At 10 am on a Saturday morning, you would not expect to find college students awake, much less brimming with excitement at hanging out with a bunch of elementary school kids, but that’s exactly what I found last weekend at the Greater Denton Arts Council. These UNT College of Music undergrads were volunteering at an Instrument Petting Zoo for children in grades two through five. Coordinated by Dr. Don Taylor, Assistant Professor of Music Eduction, the petting zoo allowed children to get up close and personal with bassoons, French horns, snare drums, and other instruments that may be foreign entities to today’s technologically savvy under-12 crowd.
Three years ago, Margaret Chalfant, Executive Director of the GDAC, created a series of free events to expose kids to the arts well before middle school. Each event begins with a demonstration of that art in action followed by a hands-on experience that might get a child hooked on the creative process. With the cooperation of Denton’s major universities, the experience is led by teachers not so far removed from childhood themselves. Visual Arts will be the focus in February, led by the UNT College of Visual Arts and Design; in April, a Dance component will be offered in collaboration with Texas Woman’s University Department of Dance.
UNT College of Music Dean James Scott said this event for youngsters is part of the school’s tribute to slain journalist Daniel Pearl. Dr. Scott’s wife Elizabeth was inspired by similar music camps conducted by Leonard Bernstein, and as a member of the GDAC board, she worked to bring a similar concept to Denton. The kids seemed engrossed with instruments often larger than themselves and just as noisy. Their fun was enviable, as one parent asked, “Would you consider doing this for grown-ups?”