BOBBING their heads as they play a jig and then a reel, the circle of tiny fiddlers keeps their bows dancing while a kettle whistles on the stove and a baby cries on the floor. Winding up the toe-tapping medley, the gathering of grade-schoolers listens to a few directions from their teacher. One of them gives a bottle to the baby, and then they all launch into ``Pachelbel's Canon,'' a serious classical composition. Johann Pachelbel, the 17th-century German composer of the piece, might be stunned - these children play it admirably.
Welcome to Fiddler's Hatchery, a hybrid academy where the classical-oriented repertoire of the Suzuki teaching method is augmented with traditional fiddling from the highlands of the British Isles.
``I think the key to working with kids is to use dance music,'' says Carolyn Hatch, who operates the Hatchery in the living room of her cozy home here in Sandpoint, a lakeside town in the northern panhandle of Idaho. ``If you go to a concert and watch the two- and three-year-old kids, they want to dance,'' she says.
Indeed, at a recent concert, about 50 of Ms. Hatch's pupils kept their younger siblings in the audience hopping with a program that ran the gamut from a Bach double violin concerto and ``Pachelbel's Canon'' to swing-your-partner songs.
Hatch says her success comes from channeling children's energy into making music they can swing their hips to.
Shinichi Suzuki, the Japanese music educator, pioneered the method of teaching young children to play by ear and by imitation. Because children often learn by imitating their parents, Mr. Suzuki also required that parents attend lessons and work at home with their children. That way, children learn to play just as they learn to talk: from their parents.
``Suzuki used music as a language. At that age it's all one,'' says Hatch.