David Palomo, director of Music Together Summit, possesses a special kind of talent for teaching.
From the moment the class I witnessed at a recent Music Together special event at the Fairlawn Branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library began, Palomo cast his spell and held rapt more than 40 young children and the adults who brought them there. As he made music with them, Palomo also had their complete attention and cooperation for the entire 45-minute session. Seriously.
Palomo, who opened the first of three Music Together locations in January 2008 after attending a Music Together teacher training/demonstration session, gives the Music Together program all the credit.
He says of the experience: “What I saw in the demonstration classes was really the tipping point for me. I saw three things going on simultaneously in the classes: 1.) The children were being engaged vocally at their individual level of development. 2.) The children were being engaged in their motor skills at the individual level of development. 3.) As I mentioned above, I saw the children being engaged emotionally, both in their own emotions and in their emotional connection with their parents.”
If all three of the elements Palomo outlined were present in the mega-class I attended, I can only imagine the connections – and music – made in a regular Music Together class with a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 participants. Regular classes are 45 minutes long and each is a mixed age class that includes infants, toddlers and preschoolers through age 5. Parents or caregivers attend classes with their children.
As I watched Palomo set up for the event, I must admit I was charmed by him. Palomo is a guy that kids of all ages would want as their grandpa. He is funny, friendly, interesting and gifted, with the ability to make whomever he’s focused upon feel…special. He’s not a pushover, though.
Behind that mischievous gleam in his eye is a confidence that communicates to even the most precocious of tots that he is the leader in the room.
Palomo set up his CD player and placed literature about the program on a table. He then placed totes filled with props on the table behind him: one held colorful, nearly identical shaker instruments, one held scarves and a third was filled with a wide variety of children’s instruments.
I watched as small children and their adult companions streamed in steadily, and I thought about how chaotic the room would become when those bins were opened.
The class started and Palomo began to lead the group of children and adults. Initially he led them in singing children’s songs, then gradually incorporated clapping and movement. At first most of the children were tentative, but not for long.
In no time, the more than 40 small children were under his spell and following his every instruction. When he brought out the bin of shakers and invited the children to choose one, I was surprised at the complete lack of chaos that ensued.
These kids were all-in and followed Palomo’s lead. When the song ended and it was time to give back the shakers, they were as compliant in returning them as they were when they selected them. The same pattern was present when he introduced the bin of scarves. By the time he brought out the box of instruments, the children and Palomo were completely in sync, and the fighting over who got what instrument and tears over putting them away when it was time to never materialized. The children responded to every instruction enthusiastically, right up to his final instruction to find their caregivers and end with a hug.
As a mom of a 17-year-old son and a 22-year old-daughter, I am way past the days of these classes. After attending, I wish Palomo had been around and on my radar when my children were small. They would have loved his classes – almost as much as their mother did.
To learn more about the Music Together program and its benefits and to explore Music Together Summit’s Fairlawn, Hudson, Medina and North Canton class offerings, go to www.musictogethersummit.com.