Monday, November 30, 2020 - 12:00
PNC Foundation provides grant support to ensure music engagement for two area daycare centers
by Diane Cornell
Rider University recently received a $29,400 grant from the PNC Foundation to continue its Westminster Conservatory of Music’s Daycare Music Instruction Program. The Foundation has funded the program for the past 12 years, providing more than $350,000 to support music classes for underserved preschoolers at two area daycare centers.
Using music and movement, the program helps strengthen children’s attention spans, socialization skills, language and literacy development, and their social and emotional growth. Additionally, the program introduces children to the fundamental elements of music, such as rhyming and rhythms, helping to form a base for more advanced musical learning.
“Music is a wonderful way to connect with others, especially for children who may have trouble expressing themselves verbally,” says Jennifer Corder Garr, who is head of Westminster Conservatory’s Early Childhood Department and oversees the Daycare Music Instruction Program. Westminster Conservatory is the community music school of Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts.
Especially this year, Corder Garr says she is witnessing more of the emotional benefits the program provides for the children that she is serving.
“Young children do not have the capacity to fully grasp all that is going on right now in the world,” she says. “By being able to share their favorite songs and express themselves through music, the children are able to bond and a sense of community is created that helps them find joy in these stressful times.”
Because of the restrictions of the pandemic, this year’s classes are being held either once or twice a week through a video conferencing platform and through supplemental lessons using the Seesaw digital app. Children at the YWCA Princeton’s Child Care Center view the classes together at their daycare center, while the children in the Millhill Child & Family Development Center in Trenton program are participating remotely from their own homes. Both centers serve a majority of children who live at or below the poverty line.
About 140 children, ages 3 to 5, are taking part in the music classes through the Westminster program.
In addition to singing songs, this school year the emphasis is on storytelling through music, particularly using world instruments and with songs implementing American Sign Language. Spanish language songs and stories are also incorporated to reflect both centers’ growing population of Spanish-speaking students. To replicate an in-person learning experience, each child is provided with music bags containing rhythm sticks, shakers, castanets, a tambourine, a music book and a scarf to use when dancing.
After the spring shutdown of schools, Corder Garr was also a source of technological support to staff at both daycare facilities offering assistance on remote learning and creating videos for students. Now that one center is open to students, she continues to offer guidance on ways to facilitate musical programming in the classroom within CDC safety guidelines.
The PNC Foundation supports educational programs for children and youth, particularly in early childhood by forming partnerships with community-based nonprofit organizations.
“We’re delighted to continue to support this educational outreach program to some of the youngest and most underserved members of our community,” says Linda Bowden, PNC Bank regional president for New Jersey. “During this time of uncertainty, offering the continuity of ongoing music education provides a powerful mainstay for children whose lives have been disrupted in myriad ways.”