The Rappelkiste music school in the Rhineland-Palatinate city opened one year ago to a crush of interest from local parents. It currently hosts a class of 30 babies aged 6 to 16 months and their doting parents for interactive music activities.
“We begin the process of a musical education earlier than the usual age of three,” says music school director Gerd Wagner, adding that he is convinced infants are particularly impressionable to music, and this supports their early development.
Each 30-minute session keeps to a tight schedule, beginning with an opening “greeting song” incorporating the name of each child, dancing and clapping. The lesson then moves onto simple rhythm instruments and songs with simple syllables that are easy to pronounce.
As the children are still too young to play instruments themselves, the course focuses less on formal classical music education and more on using the abilities of babies to pick up information quickly by imitating adults.
Wagner argues that the course uses babies' receptivity combined with the enthusiasm of the parents themselves to help drum up a passion for music in their offspring, such as when child sees its mother moving to music.
“Music should be a permanent and vital part of any young child's development,” says music teacher Stella Tscherkasow, who designed the course program. “Babies are curious and easy to inspire.”
Ideally the children will learn to speak as they learn to sing, she says.
The school has designed the course content so that the exercises help the children develop speech rhythms while moving along to a musical beat, as well as small movements that will aid them when they begin to walk, she adds.
Tscherkasow hopes that participation in the course will also strengthen the bond between the parents and their children.
But even director Wagner doesn't believe that a special appreciation or even a serious talent for music can be detected quite so early.
The parents who take part tend to agree.
“I'm certainly not doing it because I yearn to bring up a miniature Mozart,” says one mother in the course. Far more important is enhancing the communication between mother and child, she says.