An interview with Judy & Sanford Jones, Co-Directors of Youth Opera International
Judy and Sanford Jones met and were married in New York City in 1986. Judy received a BA degree in ballet and theatre, pursued a career as a Broadway dancer, owned two dance studios and became a Certified Movement Analyst in the Laban Theory of Movement. Sanford, a music major at Westminster Choir College, became a Montessori teacher and teacher trainer. He founded and directed Montessori schools, while composing and performing children’s operas. The Joneses continue to greatly influence music and dance for children nationally and internationally through their operas, workshops and line of materials for home and classroom use.
Parenthood IQ: How can parents introduce children to listening to music and singing?
Sanford: Repeating nursery rhymes is effective, because singing starts with spoken language. Hickory Dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock - when you rest the child on your knee, bouncing in time with the music - that begins part of the physical understanding of rhythm. Singing is sustained speech - when you extend the spoken sound, it becomes singing. A child who is becoming fluent with rhythmic activity and speech will be better able to sing in rhythm and on pitch.
Folk songs such as Row, Row, Row Your Boat have a predictable rhythm and a limited pitch range. In Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow, the form is very clear and the rhythmic and melodic patterns are easily remembered.
Parenthood IQ: Why is movement important and how can parents provide movement experiences?
Judy: Research over the decades has shown that purposeful movement is a direct catalyst for clear thinking and emotional well-being. Rudolf Laban, a theorist and artist of note in European modern dance, wrote, “Gross and fine motor skills are what keep us stable. Humans must move. If movement is inhibited, then aberrations of the personality present themselves.” Daily experience with freedom of movement, both indoors and outdoors, is essential for the child’s well-being.
Parenthood IQ: When can parents introduce movement and dance lessons?
Judy: Creative dance can begin at age two with “Mommy and Me” classes. Three- and four-year-olds are exploring basic locomotor movements, levels and directions in space. By age five, the children need to know their eight locomotor movements – walk, run, jump, leap, hop, gallop, skip, and slide.
Parenthood IQ: What are some future plans for Youth Opera International?
Sanford: My latest children’s opera, The Singing Tree, is based on a tale from The 1001 Arabian Nights and will premiere this spring at a school where we have performed over 30 operas over three decades. We enjoy seeing performances to both entertain and inspire us – everything from A Chorus Line at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina to Hamilton on Broadway to the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.
For further information about Youth Opera International, visit youthoperaintl.com.
Carrie Hirsch lives on Hilton Head Island and writes about things that matter most - family, food and fun for starters. She adores her no-filter grandchildren Ava and Reid.