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Oran Etkin: Music as Child’s Play

With his Timbalooloo program, the clarinetist is introducing jazz to very young children

Oran Etkin
Oran Etkin (right) with buddies (photo: courtesy of Timbalooloo)

Lots of jazz artists and presenters like to talk about reaching a younger audience. But few go as far as clarinetist and saxophonist Oran Etkin, who regularly teaches and plays music to infants. Etkin created his Timbalooloo teaching method in order to reach potential music students before life, language, and thinking get in the way.

As he explained by phone from Turkey, where he was performing and recording new material, Timbalooloo isn’t about learning to play an instrument, but rather learning to speak the language of music intuitively. “[When] we teach a foreign language to older students,” he explains, “we teach all the rules of grammar, and maybe they study for several years, but then they go abroad and can’t speak fluently because they’re thinking about how to conjugate every verb. A little kid just learns how to speak fluently. They end up being able to conjugate every verb, but they don’t know what the word ‘conjugate’ means. If they have a thought, they just express it without thinking. We all know musicians who are like that—whatever comes to their mind, they play it. That’s what I hoped to do with kids.”

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