The Inside Voice

The Inside Voice: An Interview with Sharon Burch

September 10, 2015

Sharon Burch has always been passionate about music education, especially for elementary-age students. From a young age, she loved music and wanted to bring it to others. Inspired by her own elementary music teacher, she has remained focused on music education her entire life.

She started her career in a small town in Iowa. In search of new ways to help her students retain general music lessons, Burch set out building a new curriculum aimed at developing the skills of her youngest students. Focused on building an understanding of musical language, she began to incorporate stories and visuals into her preschool music program. She started with a handmade map of “Treble Clef Island” and a frog puppet she borrowed from her daughter.

What Burch found was a remarkable improvement in her students’ retention of musical language and concepts. She also found that the children quickly fell in love with the frog and his friends. While working on research for her master’s degree, she discovered that no other teachers were using methods like hers. Encouraged by her colleagues, Burch created the first Freddie the Frog® book and accompanying CD.

The result was a nationally known and widely loved series of educational stories. She has produced five books, with a sixth installment coming soon. In a recent interview with J.W. Pepper, Burch discussed her upcoming book, Freddie the Frog® and the Invisible Coquí. This adventure brings Freddie and his friend Eli the Elephant to Salsa Island, where they learn about music and musical instruments with a Hispanic flavor.

One aim of an earlier book was to bring the world of jazz to elementary music students. Burch, a member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the Education Committee for the Jazz Education Network, believes strongly that jazz is a very valuable musical style for young music learners. It helps students combine critical thinking with creativity to build brilliantly imaginative minds. Because younger children are more open to the idea of loosely defined rules of play, they have an innate affinity for jazz as a style. According to Burch, the solid ground of music theory combined with improvised melody makes jazz ideal for preparing young minds.

Hear more from Sharon Burch and Freddie the Frog® on Pepper’s YouTube channel.

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