Delores JiJi has brought music into the lives of hundreds of children in the suburbs of New York City. Although she studied piano seriously until the age of fourteen, just as important as influencing her career choices were the interests of drama, dance, and college folksinging. Prior to graduating from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in theater and teaching credentials, she spent lots of time singing folksongs with her guitar in coffee houses.
After coming to New York to teach and continue drama study, she soon had a family. Watching her child in a music class for toddlers provided a catalyst for her own ideas about teaching music to young children. Today, in her home music studio, she sees eight small groups of children a week, each for a forty-five minute session. Terms are eight weeks long, and the age group is children from 2 to 4 years old. She also performs at children's parties, in concert, and at nursery schools. Not only is there singing, the children play in rhythm instrument ensembles, choosing from among JiJi's collection of one hundred and fifty rhythm instruments from countries all over the world. "In my classes there is constant movement to the beat, in my speech, where I try to rhyme phrases, and in the music. Each class is like a forty-five minute ballet. I treat each instrument lovingly and try to develop the children's listening skills. I try to give them the sense that I love music and that there are sounds everywhere, including inside them."
JiJi is often invited to speak at education conferences teaching teachers, who sometimes have no music background, how to work musically with young students. She is also music consultant to a number of nursery schools. The sixty-minute audio cassette she produced herself, Toddlers' Songtime, has been sold to Macmillian Publishing Company's preschool books and tapes division.
Reprinted from "Your Own Way in Music: A Career and Resource Guide" by Nancy Uscher