By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4)– The Little Swallows program introduces preschool-age children to music. The program can go on to help them perform better in school, develop social skills with classmates, as well as give them a way to express themselves without words.
“Little Swallows is my favorite part of the week,” one child said in a video produced for the program.
Swallow Hill Music is a local nonprofit organization that has served the Front Range for almost 40 years. It is the second largest acoustic music school in the country and produces more than 250 concerts each year to a total audience of almost 100,000 people. By the end of 2018, Little Swallows expects to reach 1,000 children.
“The impact of Swallow Hill has been immeasurable as we bring Americana, folk, and traditional music to our community,” said Paul Lhevine, CEO of Swallow Hill Music. “We work in our underserved communities through our music outreach programs.”
Classes can run about 30 minutes during the school day across Denver meeting once a week. Instructors will sing with the class as well as expose them to a variety of instruments. Children also get the chance to move around and learn rhymes. Improved math and language skills are a byproduct of the program as well as practice in a classroom setting helping students prepare for many other school subjects.
“Music is so important in life, it’s a therapy, people need music, they need art, they need music to be able to express themselves,” said Liat Arochas, a Little Swallows instructor.
Arochas says she can sense the various emotions her students are experiencing that they may not know how to say aloud. Instruments especially can be a vehicle for them to let out those emotions like anger by playing the drums. Parents have told instructors they notice a change in behavior at home because of the class.
“He loves music, so it really just brings out more creativity in him,” a parent explained in a Swallow Hill video.
SHARE YOUR STORY: Share A Together 4 Colorado Story Idea With CBS4
Students are often comfortable with instruments at that age and are excited to hear a sound that is not anyone’s voice.
“They come home singing songs,” said Arochas. “They haven’t ever done that before so it’s exciting for the parents.”
Lhevine says programs like Little Swallows serves to help the growing emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education include the arts and achieve a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) curriculum.
“It’s so critical to work with preschool age children, 80 to 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the time they go to kindergarten,” he said. “We saw kids gaining confidence and self-esteem, participating in ways that they hadn’t before, we saw them fully engaged in the classroom activities.”
Little Swallows is provided at no cost to families thanks to contributions Swallow Hill gets from the community. They rely on new funding and additional investors for their programs so they can target students with limited resources and financial barriers.
“The more support we get from the community, the more programs we can run,” said Lhevine. “Providing music education is critically important to helping people develop and grow.”
He believes that by serving the creative needs of the Denver community, the local arts and entertainment scene provide development and help the entire economy flourish in the state. The skills these children are learning at a young age are meant to help them pursue a career in a variety of fields but some are already expressing an interest in sticking with music.
“I want to keep singing when I get older,” another student said in a Swallow Hill video.
To support the nonprofit or learn more about bringing Little Swallows to your school, visit www.swallowhillmusic.com.