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Although most have heard Beethoven's 5th Symphony at some point, perhaps in a commercial or as the score of one of our favorite childhood cartoons, many of us probably couldn’t identify the piece by name if we tried. Walden University MS in Education (MSEd) ’04 and Education Specialist (EdS) ’10 graduate Clarice Davis is working to change that by introducing a generation of children to classical music with her book, Wilhelmina's Butterflies (Xlibris, 2013). The story follows the journey of headstrong third-grader Wilhelmina, who has made it her mission to attend a symphony. The main themes of the story are perseverance and determination, with classical music as the foundation for the lessons.
“I've always wanted to write a book about classical music,” says Davis, whose love for the genre began when she was about the same age as the main character in her book. Her first exposure to the genre was during an elementary school field trip. Davis didn’t know anything about classical music at the time, but remembers vividly how excited she was to go on the field trip and how extraordinary the experience was for her. She’s enjoyed classical music ever since.
A self-described retired researcher, Davis has enjoyed a 34-year career as a K–6 educator, and she has always shared her love for classical music with her students. “When I taught kindergarten, I used it to relax the children during nap time. With my second and fourth graders, I played classical music in the classroom. I’ve used it at every grade level I’ve taught,” she said.
Based on her experience and anecdotal research, Davis found that students who develop an appreciation for classical music are calmer and more focused, helping them learn and observe, ultimately making them more well-rounded children. That knowledge prompted her to author an accompanying guide to help fellow educators and parents introduce children to classical music and develop their own teaching units. She published Wilhelmina's Butterflies: A Unit of Study in 2014 to provide supporting tools so teachers can go beyond the book and help students expand their knowledge of classical music and the arts.
“Most of my students have been very successful in the classroom and many went on to study and make careers in the education field. Whenever I run into former students, they always remember learning about classical music in my class,” she says. In fact, one of her alumna is a kindergarten teacher and has incorporated classical music into her classroom. She credits Davis for her love of the art form and her desire to pass it on to her students. She invited Davis to present the book to her class last fall.
Davis currently divides her time between presenting her book and consulting for schools and private companies about improving literacy rates. She has presented Wilhelmina's Butterflies to hundreds of children, from kindergarten to high school, and says that they all enjoy the book and develop an appreciation for classical music.
“Children need to be exposed to different kinds of music,” notes Davis. “It is one area that is lacking in education.”
Davis and her husband, who is a retired high school band director, plan to conduct more research about children and music. She is currently developing a sequel to Wilhelmina's Butterflies and hopes to expose even more children to the music she loves.