To the sound of joyful music, a group of 3-year-olds bounced into a cozy, colorful and carefully decorated classroom and sat around two large drums in the middle of the room, like birds perched on branches ready to sing and dance.
“Hi, my kiddies. Let’s have fun with the music by following its beat,” said Jeannie Wyse with a cheerful voice and a big smile. She beat the drums with her hands in 4/4 beat and invited her students to play the meter using their own body movements. Following the beat, a girl tapped her left ear four times and then her right. “Well done, Alice. You got the downbeat correctly,” Wyse cheered.
Wyse was born in Chicago in the U.S. state of Illinois and came to Shenzhen in July 2019 as an early age music teacher at Avenues: The World School in Nanshan District. Before working for Avenues, she had taught music for young kids in the U.S., Dubai and Italy for 14 years. “In America and Dubai, I taught 5-year-olds to 10-year-olds,” she said. “In Italy, I started teaching 3- and 4-year-olds. It was really exciting to see their growth in music education and it excited me as an educator.”
To set off her new overseas adventure and experiment more with early childhood education, as well as experience Asian culture, Wyse chose Avenues in Shenzhen, a school that offers a project-based bilingual curriculum for early learners. Wyse’s music education background and teaching experience stood out among other applicants and became the only music teacher on Avenues’ kindergarten campus.
“I understand how important it is to teach kids at an early age, because their minds are so moldable at this age,” Wyse said.
Wyse integrates various elements to make her class entertaining, such as beat motions, learning lullaby and arioso, and dancing with classical music. In Wyse’s eyes, music growth doesn’t necessarily mean being a music teacher or a musician one day.
“Tuneful, beautiful and artful” are important qualities she expects her young students to learn from her class and she hung these words on her classroom’s wall. “I am building tuneful human beings that can sing, beautiful ones that can move and artful ones that can appreciate the arts,” she explained.
Wyse hopes her students will enjoy the pleasure and happiness music brings to one’s life. “I want them to be walking across the street and seeing a busker. They can stop and take in that music, because it gives them a certain emotion and makes them feel alive for that day,” she said. “Or they get older and they’re sitting with their child. I want them to feel comfortable singing a lullaby to their child, because that’s the moment that you’re connecting with your child. I want them to dance at their weddings and not be afraid. I want them to sing the national anthem when they go to a sporting event or a special event. Because you have that general appreciation for the arts, you don’t have to be a professional musician to do those things.”
This is Wyse’s third year in Shenzhen. When she arrived, she joined the local expat group, Shenzhen Women’s International Club (SWIC), to help acclimate to the local community. She has participated in several activities the club organized.
As a person who loves to explore different cultures, Wyse will embark on a new journey one day, but she will never give up showing music’s beauty to young kids. “I always know that I want to teach music,” she said firmly.