LORNA LUTZ HEYGE believes that people can learn music as readily as they learn to speak, and that it comes just as naturally.
"There isn't a child who can't learn to sing, and music should be a part of every life," she declared emphatically. "Many adults are spectators in music because they didn't have the opportunity to overcome their inhibitions as children."Heyge was in Salt Lake City recently to teach a workshop on Kindermusik, a holistic method of creating music readiness and music sensitivity in the young child, 18 months to 4 years, and beyond. As the name suggests, the system originated in Germany.
Most of those taking the workshop were piano teachers, who had sensed that there is a missing link when a child of 5 or 6 sits down to the discipline of the piano.
"It's very important to give children pre-instrumental training, both bodily and mentally," Heyge stressed. "Without it they are not ready to learn, to absorb concepts like up-down or high-low, to assume correct body position at the piano, to accept the instrument's new sound and action. If they have pre-instrumental music/movement training, they connect with the notes in written music early and easily."
After earning a bachelor of music from Eastman School of Music, a master of arts from Northwestern, and working as an organist and conductor, Heyge went to Cologne to study for a doctorate in musicology. It was there that she encountered Kindermusik and brought it to America.
She's been teaching the method for about 20 years, and though Kindermusik is still a small program here, it's scattered throughout all 50 states. At present Heyge directs the training of Kindermusik teachers in more than 20 colleges and universities throughout America.
With Audrey Sillick, founder and director of the Toronto Montessori Teacher Training Institute, Heyge has devised four semesters of Kindermusik, each containing 15 lesson plans, designed to make a child music-sensitive and ready for written music.
Heyge is tall, smiling and gentle, yet dynamic in a soft-spoken way (sometimes she whispers to her little people), and she lights up with missionary zeal when she talks about the possibilities of Kindermusik.
"Kindermusik nurtures the total development of the child, allows him to explore his world," she said, sinking into a chair after an hour's workout with a dozen active 3-to-4-year-olds. "Most children are ready, willing and eager to make vocal sounds, to move, to listen, to play simple instruments, to be creative in all of these areas and more.
"At the very least, in Kindermusik classes they can become comfortable with their bodies as musical instruments, their singing voices, their dancing, their expressive movement; and capacity comes with practice.
"Americans want to compartmentalize learning. Above the neck, we send our children to school; from the neck down they go to aerobics, without regard to how the body can help the mind to learn. But you couldn't compartmentalize a child if you try, and observing them and how they learn improves you as an educator.
"There are several critical learning periods in children's lives between birth and 6 years old, when the world is new and wonderful to them; they are learning to move and walk, to coordinate their movement, speak, read and then write.
"Kindermusik can capitalize on each of these optimum periods, and learning music should be like learning to speak, if the exposure is right," Heyge said. "It is best practiced in small groups rather than one on one, because that way each child can enjoy the dynamic of the group, yet retain his individuality.
"The musical/movement games children used to play were so valuable - `London Bridge' or `Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush,' or `Go In and Out the Window.' Television also has fine things, but they are more passive, and we realize we are missing the intense personal involvement that early childhood development used to have.
"Kids need to explore their environment, they are moving constantly, and a good educator will adjust to that need, realize that you are teaching the whole person, and that body, mind and spirit are all one. Movement is at the center of holistic training, and Kindermusik is a kind of play that helps the child develop balance, control and coordination.
"Optimum benefit from a Kindermusik course comes through the triangle of parent, child and teacher," said Heyge. "Educate the teachers and parents, and let the child do the movement when he feels like it. Even at 18 months, they like to sing songs. They do a lot of listening if they are around vocal music. They like to rock, bounce, tap simple rhythms, work with rhythm sticks.
"Singing is our basic building block - singing and speaking, chanting and reciting, learning songs, exploring the sounds of the voice. Children are delighted to discover that they can imitate sirens or motorcycles.
"The ear must learn to listen and develop skill in distinguishing sounds, and learn to discriminate specific sounds from a group of sounds. As children become more sophisticated in their listening, they learn to recognize environmental sounds in classical music. For example, in one lesson we have the children buzz like bees, then they listen to `The Flight of the Bumblebee.' They make bird sounds - the owl, the dove, the cuckoo. Later they learn to distinguish the banjo, the guitar, the dulcimer."
After teaching thousands of children, Heyge does not push those who are reticent. "I invite them to join the group, but if they don't want to, I say just listen, I know you will do it sometime.
"I remember twins who came awhile back. One of them wouldn't come into the group, but watched intently from the sidelines. The next day her mother called to say she had done everything perfectly when she was at home! You have to trust kids. If they are awake, they are learning."
Barbara Mackelprang, who arranged for the Kindermusik workshop, hopes to carry on with the training for interested teachers or others. Those interested in Kindermusik may call her at 943-1021.