Toddler Rock is a music-based early education program for underserved preschoolers, their caregivers and teachers. It was founded in 1999 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum by a team of board-certified music therapists under the direction of Deforia Lane, Ph.D, and targets “at-risk” 3-5 year-olds. Its primary objective is to increase a child’s academic, music and social skills through the structured use of music. The initial pilot data demonstrated a significant 73% decrease in the children’s off-task behavior and a 400% increase in positive parental reinforcement. Toddler Rock has been featured in the news media, visited by celebrities including Mary Wilson, Johnny Johnson and Maureen McGovern, and honored in print media by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Sesame Street Workshop. All children participate in Toddler Rock without cost. The program collaborates with national and local artists and organizations and has served over 4000 children, parents and teachers in its 8-year history.
The positive interaction of children with their parents, and teachers, along with early exposure to music therapy and education, is the goal of Toddler Rock. The program supports local Head Start programs through joint goal setting, and by encouraging relationship between children and teachers. There may be long-term health benefits associated with early music education and therapy interventions. Children exposed to music at a young age may be more likely to learn an instrument in school. Researchers have found that children involved with music education are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and are less likely to be involved with unhealthy activities such as gangs and substance abuse. Music study also develops critical thinking and self discipline skills, improves a child’s cognitive development, basic math and reading abilities, SAT scores, ability to work in teams, spatial reasoning skills and school attendance. Toddler Rock embraces this research in each session to give the preschoolers the best preparation for academic success.
In subsequent years, the Rock Hall chose to maximize Toddler Rock’s outreach to include inner city day care centers, children and their foster parents, and Head Start centers. Presently 21 preschool classes arrive on busses each Tuesday and Thursday morning for one hour of interactive, fun-filled learning with their own music therapist. The program is divided into 3 ten-week sessions. Each class normally remains throughout the year. In some cases the daycare center chooses to expose a different class to Toddler Rock every ten weeks. Teachers participate side by side with the children. The music therapists coordinate goals and objectives with the children’s teachers to maximize and enhance learning. A weekly newsletter, BackBeat, is given to each child, reviewing the session content and provides follow-up activities.
Research has demonstrated that the greatest predictor of academic success is literacy, and that children who achieve pre-reading skills before they enter school are more likely to become successful readers. Music therapy research has demonstrated that music can significantly increase children’s attention to task and enhance language development.
Toddler Rock has been featured on the Today Show, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on WKYC-TV, Adelphia Cable TV, and the Cleveland Metropolitan Authority received National Award of Merit from the National Association of Housing Redevelopment for its participation in Toddler Rock. Celebrity visitors to Toddler Rock include Johnny Johnson, Maureen McGovern and Mary Wilson of the Supremes. Fisher Price supplied the program with toy guitars. The Toddler Rock music therapists have made numerous national and local presentations by request to colleges, music associations, parents/caregivers, educators, administrators and music therapists about the program.
The music therapists have taken their role seriously as evidenced in their innovative programming ideas. These services and all Toddler Rock sessions are provided at no cost to the participants. Music therapists leading this program are Deforia Lane from University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Edward Gallagher from the Beck Center for the Arts. UH Music Therapy interns each facilitate a class. Additional staff includes Selena Tate, Brenda Calovini, Maria Hernandez, Alane Krumbine, Sarah Kovolan and Kathy Jo Gutgsell, Diana Le, Marcia Humpal, Tara Geist and Ronna Kaplan