Come along, sing a song, it’s the Music Mobile.
Ruth Pelham’s singing and guitar rang out across the Central Park grounds as more than 30 children promenaded around the lawn adjacent to the lake and the Three Angels Tiny Tot Land and triumphantly waved the rain sticks they made with help from the Music Mobile on Wednesday.
“It invites people to love each other by interacting in peaceful ways,” Pelham said. “In cooperative ways, through participatory singing, making musical instruments.”
This is the 11th year Music Mobile has come to Schenectady to bring music and interactive programming to children and families for free.
Pelham founded the nationally recognized nonprofit in 1977 in Albany. The mission of Music Mobile is to foster cooperation, tolerance, peace, understanding, community pride and local and global responsibility through music. The colorful van pulls up to the site along with Pelham and her crew to deliver a positive and uplifting musical experience.
Lavon Watson, 31, first attended Music Mobile when he was 5 and the program came to his neighborhood. He fell in love with Music Mobile and has been working for the organization for the past 10 years.
“I saw the change,” he said. “People come in with problems and they leave happy.”
Watson now brings his two young sons to the programs.
“As a kid I got something out of it,” he said. “As an adult, I love how they are educating these children by having lots of fun. We are doing math, we are doing geography. Any of our programs, you are learning something new.”
Zamonti Tibbs, 8, came to see the Music Mobile on Wednesday. She said she was having lots of fun.
“I like music,” she said. “I like to listen to music and I like singing music.”
During the program, children made rain sticks out of recycled materials and rice. After the instruments were complete, they all played them together, along with Pelham and the other Music Mobile workers, to form a “Music Mobile Instrument Band.”
Kristen Olochnowicz, a Schenectady teacher who taught kindergarten for years, is a huge supporter of Music Mobile.
“It is fabulous,” she said. “We sing the songs all the time.”
Olochnowicz used to bring her students to Music Mobile and now brings her own children.
“The songs have a wonderful message and they have a tune that is easy for kids to be able to sing and to catch on,” she said. “After we sing the songs we can talk a little bit about what they mean. It’s great.”
Jill Grandusky, 37, first attended Music Mobile when she was just 20 months old. She returned with her son, Tristan, who is now the same age as she was then.
“I just saw that [Pelham] was in town and I am like — I need to continue that tradition with him,” she said. “She gets the kids involved.”
The Music Mobile programs are free and open to the public. They are sponsored by M&T Bank, GE, Friends of the Music Mobile and Price Chopper. The Schenectady Department of Recreation also helps make the event possible.
“We work diligently to raise the funds for operating expenses. We have an office, we have a staff, we have the vans,” Pelham said. “We depend on grants, donations, contributions.”
Pelham said the need for programs like Music Mobile are crucial.
“We get constant positive feedback of the need for educational programs that incorporate the arts and that are age-appropriate,” she said.
According to Pelham, Music Mobile teaches children how to make friends and get along with strangers, and the importance of living in peace with oneself and one another.
“The most important time to do that is when people are young,” she said. “Before they develop stereotype reactions to other people.”
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