve singing, movement and improvisation, using small percussion instruments, balls, hoops, and colorful scarves. The program develops inner hearing, rhythmic sensitivity and familiarity with elementary note-reading.

Hoff-Barthelson uses the Dalcroze technique for children up to age 5. For the youngest students, the babies sit in the lap of their caregivers who rock, bounce and walk according to the instruction of the teacher. For instance, louder sounds will involve larger, more aggressive motion. Softer sounds promote smaller, softer actions.

“The children feel it,’’ Alperson said. “As the year progresses, they are carried when they hear the music for walking. When they are ambulatory, they do the same thing. When the music stops, they stop right away. It’s a response right away to listening. Then we go to jogging music and even galloping. For a two year old who has had months of training, at the end of the class they won’t even need to hold hands to do it.”

Alperson has developed one of the largest Dalcroze programs in the country. She holds the internationally recognized Dalcroze Diploma, awarded by I’Institut Jaques-Dalcroze in Geneva, Switzerland. Emile Jaques-Dalcroze developed the approach during the early 20th century.

“Using this approach allows me to play at the top of my abilities,’’ Alperson said. “There is a lot of improvisation in the learning. It’s so stimulating. It’s a very rich and interesting course of study and to apply it is wonderful. It’s exciting and dynamic.”

The program helps children focus, concentrate and to listen and observe keenly. Weekly classes range from 30-45 minutes once a week and include 30 lessons. Click here for the Hoff-Barthelson schedule.

“I know I’m connecting with them when they’re in class,’’ Alperson said. “Sometimes they’ll move, swing or clap hands. Sometimes they just with their eyes wide open. You can just tell. They’re not disengaged and looking out the window.”

Alperson said recent studies of Dalcroze indicate it could help seniors develop better balance and confidence and reduce falls. An international Dalcroze conference this summer could shed more light on its effect on seniors.

“This is something old and new,’’ Alperson said. “We’re much more aware how important it is to use the body in learning now rather just sitting at a desk all day. It’s an exciting way to learn. It really helps me develop a profound understanding of music concepts.”

Hoff-Barthelson will host an open house on Friday, June 5, beginning at 10 a.m. for parents interested in learning more about preschool music programs. For more information and to register for classes, click here to visit the Hoff-Barthelson website.

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