When 5-year-old Marc Day beats the bongos or pounds on the piano, he's a Mozart-in-the-making - at least in the eyes of Carolee Eriksson.
The theatrical genius behind a University of Utah preparatory music class, Eriksson daily transforms her classroom into an orchestra and 4- and 5-year-olds into could-be composers.Simply put, her class introduces preschool children to the pleasure of making music.
"Children live in a world of noise. Here they learn to hear," said the animated Eriksson, known affectionately to her students as "Mrs. E."
Subscribing to the motto "Ears are finely tuned instruments that never sleep," Eriksson first acquaints the children with everyday sounds that they make themselves. Clicking, blowing, whistling, shouting and singing.
Then comes sounds from home. Dishwasher swishing, kitten slurping, baby cooing.
"From there they can easily notice sounds in nature, and from there we can easily notice that composers have used sounds from nature (in their music)," Eriksson said.
Listen, for instance, for the cuckoo in "Mozart's daddy's symphony," she tells the students. "Raise your hands when you hear it."
Once their ears are trained, the young musicians are in business.
Then they do much more than just listen. They learn - about all the great composers and the instruments musicians blow, pluck and bow.
They also move to, paint to, create, produce and compose music. Basic and graphic composition are included in the one-of-its-kind course, which Eriksson is convinced enhances socialization skills while building competence and self-esteem.
"This should lay the seed that music is joy and there is pleasure in it," Eriksson said. "Students should come out of here believing that they are filled with music, and when they are doing things with music, they are successful. There should be no sense of inadequacy in any way."
Eriksson is convinced that the things students learn in an early music program affects all of their learning - their other skills and development.
"We are fighting mediocrity," she said, pausing to encourage a hoop twirler in the corner of the room. "We are fighting children who only watch. We need children who act, who can still move."
During her eight-year tenure, Eriksson has given inspiration to sibling after sibling.
Parents who stay to watch their marching musicians in action are also sold on Eriksson's energy, knowledge, patience and praise for each young creator.
"She loves our kids and they love her," said Talitha Day, who has seen her son, Marc, get hooked on the classics. "He listens to symphony music and asks, `Is that an oboe?' Who knows what will happen to this class? They may all become composers."
Only time will tell if Eriksson's students will become modern-day Bachs or Beethovens.
"But they will all choose to be lovers of music, whether or not they perform. If they are introduced to Bach as a dance composer right now and they learn to love and believe in him, we have placed a broad base," she said.
Where to call
Parents interested in learning more about the Pollywog Music Program taught by Carolee Eriksson can call the University of Utah Department of Music Preparatory Division, 581-7811.
The division, under the direction of Janet Mann, also offers piano and theory for children.