Opus School of Music in Ridgefield teaches kids as young 18 months old the fundamentals of music through enriching activities that keep the students engaged.
Owner Rob Melton was compelled to open the school after earning his master’s degree in music education from Portland State University in 2005.
“I knew I wanted to open up a studio,” said Melton. “I didn’t want to teach in school, travel or be a composer. I wanted to open up a school of music like where I wished I could have taken lessons.”
Melton said from age 9 to 11, he took music lessons in basements, but he wanted to take lessons with other musicians so he could collaborate with them.
Melton said the core mission of Opus is to provide students a great education through good teachers. The school also strives to teach music to its students in a space that allows collaboration and aims to serve as a resource for kids who want to play music out in the community at events like farmers markets or the BirdFest in Ridgefield.
For families who don’t want to take lessons in person, the school provides an option for Zoom lessons.
Group classes are important, Melton said, because it helps the students build rhythm.
“To me, the core concept is rhythm, and a lot of these preschool music curricula out there just don’t have that,” he said. “They focus on dancing to the music or learning how to play a beat, but they don’t focus on the core rhythmic part.”
Opus has a preschool program called “Mini Music,” which is for kids 18 months to 5 years old. The program focuses on creating a rhythmic foundation with the use of drums, while teaching students different notes and the musical alphabet. Melton also uses rice and beans in egg shakers to help kids learn about different levels of sound.
There’s also “Superstars” for kids aged 5 to 7. Students in the program learn how to sing and play the drums, ukulele and piano.
“Those four areas are the exploratory instruments we use to learn about music, so there’s a lot of drumming, there’s a lot of lining up rhythmic notes, and they’re playing on drums, which they transfer to piano,” Melton said. “It’s an easy transition because they’re not afraid of the symbols since they learn them by the time they start their instrument.”
Since children oftentimes want to play instead of focus intently on music, Melton tries to make the lessons as fun and engaging as possible, while turning them into a game.
The kids do not need to bring their own instruments since the school provides them.
When a child graduates out of Mini Music and into Superstars, Melton said their graduation present is a ukulele.
“It’s worth it, covering the costs for them, because I love to grow artistic spirits,” he said. “I love seeing them smiling and grabbing the instrument. I remember how that felt at their age. It’s magical.”
Melton specializes in classical piano. He remembers having to practice Beethoven six hours a day for six years. Despite the isolation he experienced, he said he appreciated the skills he learned, “sitting at the piano, opening up a book, and reading music I never heard. That is something that’ll never get old. It’s hard to describe, but it’s pretty special.”
Opus School of Music is located at 414 Pioneer St., Ridgefield, and their second location is at 726 NE Second Ave., Camas.
More information can be found online at opusschoolofmusic.com.
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