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It's Happening: Kindermusik with Carla Celebrates 25 Years

By Julie Perine on May 26, 2024 from It’s Happening via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Over the past 25 years, Carla Engle has graced our area children with Kindermusik – a program designed to boost creativity, social skills, physical and cognitive development, as well as an overall appreciation for music.
 
Upon entering a class at her Philadelphia Avenue studio, one may find Miss Carla and her very young students engaged in dance and movement, playing simple instruments or any number of music-related activities. That interaction has led students to pursue and many times master musical instruments, dance, and other forms of performance.
 
Seeing that outcome has been extremely rewarding, Engle said.
 
“It has been so moving and overwhelming to receive notes, calls, texts, emails and pictures of children and families who have been in my program,” she said. “This is what I love - watching them mature into wonderful musicians.”
 
It all began in 1999 when Engle met some of her first young students at her storytime activity in downtown Clarksburg.
 
“We were in the Heritage Book Store at the bottom of the WesBanco building,” she said. “The D’Annunzio family owned it and allowed me the use of their conference room.”
 
Among those children were Savannah and Zachary Kimble.
 
“Story time was a special experience,” said their mother, Laura Kimble. “Carla would bring a children’s book to life, often with the help of (her husband) Steve or ‘Mr. Carla’ as my oldest would call him.”
 
Along with others in the area, the Kimble children started Kindermusik with Miss Carla shortly thereafter which operated in the Clarksburg location before relocating to Bridgeport in 2004.
“It was fascinating to watch them grow from toddlers while participating in the classes with them to watching them go to class
 
independently at the later learning levels,” Laura Kimble said. “Kindermusik was a family activity. We worked on ‘homework’ in preparation for the next class. We listened to CDs and songs together.”
 
Another family with her since the beginning was the Thrush family.
 
“The way that we met Carla was happenstance,” said Lisa Thrush. “I was a new mom and saw an ad for a music and movement program that was new to the area called Kindermusik. I was looking for something to do so I called my girlfriend, and we signed our babies up.”
Holding a bachelor’s degree in music education – specializing in piano – Engle is an accomplished pianist. She has held various church positions and has been a private piano instructor for nearly 40 years. Many of her Kindermusik students have gone on to take years of piano lessons from her, including Savannah Kimble and her little sister Lilah.  
 
“Miss Carla gave me the foundation for a lifetime of appreciation and fascination through her Kindermusik program and then she continued to build upon that foundation as my piano studio teacher,” said Lilah Kimble. “I found my creative outlet early in my life, thanks to Miss Carla, Kindermusik and piano.”
 
It was Engle’s passion for piano and music that inspired her to start a Kindermusik program in Bridgeport. While studying at West Virginia Wesleyan College, she was exposed to various teaching methods – Orff, Kodaly, Dalcroze, Suzuki, and others.
 
“When I moved to Bridgeport, I remember hearing about Kindermusik which uses many of the same influences, and so I began my licensing and training in the spring of 1999,” she said.
 
Within a few years, her program grew to be in the top one percent worldwide and it has kept that status throughout the years.  
 
“I credit the area I live in where parents want a quality early childhood educational experience for their babies and toddlers,” Engle said. “Bridgeport and the surrounding communities are small in population support the arts and education in big ways.”
 
Throughout the years, she has taught thousands of students and seen lifelong friendships made.
 
“Recently my husband performed the marriage ceremony for a Kindermusik graduate. Three of her bridesmaids she had met in Kindermusik and they have remained friends ever since,” she said.
 
Adults have met through the program, too, and great things have come from those relationships.
 
“Miss Carla’s program was like a nest for new families,” said Jennifer Dawes. “She allowed us time to ask questions, have conversations and develop friendships.”
 
Among friendships formed was one with the late Kyra Schlosser.  
 
“We realized we had a lot of common interests and similar goals for our children because of the talks we had in class and in the waiting room over the years,” Dawes said.
 
The two women joined forces to begin a Montessori program in Clarksburg known as The Clarksburg Children’s House.
“Miss Carla was always supportive of our studies, and we often would seek her advice when we first started out. I spent a few days a week doing homework in her studio kitchen while Nate and Charlie were in class. I really appreciated that.”
 
Dawes said she knows how fortunate she and other parents are to have such an accomplished teacher who really loves children and is an exceptionally skilled instructor.
 
Engle continues her Kindermusik journey.
 
“I am fulfilling my calling to teach young children and their parents the developmental stages that we all go through. I currently teach 21 classes in my studio and at a local childcare center while maintaining my piano studio of 36 students,” she said.
 
She loves the balance of working with parents and small children - who are just starting their lives - and seeing them grow into piano students and watching the influence Kindermusik has on their lives.
 
“Since I just completed my 25th year of Kindermusik, I have taken many students from babies through their senior year of high school. Not many teachers ever get to see that transformation,” she said. “It is beautiful to watch but also heartbreaking when they graduate as they have been a part of my life their entire lives.”
 
Engle has been honored by Kindermusik International in its Maestro Program – an exclusive award that annually recognizes licensed educators who have demonstrated superlative performance and masterful teaching. Her program is currently the 22nd largest program in the world. She has served on the faculty of Kindermusik University for eight years as one of 12 educators who oversaw the training of all new educators worldwide.
 
Although Kindermusik International utilizes multiple curriculums, Engle – as a licensed educator – is allowed to adapt and change to an extent and she loves the freedom she has to be creative within the bounds of a sound and solid curriculum.
BHS 2024 graduate Jordan Groves is among lifelong students.
 
“Miss Carla has had the biggest influence on my life, and I consider her my role model,” she said. “She has taught me beyond piano talent, coaching me not only in music, but in my life challenges. My favorite memory with Carla is my first time playing piano at Johnstown United Methodist Church. She is the reason I have excelled so well in playing for churches. Miss Carla taught me to step outside my comfort zone to do what I love.”
 
Avery Thrush, one of those first babies in Engle’s first Kindermusik class and thereafter one of her piano students, said she too has been greatly influenced.
 
“Beyond music theory, Carla taught me patience and persistence,” she said. “I was never her best student. I didn’t practice enough and was easily frustrated by difficult pieces, but Carla was never impatient or frustrated with me. She instilled in me a love for playing the piano that is lifelong and still a means of peace that I turn to.”
 
Families said that they still sing the songs learned in the early Kindermusik days. It’s not unusual to break out in a chorus of “Bright Red Cardinal,” “Hope Ole Squirrel,” or “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee” – all sweet songs which bring happy memories.
 
Carla and Steve Engle have four grown boys: Richard, Chad, Steven, and Russell. three daughters-in-law and two granddaughters, Phebe and Virginia.
 
Editor’s Note: The Engles live in a restored log home in Harrison County, which is also an interesting story. Read it HERE.
 
Editor's Note: As pictured below, Sam and Nate Dodson began their musical journey as babies in the Kindermusik program and progressed through piano lessons with Engle through their high school years. 
 



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