(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
A new school in Hyde Park is teaching music to dozens of children from throughout the area and preparing to expand in the new year.
Husband-and-wife team Brian and Jayme Washington, both 31 and Berklee College of Music alumni, opened the Boston branch of Music Schools International at One Westinghouse Plaza less than four months ago, but it has grown steadily ever since. The Washingtons, who also live in Hyde Park, currently operate the school with one other instructor but hope to hire one or two more teachers soon.
This past fall, the school has accepted students ages 2 – 16, and in January it will begin its first adult class. It’s unusual to start children in music classes as young as 2, Jayme Washington said, but opportunities are lost by waiting until a child is 7, as most music programs do.
“Between the ages of 2 and 7 years old, the ear is most receptive,” she said, explaining that because music uses numbers and requires listening skills, music education can help children learn math and other subjects. In addition to general introductory courses, the school also offers lessons in violin, drums, guitar, and bass guitar through partnerships with Berklee and Leslie College.
Before opening the school, the Washingtons gave private lessons but eventually found they had no time to take on any more students. When they happened upon the curriculum and teaching methods used by Music Schools International, they knew they’d found a way to reach more students while still having time to spend with their own five children, who also take lessons at the school.
Jayme Washington said her experience as a parent pays off as a teacher.
“I think it helps because I’m a mom, too,” she said. “I always put my feet in my parents’ shoes, as in, ‘What would I want?’ I don’t just teach it, I believe it.”
The Hyde Park school is only the second in the US licensed to use this curriculum, which combines ear-training, harmony, piano, singing, and other activities within a 45-minute class designed to keep up with young attention spans. At the Washingtons’ school, classes begin with students gathered around the piano with the instructor to sing a greeting, then move to a smaller piano for each student. From there, the students gather on the floor for exercises such as clapping along to a beat to learn rhythm, then back to the piano or another exercise.
They break up the class so the children’s attention never wavers; even three rambunctious six-year-olds remain engaged and eager to show what they’ve learned.
Dorchester resident India Brown, 37, has been bringing her 6-year-old daughter Micaiah Brown to the school since it opened and usually sits in on classes. “She enjoys it a lot,” the elder Brown said, explaining that her daughter has always had an interest and aptitude for music and that the class helps her understand how music is created.
Hernan Gil, 38, said his 5-year-old son Joel has also been at the school since it opened, and that it had helped him improve his concentration. Like several students at the school, Joel has an autism-spectrum disorder and benefits from the soothing qualities of music. When he began the class, he didn’t even respond to the Washingtons, but they discovered that if they sang questions to him, he would sing back a reply.
Jayme Washington said she believes in integrating children like Joel into classes with students who don’t share their difficulties. The school also works with children who have Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and confidence issues.
“We just believe that they will be able to learn,” she said.
For more information on the school, visit http://www.msimass.com.
(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)