When it comes to playing a musical instrument, handling an instrument and making a sound with it can mean the difference between dreaming and doing.
Don Taylor, the head of the music education program at the University of North Texas College of Music, is preparing for the seventh annual instrument “petting zoo.”
“As a music educator, especially in today’s world, we value the opportunity to engage children with music as much as possible, at the earliest age possible,” said Taylor.
UNT launched the petting zoo seven years ago when musician Elizabeth Scott, the wife of College of Music Dean James Scott, approached the music education division with the idea. Scott had seen other petting zoos for musical instruments and was delighted at how willingly youngsters tried their hands — and, for wind instruments, their pucker — at making a sound.
Taylor has kept the petting zoo the same each year. Second- through fifth-graders in the Denton school district are invited to come to the event. First, Taylor said, they get a treat. They have an informal concert by ensembles that feature the instruments that make up the sections of the orchestra, from reeds to strings.
After that, the children are put into four groups, paired with student volunteers and taken to a makeshift workshop — one for brass instruments (trumpets and tubas), another for woodwinds (clarinets and oboes), a third for strings (violin and double bass) and a fourth for percussion.
Taylor said the petting zoo started as a “town and gown” project and still is. Penders Music Co. in Denton printed 9,000 fliers promoting the event and supplied reeds and hand sanitizer. Universal Melody is loaning the college string instruments sized for small hands. The Denton school district promoted the event, and Extreme Cuisine is whipping up a meal for all the volunteers, Taylor said. Performing ensembles from the College of Music have donated their time, and Taylor said Dean James Scott has lent a lot of support.
The petting zoo serves UNT students studying music education as much as it does elementary schoolers in Denton, Taylor said.
“It is good for our students,” Taylor said. “I think it helps them make the transition from being a student themselves to teaching. Children are getting an authentic experience with music, and our students are getting an authentic experience with teaching.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.
INSTRUMENT PETTING ZOO
What: Concert and event introducing children to orchestral instruments, for children in grades 2-5, accompanied by an adult
When: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday
Where: Recital Hall (Room 301) in the UNT Music Building, 415 Ave. C. For directions, visit http://music.unt.edu/about/maps-and-directions.
Details: Free, but reservations are recommended. To reserve seats, visit http://forms.unt.edu/instrument-petting-zoo.