Preschoolers learn about music and gain an appreciation for art

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 6, 2003

Preschoolers at the Albert Lea Community Child Care Center were inspired by music and poetry to create works of art Wednesday.

Three-, 4- and 5-year-olds took part in the premiere of “A Silent Symphony” by Jack Hockenberry of Albert Lea. The goal of the project was to provide an opportunity for young children to experience great music and see how it stimulates the emotions through visual images, sound, movement, excitement, peaceful calm, fear, beauty, anger, ugliness, and all of the feelings great music can inspire.

Hockenberry said it’s been proven time and again that preschoolers who are exposed to the arts benefit intellectually. He wishes every child could play an instrument. “We wanted to get to kids before they’re told they don’t have any talent,” he said.

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Children listened to verses of the poem, broken up by music played by various instruments. They then went back to their classrooms and created art which related to the various verses of the poem. Their works will be on display as part of the Albert Lea Festival of the Arts March 22 at Northbridge Mall. At 10 a.m., the performance will be given again so parents can see what their children did.

The project actually had its beginnings 30 years ago, when Jack Hockenberry wrote the poem, “A Silent Symphony,” at the art center in Binghamton, N.Y. Since then, it’s been an important part of his family’s life: Sons have recited at their weddings; one of his wife Nancy’s sorority sisters painted a watercolor picture of it.

It was their daughter Amy who gave the idea for the latest rendition of the poem. She teaches Sunday school to preschoolers in Minneapolis, and after doing an art project with them, urged her father to do something similar using his poem.

So after talking with people at the Albert Lea Art Center and throughout the community, he was urged to contact the Albert Lea Community Child Care Center about doing the project there. Executive Director Kristin Houg agreed.

Wenger Corporation of Owatonna donated music stands on which verses of Hockenberry’s poem were printed. Albert Lea Medical Center donated $500 toward the project, and many others gave contributions in kind, Hockenberry said.

Glen Parsons, wearing a tuxedo and flourishing scarves, read the verses. Musicians contributing to the piece were Addison Petersen on violin, Jerry Chafee on tuba, Christina Learn on bassoon, Wayne Hedalen on trumpet, Hockenberry on trombone, Emily Schminke on harp and Merle Krause on drums and sound.

After hearing the poem and instruments, children were instructed by volunteers in making posters to go with each verse. Candid photographs were taken of the children, and will be hung with the artwork from the music stands. Each child who participated with receive a print of the verse, artwork and photos, Hockenberry said. Houg said she was pleased with the way the project turned out. “I thought it went very well,” she said.

So did Hockenberry. “The kids got an opportunity to show they can be creative and have a learning experience,” he said. “I hope to be able to do this with every preschooler in Freeborn County.”

Following is the text of “A Silent Symphony.”

Now I lay me down to sleep

In a work between my prayers and sleep

Where music haunts the ending day

With a color ocean shaped for play.

The floating sounds crowd up the stair

And cut the darkness from the air

They fill the room with tumbling shapes

That push from view the walls and drapes.

The gray green blues of violins

Are smooth and silky in my hands.

They pull me up to rounded peaks

And let me fall through blacks and bleaks

Where basses lay their woolly sound

And woodwind colors leap around.

The high wall trails that brass horns blaze

Snatch silent darkness from my gaze.

These fiery paths are straight and sharp

But fade to white when I hear a harp

Sprinkle bits of color on my face

And wrap me up in tinkly lace.

There suddenly is a jungle gym

Of blacks and whites and sticks and din

And here I climb and play on noise

That’s made by striking giant toys.

My color symphony unfurled

Makes musicland a lovely world.

Its shapes are changed for balanced fun …

I’m not too tired when I get done …

Though down the high walled trails I bound

there’s time for rest on woolly sound.

I climb the drummer’s jungle gym

To sleep on tones of violin …

And as the music fades away

I touch the sounds that end my day.

Now you listen to a symphony

And tell me what it is you see.