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Frost School program preps rising musicians

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TEACHING TUNES: Sofia Gonzalez, 8, helps her sister, Gabriela Gonzalez, 6, practice finger placement on a keyboard during a lesson with director Megan Walsh at the Preparatory Program at the Frost School of Music Monday. Sofia is one of 120 children enrolled. Monica Herndon// Photo Editor

The Frost School of Music continues to expand its reach into the South Florida community with its Preparatory Program – a comprehensive, pre-college music instruction for students 6 to 18 years old.

The 30-week program gives students a well-rounded musical experience by supplying them with knowledge and tools they can use throughout their lifetime as instrumentalists.

“There are a lot of people with holes in their music education,” said Oona Gonzalez, senior program coordinator for Frost’s Preparatory Programs. “The hallmark of this one is that it’s so complete … Every angle is hit on, and we really want to create a well-rounded person who is knowledgeable about music history and composers.”

The program has evolved for more than a decade into a staple for young musicians who aim to better their music education.

Megan Walsh, the program’s director, said when she came in 2003 for an assistantship, there were about 30 kids. Now it has grown to 120 students.

In its beginnings, the program was called Keyboard for Kids and was only for young pianists. It also served as a piano pedagogy lab for graduate students to get experience.

Over the years, the program began accepting more students and expanding its repertoire to other instruments, and eventually was officially named the Preparatory Program.

Admission to the program is competitive. Applicants must take a placement exam that tests their knowledge of music theory, perform an audition, and go through an interview process.

Those who are admitted attend classes twice a week. A Saturday class includes music history, theory, movement and ear training. During the week, students take a group class or a private lesson.

“A lot of people don’t have theory experience with a private teacher out there … but we work with that,” Walsh said. “We just give them more materials.”

Students put on performances every six weeks. Sometimes they go to nursing homes and competitions or organize charity events.

“Some [students]organized a veteran concert at the hospital,” 12-year-old piano student Elena Mishkovsky said.

Last year, the students organized an event, Cause for Paws, which had them performing a concert downtown on Biscayne Boulevard. They raised about $2,700 for Paws 4 You Rescue.

“I really like the program a lot,” said Nadia Mishkovsky, Elena’s mother. “It’s kind of like a family environment where you know the teachers by name. There’s a whole bunch of people with different specialties … I would definitely recommend this program to anyone who’s interested.”

Enrollment for the program is now at an all-time high with 120 students. Costs range from $325 to $1,225 depending on the training packages.

Piano, strings, guitar, woodwinds, brass and percussion are among the instruments accepted in the program.  Recently, the staff has been working on a new addition.

“[Voice] is our next phase,” Walsh said. “That’s our last division to this whole thing. We hope to incorporate voice into the program by next year.”

The program also provides experience for Frost student teaching assistants as they instruct students in classes.

“There have been some students who enrolled in the Frost school coming from the prep program,” Walsh said. “They loved being on campus from the prep program, so they made the choice … to attend UM.”

For more information visit frostprepprogram.com or call Megan Walsh, the progam’s director, at 786-853-4041.

October 2, 2013

Reporters

David Garcia


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