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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lexington violinist teaches kids to tell musical stories

"Anwell Tsai is an accomplished violin soloist who has performed with many regional symphonies, so he knows a thing or two about classical music." summarizes Cindy Atoji Keene, Globe Correspondent.

Anwell Tsai and his son, Alec, 6, played a Chinese spouting bowl. Alex helps Tsai test new techniques for his Playful Tunes music instruction program for children.  
Photo: Boston Globe

Tsai, founder of Lexington based Playful Tunes, wants to change the way people think about early childhood music programs by using real instruments, technology, and social awareness.

“A lot of times, the way kids are taught music is very technical so the fact that music can tell a story is lost to them,” said Tsai, who has gotten more than 1,500 preschoolers to try the violin. His goal: making “happy musical moments” for 100,000 kids.

Kids sitting on or throwing a violin — isn’t that a bit sacrilegious?
We’re trying to make instruments approachable. We call it an Instrument Zoo, a hands-on, experiential learning time. Instead of worrying about breaking the violin, we create an atmosphere of freedom. Kids discover by touching, listening, moving.

How do you use your background as a professional violinist to reach a new generation of potential musicians?
My background was entirely geared toward classical music performances until I was asked to create the first mandatory string program for a middle school in Louisville, Ky. This was the start of sharing my love of music – and this group of kids really responded. My biggest reward came when the school’s lacrosse team took out their violins and played after winning a league championship.

How do you use technology?
We use interactive white boards, projectors, recording software, motion detecting software, and old-fashioned lighted keyboards. We’ll tell kids they’re going to create the story of a car coming home through a rainstorm. The kids have to make all the sounds — an engine revving, tires going through gravel, wheels spinning on smooth roads, thunder and lightning.
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Photo: Playful Tunes

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Source: Boston Globe