5/17/2012 9:01:00 AM CARONDELET MUSIC CENTER Taking note of 20 years
BY SISTER PATRICIA ST. JOHN, CSJ
When Carondelet Music Center in Latham opened its doors at St. Joseph's Provincial House 20 years ago, there were two Kindermusik classes - one with four children and the other with six children.
Two of those children were my niece and nephew. As founder and executive director, I convinced my brother to enroll his children so I could run the scheduled classes. There were also 85 instrumental students enrolled to take private or group lessons.
Today, as the center celebrates its 20th anniversary, it boasts more than 200 students and 14 Kindermusik classes for children from three months to seven years old.
Our Kindermusik program has been in the top five percent of all such programs internationally for a decade. One cornerstone is an intergenerational music class for infants, caregivers and senior sisters who reside at the Provincial House.
There's a digital piano lab and a performance space with a donated grand piano. Many students begin with us as infants in parent/child classes and continue into instrumental instruction. One family has been with us for 18 of our 20 years!
Our dedicated staff of seven tailors lessons to student strengths and interests. We encourage a lifelong love of music with students up to 89 years young. From early childhood classes to group piano classes, ensemble playing and private instruction, our emphasis is on process rather than product - experiencing the joy of musical competence and collective music-making.
Recitals give students the opportunity to play for family and friends. These performances foster self-confidence, self-discipline, poise, motor skills, listening skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving and higher-order thinking.
Teachers arrange for students to play for each other; two guitar ensembles make music together. Group piano classes often involve children who have already experienced years of music-making as graduates of our Kindermusik program.
At Carondelet Music Center, the most fundamental gain is enrichment of the human spirit and a sense of musical community. This is important to me as a Sister of St. Joseph, since my community sponsors the center. I come from a long lineage of sister-musicians who valued artistic development and musical expression.
We have celebrated our 20th anniversary with many events, from an intergenerational concert to a carol sing, a Valentine recital and a duet recital. Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, CSJ, director of the diocesan Office of Counseling for Laity, offered a parent lecture series on family stresses, communication and self-care.
Since starting the center, I've completed a doctoral degree from Columbia University in early childhood music education. Many of our children have participated in my research studies at the center; I've presented papers at conferences around the world.
In July, I will travel to Greece to present the findings of my study on our intergenerational music class to the International Society of Music Education. This study revealed that, while there was no significant change in cognitive function or depression levels for senior participants with memory loss, the joy of all the participants was undeniable.
As one sister commented, "Just being with the babies is so wonderful!" This speaks to the humanizing power of music and its inherent socializing force.
As Sisters of St. Joseph, our charism and mission focuses on relationships: neighbor with neighbor and neighbor with God. I can't think of a better way to address that than through the vibrant musical community that Carondelet Music Center fosters.
(Sister Patricia is director of Carondelet Music Center. Contact 783-3608 or PatriciaStJohn@aol.com.)