Dallas ZUMBATHON to Benefit Children with Development Delays
Get your Zumba on and help kids with development delays
by Charlotte Jonas
“Hello to Abby!” sings Gila Vinokur, Director of Music Together® Dallas, as a bubbly three year-old who loves to dance, loves to sing, and loves to learn joins the circle.
“Hello,” Abby* sings back as the group of babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and their parents beam encouragement.
Abby is overcoming some fairly serious developmental delays but has recently achieved milestones in speech and movement customarily expected of a child half her age.
“It’s thrilling to see Abby dancing and singing,” said her mother, Janice*, of Plano. “We spend so much time in clinics – physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, at the nutritionist – that it’s good to see her relax and move and make sounds for the fun of it! Too often, movement and speech are work for this child. It’s miraculous to see her coming into her own now. They say you have to walk before you run, but I think Abby had to sing before she started to talk.”
Abby is not alone in her developmental maturity through music. Numerous studies have indicated the stimulating effects of music on the brain. In fact, the celebrated neurologist Oliver Sacks (author of the bestselling books The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars, and Awakenings, which was made into a popular movie starring Robin Williams and Robert DiNiro) devoted an entire book to his research on the subject.
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain examines the extreme effects of music on the human brain and how lives can be utterly transformed by the simplest of harmonies.
Many features of music are universal as well as apparently innate, meaning present at birth. All societies have music, all sing lullaby-like songs to their infants, and most produce tonal music, or music composed in subsets of the 12-tone chromatic scale, such as the diatonic or pentatonic scales.
Dr. Sandra Trehub, of the University of Toronto, has developed methods of testing the musical preferences of infants as young as two to six months. She finds they prefer consonant sounds, like perfect fifths or perfect fourths, over dissonant ones. A reasonable conclusion is that “the rudiments of music listening are gifts of nature rather than products of culture,” she wrote in the July issue of Nature Neuroscience.
Evidently, no matter where they come from or what they are capable of, all children have a sense of music.
“The chemo nurses call Jaden* their singing boy,” said his mother Beth* of North Dallas. “’Oh, you mean that darling little singing boy?’ they’ll say when they’re talking about him. Yes, that’s Jaden! No one’s ever seen a child with leukemia sing with as much energy as mine. We believe he’ll be on American Idol or Glee or playing the Nokia Theatre someday. That boy’s got some pipes! And we’ll have to call Miss Gila then because she gave him his start!”
Jaden, like Abby, is a recipient of a music scholarship from the Joel Shickman Children’s Music Fund, and attends Music Together Dallas at no cost to his family.
“It’s incredible to watch these children blossom,” said Vinokur, talking about her students. “I mean ALL of them, not just the ones with developmental delays or battling some illness, all children take a cognitive leap forward through music education. It’s uncanny how music and movement affect awareness, confidence, and build social skills – but what’s truly magical is how music affects brain tissue and heals disease! My friend and colleague Joel knew that well.”
The late Joel Shickman, or “Mr. Joel” as his littlest musical protégés called him, was a father, musician, and Music Together instructor who believed in the healing power of music. Joel Shickman died in November 2007 of leukemia. During his illness, there were jam sessions around his hospital bed and he played his guitar daily. A visitor to his room during one of these sessions could see him visibly lifted up in strength and spirit by the music. The hospital staff stood in awe at this healing power. They could be seen smiling and dancing down the hall for hours afterward.
Joel’s sons were two, five and eight when he died. They remember the learning, the love, the silliness, and they remember the music. The youngest always asks to hear Daddy’s CD in the car, at bedtime, and in the classroom. He will smile and say, “That’s my Daddy’s song.”
In memory of “Mr. Joel”, Music Together of Dallas presents its Annual ZUMBATHON on
March 11th at 7:30pm at Congregation Tiferet Israel, located at 10909 Hillcrest Road at Royal Lane in Dallas.
Tickets are $20 and all proceeds from the evening will go toward the Joel Shickman Children’s Music Fund, which provides full scholarship to Music Together®.
“These scholarships make early music education a choice for deserving families who would not otherwise be able to afford to provide this experience for their children,” said Vinokur. “Music heals and unites these families in unbreakable ways. I always say their healing will be Joel’s song. And when you hear these kids sing and giggle, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear angels singing along.”
* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of scholarship recipients and their families.
When: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Congregation Tiferet Israel, 10909 Hillcrest Road at Royal Lane in Dallas
FREE Door prizes and a DJ!
For more information, please contact Gila Vinokur at (972) 267-4452.