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Gifted students study the sound—and science—of music

From the folk music found in every community around the world, to the masterpieces created by great composers, music is found throughout the daily rhythms of our lives. At the Summer Enrichment Program for Gifted Children that will be held at Lehigh University this month, a group of young students will explore the very concept of what music actually is.

“Music is part of human life, it’s everywhere, but what is it?” asks Revelly Paul, director of the summer program that has challenged extraordinarily creative, curious and inventive students from all over the Lehigh Valley and beyond for more than two decades.

“In this program, we’re going to study this question through physics, mathematics, biology, culture, and individual achievement” Paul says.

Paul will be aided by several professors from the music department in Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences, including Paul Hsun-Ling Chou, associate professor and Ronald J. Ulrich Endowed Chair of Orchestral and String Music; Paul F. Salerni, professor of music; Debra Field, lecturer; and Eugene Albulescu, professor of practice.

Combining arts and sciences

The students who will attend the non-residential camp on the Lehigh campus from July 14-30 will not only interact with these Lehigh professors, they will also utilize the university’s computer network and laboratories, listen to invited speakers, and work with fellow students who share common interests.

Paul says the students will also study the physics of sound through various science activities, create and use various homemade musical instruments, build and experiment with a monochord to understand the mathematics of scale, participate in the Allentown Symphony Orchestra’s “Symphony Zoo,” experiment with musical compositions (sometimes with the help of computers), and visit Martin Guitar, where some of the world’s finest guitars are created. Each group of students will build an interactive project and share their experiences at an open house at the end of the session.

Response to this year’s program has been so enthusiastic that Paul says the registration is already over capacity. “Normally, we have 75 children. We have accepted 80 for this summer’s session and we’re still receiving applications,” she says. “I think that many parents and students have responded to the fact that this program explores a concept in the arts, while so many gifted programs deal mainly with the sciences.”

In past years, gifted students from as far away as the Poconos, New Jersey, and Berks and Bucks counties have pondered the challenges of planetary exploration on a “Mission to Mars,” cleaned up a simulated acid spill in “Danger Along the Monocacy,” studied the spread of infectious diseases, and sifted through the dirt at Burnside Plantation to discover clues to help solve an archeological mystery.

Such activities may be a far cry from the summertime pursuits of many schoolchildren, but Paul knows that those who attend the Lehigh camp are up to the challenge.

“Gifted children are unique in their strong desire and ability to learn,” she says. “We provide them with an extremely fast-paced, productive summer outlet that strengthens and encourages their gifts, while also providing tomorrow’s teachers with an opportunity to work with them.”

Paul says that teachers in training from Lehigh’s College of Education will work with students during the session, along with Master Teachers who work with gifted children in nearby schools. “Our interns leave with a better appreciation of the unique needs of gifted children and their learning characteristics, and our Master Teachers return each year because of the creative energy and enthusiasm of our students,” she says. “It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”

For more information, call Lehigh’s Office of Summer Studies at (610) 758-3966, or visit the Web site.

To learn more about gifted children, visit the Web site for the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Thursday, July 01, 2004

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