Inside the Orchestra delivers an auditory definition to the meaning of cognitive learning for the younger
minds of Denver. Through an immersive experience called The Tiny Tots Program, children ages six and under are prove to get more than just momentary entertainment.
The design of the program places budding attendees and proud parents in the center of the 30-piece orchestra that includes an interactive opera singer and interpretive dancers. Among the activity, the music director walks around the audience while conducting the orchestra, encouraging all to envision and act out different emotions.
Inside the Orchestra, established in 1958, expanded to the Tiny Tots Program in 1979. It became an autonomous, independent organization of its own, applying for nonprofit status in 1983. The organizers felt the need to provide families with the opportunity of exposure to orchestral music in a way that they would not otherwise receive it.
Other than the unique design of the performance, cognitive learning plays an immense role on the minds of the still-developing listeners. The Tiny Tots Program utilizes memory retention, thinking skills and perception of learned material by influencing the pupils in attendance to interact with the music. Whether or not the music director prompts the reaction, there is an apparent sense of acknowledgment toward the music they are hearing. This level of feedback is exactly what the folks behind the scenes of Inside the Orchestra are looking to provoke.
Several members of the organization stated that their motive is to inspire the listeners’ minds through the performance. The purpose is to plant specific sounds in the memory banks of the young audience,
which could result in a higher level of creativity, innovative train of thought and the mental birth of future musicians.
Since 2010, a multitude of studies show that musical variety supports child brain development, which comes with life-related benefits such as language proficiency, spatial awareness, temporal reasoning and emotional intelligence. Through an early exposure to the arts, a different level of learning is set in place
and will continue to expand as time goes on, leading the subject at hand to achieve a higher level of intelligence in many different facets.
Executive Director Shelby Mattingly and Music Director Tom Jensen can attest to the reality of this research as both were heavily involved with the arts during their separate childhoods and vocalized
the importance of it in their adult lives. Mattingly, who holds a degree in fine arts from Denison University, gave some insight as to how education in the arts has sculpted her adult life for the better.
“Our purpose is to engage young children in orchestra music and in the world of the arts and promote them being passionate about the arts as audience members or as musicians themselves,” Mattingly said. “We get a lot of people telling us that their kids started playing instruments after attending our events.”
Director Tom Jensen is aware of this and does his best to help the children formulate memories with his bold style of conducting.
“It’s easy for me because I can relate to these kids,” he said. “What I try to do is seed as many melodies in their minds as I can in 45 minutes.”
Jensen has an extensive background in music with a degree in Music and Conducting from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. He understands that music is a universal language that can serve as a
point of mental stimulation.
“When I was three years old, I was watching cartoons on a Saturday morning, and I heard a piece from Felix Mendelssohn,” Jensen said. “I didn’t even know what an orchestra was or who he was at the time. I heard it again 15 years later and thought, wow this reminds me of when I was three.”
The children take well to the music director and his courageous style of conducting but there is one specific instrument that notably receives more attention than any other in the 30-piece set.
The children as a whole are absolutely enthralled by the percussion section of the orchestra. Percussionist Peter Cooper is a living example of how nurturing interest at an early age can create a lifelong relationship with music. Alongside his involvement with Inside the Orchestra, Cooper has served as a timpanist and percussionist with two different orchestras here in Colorado and is an instructor at
MSU Denver. Since he was eight, music has been in his life and has yet to subside.
“I always enjoyed music. As I played more, I became more passionate about it,” Cooper said.
The Inside the Orchestra staff serve as direct examples of what early exposure to the arts, specifically music, can do for a human being’s state of mind as they grow. The Tiny Tots Program is led by people who have benefitted from cognitive learning through music their entire lives. The service that this organization is doing the communities surrounding the metropolitan area is more than just entertainment. It is a positive influence to the children of our locale. We can all expect for the children in the Tiny Tots Program to be very productive, creative and innovative members of our blooming society in years to come.
The Tiny Tots Program might be the movement that will sustain musical leaders in Denver for generations to come.