Everything Elizabeth Stevens says comes out as a song.
Kneeling on the floor, surrounded by a group of wide-eyed toddlers, a tambourine in one hand and a drumstick in the other, the 36-year-old music teacher is like a one-woman show.
“Music is always going on in my head,” she said. “I often joke that I’m a walking jukebox. If you give me a topic, I can come up with a song.”
Stevens, who lives in Newark with her husband and their four young kids, has been sharing her love of music with children ever since she founded Newark Music Makers four years ago. Classes meet in a studio in the St. Thomas Episcopal Church on South College Avenue.
She said her professional experience stems from a lifelong love of music.
Growing up in central Florida, Stevens always enjoyed the power of a tune, even from a young age.
“It gives us the ability to communicate without words and create beauty in the world around us,” she said. “It’s like a gift that we’ve been given that we have to share with everyone.”
Stevens played the piano until she was in middle school, and her mother encouraged her to try oboe. That’s when her life changed, she said.
“From seventh grade on, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” she said.
Stevens went on to major in oboe at the University of South Florida. From there, she received a masters degree in oboe performance from Northwestern University and a doctorate in music from Michigan State University.
Before moving to Newark and teaching in the University of Delaware’s School of Music, Stevens held positions at the University of Michigan–Flint, University of Windsor in Ontario and the Flint School of Performing Arts. She also has an orchestral career and has performed with symphonies in Delaware, Illinois, Michigan and Florida.
Over the years, Stevens has had students of all ages, even adults, but her passion is early childhood music education.
“I love seeing what a simple song can do to light up a child and get them excited,” she said.
In a typical week, Stevens teaches approximately 14 classes at Newark Music Makers, and in any given class, both parents and children can be heard singing along to her creative tunes. Most of the songs are original creations, and inspiration can come from just about anywhere – the weather outside, the changing seasons or something as simple as bath time or peek-a-boo, she said.
During the infant and toddler classes, she said, she tries to speak entirely in song. Unlike any other age group, children respond better to melody, she said.
And the songs are catchy, too.
“I hear all the time that kids are singing in the car or at home, and that makes me happy to hear,” Stevens said. “That means I’m doing something right.”
Stevens said music is important for a child’s development. Studies have shown that exposure to music can foster early reading abilities and improve motor skills and language skills in young children. Furthermore, she said, learning rhythm, tempo, pitch and dance can set a child up to play an instrument when he or she is older.
But that’s not all music can do, and that’s why Stevens loves her job.
Beyond the developmental benefits, Stevens believes music does something more, something special. She said music creates feelings and memories unlike any other.
“We all still remember the songs our parents sung to us when we were younger, although we may not remember the stories they told us,” she said. “Music has a way of sticking with you.”
Article By Karie Simmons, Posted in www.newarkpostonline.com