TAMIU Professor Paving Way for Bilingual Music Education
Next month, elementary and Kindergarten teachers in New York City will be singing songs previously familiar only to children and adults who grew up in Laredo or Mexico thanks to a series of books co-authored by Texas A&M International University’s Dr. Gilberto D. Soto.
Dr. Soto, TAMIU associate professor of music, has also been tapped to present a workshop to approximately 1,700 elementary and Kindergarten teachers who will be using ¡Fiesta De Canciones!, which he authored, and Multilevel Strategies for English Language Learners, which he co-authored.
“These books and Spotlight on Music are part of a music series taught in Pre-K and elementary music classes in districts across the country. The series puts together all the elements and aspects of successful music education — teaching elements such as movement, playing, listening, musical concepts, multi-cultural, Broadway music — things like that,” explained Dr. Soto.
Both books were written after he was asked to co-author the national series, Spotlight on Music.
So far, more than 90 school districts across the state and as far away as Alaska have adopted Spotlight on Music. With the number of Hispanic households expected to soar from 10 million-plus today to 13.5 million by 2010, according to a study by The Conference Board, a business-oriented non-profit organization, teachers and school districts are looking for music from the students’ culture.
“The most important thing was to make sure the repertoire of multi-cultural music of the Spanish-speaking community was there — not just from Mexico, but Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, Central America, and South America,” said Dr. Soto.
“The other people that worked on Spotlight on Music are educators that I have admired and respected all my life. It is such an honor to be part of that book. After I worked on that, I got a call from the publishing company saying they were interested in what I did to the multi-cultural part of Spotlight on Music. They asked if I could write an additional book — bilingual music education. That’s how ¡Fiesta De Canciones! was born,” continued Dr. Soto.
¡Fiesta De Canciones!, explained Dr. Soto, is unique because unlike other books, he selected all the songs from the Hispanic community and translated them into English.
“For the first time, most of the songs that we all knew as children are now in arrangements in English. Teaching bilingual songs to children is a very unique and wonderful tool to help them not only to reinforce language skills, but also understand important aspects of their cultural heritage. About 90 percent of the songs are for the first time bilingual, and whatever the background of the child, these books will help all students expand their horizons, stretch their imaginations and appreciate diverse cultures and traditions throughout the world.
“The books include songs from very important children’s composers like Cri-Cri (Francisco Gabilondo Soler) and Tatiana, a well-known children’s singer from Monterrey. The teachers can see the printed music and they can make their own arrangements. Because the songs are now in English and Spanish, the teacher may decide to only use the English portion of the song with the music, but they still get the Hispanic connection,” said Dr. Soto.
Because of the number of adoptions and success these books have had nationwide, this year Dr. Soto has presented lectures and workshops in some of the largest school districts in the nation, including Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and many others. He was recently the guest speaker for the Urban Music Leadership National Conference in Detroit, Mich., and for the Texas Association of Bilingual Educators in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“It is such an honor to not only represent TAMIU, but the City of Laredo and Webb County at every school district and/or conference I’ve been privileged to attend,” he added.
For more information, please contact Dr. Soto at 326.3046, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit offices in the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, room 216A.University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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