Making music together at Circle of Friends

Weston Masthay dances in the middle of the group during the Music Together workshop at Circle of Friends on North Main Street.

Weston Masthay dances in the middle of the group during the Music Together workshop at Circle of Friends on North Main Street.

By TAYLOR HARTZ
STAFF WRITER

Early on a Tuesday morning, more than a dozen little ones sat in a circle as show tunes blared from a stereo. For the next 45-minutes, Felice Danielson, joined by nine mothers, one father, and two grandmothers, led the children in a Music Together workshop.

At Circle of Friends on North Main Street, Danielson uses music to help parents bond with their children, and to teach socialization, motor skills, and basic music principles to children six-months to six-years-old.

“Music is as important for a child as walking and talking,” said Danielson, whose motto at Circle of Friends is “accept and include.”

Following this mantra, the group allows movement and active participation throughout the class. In a less-structured atmosphere, children are allowed to be spontaneous, and the class shifts gears to accommodate a sudden dance or song.

CircleofFriends%20(1%20of%209)[1]Danielson leads the group, singing along with their activities, and individually recognizing each child by singing their names and encouraging them to sing along.

“Singing together lets children know that they are bigger than themselves,” said Danielson, who sings a different song to transition between each exercise.

She encourages each child to follow along with songs that lead certain activities or daily routines.

The parents practice good morning songs, clean up songs, and good night songs, that allow them to associate music with routines at home.

“I make it part of my music mission to teach families how to take music into their homes to make their lives a little easier,” said Danielson.

Each activity is aimed toward developing a child’s motor skills, and getting each one ready for preschool. Children learn valuable classroom skills like lining up, transitioning, and sitting for class. Danielson coordinates quick transitions between activities and puts lengthy pauses between certain actions to teach self discipline.

The class makes use of plastic balls, toy instruments, and parachutes to integrate music into playtime.

For three-year-old Amelia Getz, these are her favorite activities.

“I like to play along with the toys,” said Getz, who attends class with her mother and younger sister.

CircleofFriends(6%20of%209)[1]The mixed age class, with students ranging from 2.5 months to four years in attendence on Feb. 2, discourages parents from comparing their children’s progress or development to other children.

The parent of two teenagers, Danielson opened Music Together downtown when she struggled to find classes that welcomed her autistic son, now 19-years-old.

“I really wanted this program to integrate special needs children,” said Danielson, who currently has children who are blind, deaf, and autistic enrolled in her courses.

In addition to her studio class, Danielson teaches a playgroup through Wheeler Clinic that focuses on special needs children aged from birth-to-three.

In addition to her studio and Wheeler Clinic playgroup, Danielson makes regular, weekly visits to preschools, day cares, and nursery schools to share music education. She uses these visits as an opportunity “to teach adults and staff how to use music throughout the day.”

Danielson hopes that by sharing these lessons, children throughout the community will develop their gross and fine motor skills, while growing accustomed to socialization and structure in a group environment.

Last December, she moved her studio to North Main Street in Southington, where she converted an old garage into a space that is conducive to having children move around and play along.

“This space was designed specifically for music making” said Danielson.

Situated next to Center Stage Dance Studio, ZingFit Zumba, and Little Rascals Daycare, activities are available for all ages. Danielson said many parents will attend a zumba class while their older children are at dance, and their younger children are making music.

The plaza is designed for “bringing people to this center from infancy to adulthood,” said Danielson.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Hartz, email her at THartz@ SouthingtonObserver.com.

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