Campus News - February 26, 2001

Music school fills education void

By Laurie Mellas-Ramirez

While many of us catch a few extra winks Saturday morning, the minds of more than 500 area youth will awake to the sound of music at UNM.

The UNM Music Prep School at the Center for the Arts provides music-related education and activities for children from birth to sixth grade. Non-profit, and now in its eighth year, the school helps fill a void created by decade-old cuts to general and instructional music programs in the Albuquerque Public Schools. Diane Bonnell, director, says most of the school’s dozen or so certified music educators, once taught for APS.
Classes are offered for 14 weeks in the fall and spring with an eight-week summer sessio.

Classic nursery rhymes and children’s literature are heard in the school’s preschool curriculum. “Some children start with us at age two or three and progress up the spectrum to an instrument such as piano or guitar,” Bonnell says. “We have instruction in all band and orchestra instruments and steel drum and marimba. And if children are interested in working on vocal music, they can participate in chorus.”

The emphasis is on skill building, not performance, says Bonnell, although students close each semester with a “final sharing” at Keller Hall open to parents and friends.

Classes for children through age four require parental participation. “We help parents to interact with their young children through music,” says Bonnell. “We incorporate movement and songs, and even the babies can play some hand-held instruments like the shakers.”

Families travel from Belen, Los Lunas, Corrales, East Mountains and Rio Rancho to take part in the program.
“Many universities have music preparatory schools,” Bonnell said. “Programs like this can easily become elitist, but we are proud to say we represent most zip codes in the area. We are thrilled that the families come from a cross of cultures and economic levels.”

A limited number of partial and full tuition waivers based on the same guidelines as the APS free and reduced lunch program are available. About 10 percent of the children attend on scholarship.

“We have 565 children enrolled this spring. It shows that there is such a need for music education and that there are parents out there who are willing to get up on Saturday morning and make sure their children get one,” says Bonnell. “We’re fulfilling a real need in the community.”

The deadline for eight-week summer classes, June 2-July 28, ends May 31. Class fees are $55 for ages 2-1/2 through sixth grade and $35 for birth to 29 months with a $5 discount per child for multi-child families.

For a registration form and information, call 277-8816 or email

The University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico USA
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