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  March 25, 2002

Educator Calls for Funding to Probe
Role of Music in Early Learning
By John Wray

A nationally recognized authority on early childhood music education who is an assistant professor of music at UConn appeared before the Congressional Education Caucus in Washington March 7, to discuss the need for funding of research into the relationship between early music learning and other areas of early childhood development.

The funding is being sought under the "No Child Left Behind Act," which recognizes music as part of the core curriculum for early childhood development.

Linda Page Neelly, who joined the UConn faculty in January 2001, says one of the important aspects of her work is researching the links between early musical learning and later success in life and school, an interest that is shared by many others in the field.

"We need money to show how the process of learning music intersects with other areas of early childhood development," Neelly says. "Our experience tells us that this is so, and the clues are there," she says, "but much more research needs to be done, and we need funding to support an appropriate research agenda."

Music for Pre-Schoolers
Neelly has been involved with teaching music to pre-schoolers for many years. Her work has been highlighted in the New York Times and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. She also serves as a consultant on early childhood music to organizations including the Metropolitan Opera Early Notes Music Program in New York City, the Washington National Opera, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

She was invited to appear before the Congressional Education Caucus on behalf of the Music Educators National Conference and the National Association of Music Merchants, two groups with whom she worked extensively during her recent experience with Sesame Street Music Works.

As chief content advisor to Sesame Street Music Works, Neelly worked with the site's web designers to conceptualize appropriate developmental musical play experiences for adults and children to do together on the Sesame Street website. She also helped the development team produce the home video that is available as part of the program, and is currently working on ways to add new musical content for the next two seasons of the Sesame Street television show.

Breaking New Ground
As a result of her team's efforts, children, their parents, and teachers can log on to the Sesame Street website and gain access to a wide array of musical learning activities. The early music-learning project uses familiar Sesame Street characters such as Elmo and Big Bird to introduce pre-schoolers to musical concepts such as sound, rhythm, form, and melody.

"For the first time, parents, children, and their teachers have a source for self-directed interactive learning of basic musical concepts. It's fun to use and makes early learning of music a pleasure," she says.

Equally important, she adds, these early musical learning experiences may significantly improve their performance when these pre-schoolers enter the school system.

A Lifetime of Music
Neelly received a bachelor's degree from the University of Memphis, a master's in music and a doctorate in music education from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. She has taught, often in a visiting capacity, at the Eastman School of Music, Nazareth College, Belmont University, Western Illinois University, California State University and in the Rochester, N.Y., city schools.

She has presided over more than 50 music workshops and presentations, and is the author or co-author of several scholarly articles on early childhood music, including her doctoral dissertation, "A Year in the Life of a Pre-Kindergarten Music Teacher."

As a performer, she has met with success in many genres, including symphony, chamber, jazz, opera, musical theater, television and commercial broadcasting. She has appeared on the professional opera stage, in television commercials for Kodak, French's and IBM, and was a featured soloist in a PBS presentation of Handel's Messiah. She also has performed with the Atlanta Symphony and Rochester Philharmonic.

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