(by Deyanira Rossel, printed in the "Hill Country Sun" in May 2007)
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Music Teacher offers classes as unique as her students
In a room full of little hands, tiny little fingers and tiny little vocal chords, big sounds reverberate every week from Music Together® class with instructor Petra Soltis. Petra's voice immediately captures the attention of her students as she greets each and every one of them while singing and playing her keyboard.
"Hello to Chase so glad to see you, hello to Sophia so glad to see you, hello to Gracie so glad to see you, hello to mommies so glad to see you too" she sings to her very enthusiastic little ones, while some wander about and others sit in their mothers' laps, mesmerized by her voice.
The students range in age from 6 weeks to 4 years and each exhibits an individual style and a unique approach to music.
Petra gives each child the freedom to explore music in his or her own way.
"Some children don't ever want to participate in class. They just sit still and observe. Some children always imitate everything a teacher does, some children need a lot of visual support for the musical information they learn and some children need to physically be in motion in order to process the information and all children have moments where they just need a break or want to work on a skill they just learned." says Petra, a native of Hamburg, Germany, and a graduate of a University in Düsseldorf.
The 12 students in this class rush to the center of the room when Petra brings out a large box of instruments, including drums, maracas, triangles and tambourines.
The toddlers shake, rattle and pound to a song, sometimes trading instruments and often sharing the same one.
They climb on Petra's lap or play an instrument with her. She says, "Teaching children music should always emphasize the fun aspect. I believe that children learn best when they play, so teaching to this young age group has to be playful, very interactive, spontaneous, incorporate different movements, hopefully inspire some creativity and allow children to learn in their own personal style."
Much of Petra's approach to music was influenced by her very positive introduction to it as a child.
"My parents both liked to sing and dance and play instruments, so there was always music in our house. I started taking music and dance lessons before I went to school and began playing piano when I was six years old", she says.
Because she had terrible stage fright, Petra worked in the music field, but not as a performer.
She graduated from the Robert Schumann College of Music and worked as an audio engineer in the television industry.
After the birth of her daughter, Sophie, Petra began her teaching career by training and becoming licensed in the Music Together program.
She also teaches a handful of private piano lessons. While Petra has time for a few more classes, she limits herself to four a day because, as she says, "Four consecutive classes of this high-energy level is the most I could do in one day I think. After that, you are pretty much done for the day and the singing voice asks for a rest as well."
Aside from playing instruments and singing with the children, Petra marches, hops and jogs around the room with her mommy-toddler teams, while maintaining perfect pitch and rhythm.
Petra's daughter Sophie loves music, plays the piano and dances. Together they attend concerts, the opera and ballet. They love art, books, history and traveling and return to Europe at least once a year.