New year, new instrument? Or new year, new language? Auburn University’s music and foreign language classes for area grade school students begin a new semester in January.

The Auburn University Music Project launched in 2015 under the direction of assistant professor Guy Harrison. The program has offered instruction in orchestral string instruments for children in grades 3-5, but will expand for the spring semester to include beginner lessons for brass, percussion and wind instruments for fifth- and sixth-graders.

“There aren’t many public school string programs in Alabama,” Harrison said. “And we want to give our students as much teaching experience as possible prior to moving out to their internships.”

The AUMP solves both of those issues, providing children with the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and Auburn University music students with teaching experience. Four undergraduate students teach in the program right now.

“They meet with me on a regular basis, and we discuss together each student, how they’re doing and how they can improve,” said Harrison, who does most of the string instruction himself. “It’s as hands-on for them as we can make the time for.”

Benefits of learning

The classes follow the university’s academic calendar and meet twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, over a 12-week semester. Tuition and rental fees per semester are in the $100-$150 range.

“If you rent a violin with insurance, the cost is about $2 per hour,” Harrison said. “Of course, that goes up with a bigger instrument. But it’s a cheap way of getting instruction.”

The benefits of learning to play an instrument as a child are numerous, he added. They include expressing creativity and learning to multitask well. Music and rhythm also affect language and grammar.

“It’s also better because of physical attributes,” Harrison said. “When you’re younger, you’re more pliable, and it’s easier to train your muscles to properly hold and use an instrument. With adult learners, you’re fighting a lot of muscle groups.”

Parents interested in the AUMP can email Harrison at gfh002@auburn.edu. They also can "like" the Auburn University Music Project on Facebook, and look for an announcement about an interest meeting tentatively scheduled for Jan. 11.

There also are benefits to learning a second language at a young age, according to Tanja Redd, coordinator for Auburn’s Center for Educational Outreach and Engagement.

“Children are sponges. They’re clean slates,” she said. “The earlier they start learning languages, the better. I wish they would start studying multiple languages at the kindergarten level. As they are learning to count one, two, three, they could just as easily learn to count uno, dos, tres.”

The university’s after-school language program for kids teaches just that. The Center for Educational Outreach and Engagement partners with Synchro International Education to teach local students Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and English as a second language.

Language and diversity

Language classes are scheduled once a week from Jan. 10 through April 27, 2018, and are open to all public, private and homeschooled students from kindergarten through ninth grade in the Lee County area. The total cost of language classes, including registration and curriculum fees, ranges from $120 to $145, depending on the class.

The program’s objective is to prepare students for careers in the global market by developing their language skills and cultural awareness, according to a press release from the university.

“We have a large international presence here, with all the Korean and German companies we have in the area. Plus, as a college town, we have a lot of diversity,” Redd explained. “It’s really important that our home-grown Auburn folks send their kids to a class of kids from other cultures. When you have an average American fifth-grader sitting in Spanish class with a Chinese fifth-grader who is also learning Spanish, you get a great blend of cultures.”

For details and registration information on the after-school language programs, visit synchroeducation.com/services/multi#registration, call 334-559-9023, or email auafterschool@auburn.edu.

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