Maggie Polk Olivio. Photo by Rodney Margison


The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music hosts more than 1,000 live performances each year, but family members rarely get to experience them together. Maggie Polk Olivo, director of the music school’s Musical Beginnings program for children under the age of 5, says performances are often evening, bedtime-encroaching affairs, or far too formal for the more kinetically inclined bodies of the 12-and-under set.

“I didn’t feel like families were getting exposure to what is happening in our town,” says Olivo, who also teaches music at University Elementary School.

She began to consider ways to offer more child-centered music, as well as a more suitable listening environment for families. She also began brainstorming with Kimberly Carballo of Reimagining Opera for Kids, a program that introduces children to opera and gives IU students the opportunity to perform in front of young, inquisitive audiences. The two women came up with the idea of asking music school faculty to compose short pieces expressly for children, and to record them for an album called BloomingSongs

After 10 composers signed on for the project, Olivo says that BloomingSongs began to expand into a larger endeavor, including plans for interactive concerts at area schools, teacher-training workshops, and public events. The original music, which will be made available for free online and on a packaged CD for educators, will also serve as Olivo’s curriculum for Musical Beginnings in the fall.

When Olivo asked for compositions, she proposed the theme “little old, little new, little bloom,” with an eye toward at least one cultural tradition and the exposition of simple musical concepts like loud vs. soft and steady beat vs. no beat. “It’s so important to keep it simple,” she says.

Composers include jazz musician Monika Herzig; Raymond Wise, director of the IU African American Choral Ensemble; and Bernard Woma, master of a mallet keyboard instrument called the gyil.

BloomingSongs performers—including Herzig, Maria Izzo Walker, and Alejandra Martinez—are expected to play in a public performance at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center on May 6. 

For more information, visit BloomingSongs on Facebook.