Murray Bridge Children's Choir gets kids started on the right note
Founding director Pam Valerio and accompanist Alex Westlake say singing in a choir offers many benefits.
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Music has existed and improved people’s lives for centuries; you would be hard-pressed to find a period or culture for which music was not around.
Experts say playing a musical instrument can improve a person’s brain function, hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, confidence, and even reduce stress.
Murray Bridge Children’s Choir founding director Pam Valerio said she had seen many positive changes in the children who had joined since she started the group in 2017.
“I’ve had students who for their first session cry, holding their parent’s leg at the door … a few weeks later, they’re putting their hands up for a solo,” she said.
“In junior choir, we incorporate a lot of movement.
“During our exercises I get them to do a lot of marching, skipping and galloping, so the kids learn body awareness … and learning how to keep a steady beat has also been shown to correlate with improved reading abilities.”
Accompanist Alexandra Westlake said the group also benefited children socially, offering them an alternative extracurricular activity if sport was not their thing.
“In Murray Bridge, music is not really entrenched in the community the way sport is,” she said.
“Music also gives kids the opportunity to connect with reality and grow relationships in the community.
“It’s the unexpected connections the kids make … that’s a life skill.”
Ms Westlake said an exciting aspect of her job was watching the kids discover a love for music.
“Music is my life, so watching that being passed on to the next generation brings me so much joy, especially since its happening in Murray Bridge,” she said.
Emma, 13, joined the year the choir was established and never looked back.
“My favourite memory of choir was when we performed at the Murray Bridge Show in 2017, because it was the first time we performed in front of quite a few people,” she said.
“I’d tell other kids to give choir a chance because it’s a great way to meet new people.”
Caitlin, 14, got involved last year and said the choir was “a real family environment”.
“I feel like I can be myself and I’m not worried about what everyone thinks of me,” she said.
“It’s a great experience singing on stage … I’d tell kids that are scared to join to just come and try at least one session.
“You might really enjoy it, so why not?”
Ms Valerio shared a similiar outlook to her students.
“A lot of kids base their decisions on fear, and it’s hard when you don’t know anyone,” she said.
“I tell parents to give it two weeks, and then see how their child feels.”
Ms Westlake said, “It’s about not giving up the first time, it’s about trusting the process.”
“Music has been around since the beginning of time; it’s an essential part of life.”
Murray Bridge Children’s Choir will perform with Music Ministry on Friday night, June 17, from 7-8pm at the Steeple, Unity College.
Watch a live stream of the performance: www.youtube.com.