Anyone who knows five-year-old Henry Breen could tell you he’s a child who knows what he wants. He wears a suit and tie to church (his choice), instructs his younger brother about all appropriate (and not so appropriate) “boy” behavior and, most especially, loves music.
At the age of two he wanted to stand on the podium and conduct, and he’s developed a keen interest in playing and exploring any musical instrument he comes across.
Because of this interest and her own, Henry’s mother, Molly Weiss Breen, began to look for a program that would keep him stimulated and excited about music. After considering many classes (and thinking, “I could do better than that!”), Breen found the Musikgarten program. She learned to teach the classes herself and now offers them at St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church.
The Musikgarten curriculum uses listening, singing, movement and instruments to help parents reinforce their children’s natural curiosity about and love of melody and rhythm.
Developed by music educators in 1994, Musikgarten offers workshops, materials and support to teachers who want to work with young children. The organization has established programs in Canada, China, Germany, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea and Taiwan, as well as throughout the United States.
Breen grew up in St. Anthony Park and the Midway area, graduating from Central High School and the University of Minnesota with a B.F.A. degree in dance. She also trained in vocal performance and, after graduation, performed at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater in Oklahoma! and Can Can. But the schedule of eight shows a week was too much to maintain after she married and had children. However, she has kept her job teaching creative dance and jazz dance at Ballareteatro dance studio in Minneapolis.
After training with Musikgarten master teacher Marlene Lee in 2004, Breen became a licensed and certified Musikgarten instructor herself. She also continues to attend training workshops and seminars on early childhood music and movement education. She first taught through the community education program at Orchard Recreation Center, but just this fall started as a private business.
“I really prefer this to community education because I am in control of how families are treated from beginning to end,” she says. “I can welcome them in my own way and can do the kind of publicity I want to let them know better what the program entails.”
Breen believes that music education needs to be accessible for all families, so she keeps her fees to a minimum and offers eight-week sessions that may be easier for young parents to commit to. Because schools have cut music programs, she knows that classes like the ones she teaches are even more valuable than in the past.
This music program helps children with abstract thinking, building math and science neural pathways. It also encourages social interaction, empathy with others, self-confidence, memory skills, coordination, creativity and emotional development. In addition, children bond with their parents and local families get to know each other.
Breen offers classes for newborns through age 2 (Family Music for Babies, on Friday mornings), for toddlers aged 18 months through 3 years (Family Music for Toddlers, on Friday mornings), for children ages 3 to 5 (Cycle of Seasons, on Friday mornings), and a mixed class for all children from birth to 6 years (All Together Now, on Tuesday evenings).
The winter session begins January 8. Registration forms are available on Breen’s Web site: www.orchardmusiktime.com, where there is also a coupon for a free preview class. Class size is from 5 to 10 children.
If there is more interest, Breen may add classes and even teachers in a space of her own. If that happens, she wants to stay in the area and keep the quality of instruction high.
Watching Breen at work, one believes it when she says she loves every child she teaches.
“I look forward to seeing them each week,” she says. “It would be hard to find another teacher who loves children the way I do.”
Breen also teaches a baby music class for St. Anthony Park Lutheran.
“I grew up in this community and want to serve people in my home area,” she says. “This is my stewardship as well as my job. I look forward to doing both of these classes for a long time.”
Asked whether Henry attends classes, Breen says: “No. He wants to teach the class if he is there, so he stays at home with dad.”