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Music Classes for Kids 5-11

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Music classes for distractable 5-year-old?

July 2012

I'm looking for music classes for a 5-year-old. I'm interested in classes that develop music appreciation and listening skills (to learn a song by ear, sing in tune, stay on the beat, hear melody and harmony, etc.). My child is a bit distractible and seems to do better in calm, structured environments that set clear, consistent expectations up front and offer gentle guidance. I'd like to hear opinions on Crowden's Orff and Kodaly classes, Jingle Jamboree, and Jon's School of Music. Which musical concepts do they emphasize? Also, in my experience, negative reviews have often been especially helpful to me because they tell me different details that I might have missed otherwise. Can you tell me what you have *NOT* liked about any of those classes? Musical Mom


Check out http://www.simplymusic.com/Teachers/KristinFairfield Kristin has a program she does with young children. She's a great teacher. Simply Music is a different kind of music program where you don't learn to read music until you are well into the program. Michelle
I read your post about wanting to hear what we do not like about the classes. I have attended Jon's music school for two years and I have a 41/2 year old. I don't like the one thing you are looking for... the firm structure and discipline that Jon's expects and gets from the children. He has no problem telling your kid or yourself how things are. Sometimes I even get a little nervous. My family members and I take turns taking our son and my sister said she can't do it anymore...too much pressure!! lol I LOVE this school for so many reasons and I have really come to appreciate the passion and creative learning Jon has. My child is learning to recognize keys on piano, exposure to sooo many intruments and amazing music knowledge. I think your son would really get alot out of this class plus I think it helps that Jon is a strong male and my son normally only has female teachers. sgh
I know you requested negative reviews, but I am compelled to give you our 100% positive review of Jingle Jamboree Elementary Music Club and its director, Jeff Luna-Sparks. Our 2 daughters have been members of the after-school music club for the past 2 years, and will continue this year. They recently began piano and violin lessons, and both of their instructors have been amazed by their grasp of the fundamental music skills you are seeking for your son. One of our daughters is quite distractible as well, and ''Jingle Jeff'' has provided a great balance of firm boundaries enforced with great love. We have also participated in Jingle Jeff's summer camps, which are amazing as well! Kelle
My children, ages 4 and 7, have between them done almost all the music classes you mention. We have had the most success so far with Jingle Jamboree. Since you wanted to hear the negative aspects I'll start with the others first (though we haven't had a truly negative experience with any of them). My son did Jon's School of Music at age 3. It was fun and he liked it, but Jon was a bit rigid about the rules in the class and seemed to connect with the outgoing, gregarious kids more than the shy ones, who sometimes had a harder time in class. I wouldn't categorize his teaching style as ''gentle guidance,'' (too strict and rigid) and they are definitely not calm - it works for some kids but not all. At age 4 my son took the Orff class at Crowden, but he didn't enjoy it. The class seemed fine to me, and that was a calm, structured environment but I was never very clear on what or how exactly they were learning; there seemed to be a lot of repetition from week to week with no clear progression. The teacher also didn't work to engage students who were shy or hesitant about joining in. (That was several years ago so there may be a new teacher now.)

''Jingle Jeff'' (of Jingle Jamboree) runs the music program at my son's elementary school (Shu Ren International School) and he does an amazing job. The children all adore him and scream for joy when they see him. All the ages, from pre-k through 4th grade, learn a lot in his weekly classes and he includes all students in an annual all-school musical where they all participate at an age-appropriate level and have a great time. My son (now 7) recently started taking piano lessons at Crowden and his teacher was amazed by how quickly he picked up reading music, and I attribute it to the Kodaly style Jeff teaches, which lays a solid foundation for reading and writing music. My preschooler also took a class at Jingle Jamboree and loved it. It is a gentle, structured environment where kids (and parents) quickly learn the procedures and expectations for each class. So I don't really have any negative comments about it (sorry). Good luck in your search. - musical mama


I would be surprised if you received any negative feedback about Jingle Jamboree. Jeff Luna-Sparks has been terrific over the past year with our 6 year old daughter and has had a very positive impact on her musical development. Additionally, we have heard nothing but positives from the parents of other students (and the students themselves) at her school. Jingle Jeff Fan
My 5 year old son, who did about 2 years of Music Together and goes to a very musical preschool, is now taking a focused keyboard & drum class at Jon's School of Music. Jon's classes definitely develop music appreciation and listening skills, particularly how to stay on beat, listen to and follow along with music, play simple songs, read music and, most uniquely, play *with* other musicians as a team. The children always take turns leading and following, so it's really a band-like experience. The class is extremely structured and also zany and fun-- Jon really knows how to get and keep a child's attention and the kids spend a lot of time laughing as they learn. Virtually all instructions are sung (in fact, many of the lyrics to the songs the kids learn contain musical knowledge) and Jon introduces a wide variety of musical concepts through playing songs and musical games together. I'm actually amazed that my kid is learning to read music so easily; Jon manages to turns it into a fun game, and my kid loves to practice reading music at home. Jon often comes across as a big, goofy kid himself, but that belies a deep musical knowledge and excellent pedagogical skills-- in fact, I think the goofiness is an essential component of getting a bunch of five year olds to commit their focused participation for a full hour per class. That being said, the kids also do some serious learning, including identifying and dealing with mistakes. Failure is not a taboo; instead the kids learn about ''early flubs'', ''late flubs'', etc. and how to correct the mistake by trying again and working together. I really like that Jon treats the children as capable little people who can benefit from honest feedback, including both correction and praise where appropriate. My son is thriving in the class and loves practicing at home as well. He's learning a ton and having fun. I recommend Jon's School of Music highly! Rockin' On With Jon's School of Music
I saw your posting about music classes for a 5-year-old and had to respond. My 5-year-old son has been a student at Jingle Jamboree since he was an infant and I can't recommend it highly enough. Jeff is an amazing teacher who is highly educated/credentialed in the Kodaly philosophy and he is also incredibly patient, good-humored and loving but firm with his students. My son is very energetic and tough to rein in at times but he has fallen in love with music under Jeff's tutelage. He sings all day (in tune!) and people comment on how lovely his singing voice is as we grocery shop, at CostCo, at the park, he literally sings all day. He is also excited about learning to read music and to try all different musical instruments thanks to Jeff, who makes it fun and low pressure. I have started my 2-year-old twins with Jingle Jamboree now as well, and they are loving learning rhythm, playing drums, etc. Jingle Jamboree has been a gift to our family--I don't have endless amounts of money to spend on classes, etc. but I have treasured the time I have spent watching my kids learn to love music and I am so happy I found this class. Marina
My grandsons are 4.5 and 2.5 years old, and we have been going to Jingle Jamboree Music since the older one was 1.5. They both love music class! Jeff Luna-Sparks teaches the classes using the Kodaly method. Before you go to the studio to try it out, read up on the Kodaly method (http://kodaly.hnu.edu). What you see in the classes is kids having fun, singing, dancing, playing instruments, listening to stories, and learning songs. But what you may not see is that underlying everything Jeff does is the Kodaly method, which is a developmentally appropriate and musically sophisticated system of music education. Furthermore, Jeff is a masterful teacher. I was a teacher for many years and I'm continually struck by the way in which he uses pacing, engagement, and fun to keep things both lively and orderly. Some kids learn by listening, some learn by moving, and Jeff creates a place where every child is recognized for her or his unique way of learning. Every child is encouraged to be creative, and every child sees that other children learn in different ways. Claire
Saw some recent negative reviews of Jon's School of Music and just wanted to say that our experience has been quite positive. My son, who will be 5 at the end of the month, is enthusiastic about going every week and sings the different practice songs all the time. The class is lively and Jon really keeps the children's attention. I think the blend of activities and music theory works well for the kids, particularly the consistent focus on rhythm. Berkeley mama
Just responding to some of the postings regarding Jon's School of Music. We participated in Jon's East Bay class a number of years ago and it was actually a highlight of our week. My son loved Jon's class and what I recall is all of the kids flocking to him like magnets. My son is now a pretty serious musician and I attribute this partly to Jon's early inspiration. Part of what I loved about Jon's group was that the kids were exposed to so many different instruments and had the opportunity to actually try them out. I also thought it was great that Jon was teaching them actual technical aspects of music in the context of a very fun and playful environment. For me personally it was a pleasure because it was a time when I could be silly and march around the room playing music feeling young and full of life. I understand that for someone more reserved this may not have been such a great experience, but for me it felt like a license to have fun. - Gina

Music class for 5 y.o., after music together?

May 2012

My now 5 y.o. took MT classes from 4 months until 4 years, but now what? I don't have a musical background and wish I'd learned more about reading, playing, and paying attention to music as a child. What do you suggest? We can't drive to Crowden regularly (we live in Montclair area). Also my child is a bit on the shy side and might resist instruction that's not playful. Probably too young for an instrument. Maybe too shy for chorus. Not sure. Are there big kid music classes that your child has loved? A summer class suggestion? Thanks. leigh


We have a 5 year old taking a Jon's School of Music class in Berkeley right now, and it has been a great step up from Music Together. The class explores a variety of instruments each week, and Jon has introduced a number of basic elements of music theory to the kids in a hands on way. My daughter has absorbed it all, and I hear her singing the songs to herself all the time. My 5 year old LOVED music together, and we did all 9 sessions, and so I've been really pleased that she's not only enjoyed Jon's class, but is building on all the great things she learned early on. I totally recommend it. mrs.r
I highly recommend Jon's School of Music (jsom.com). Jon's classes are a genius combination of Jon's musical talent with his understanding of childhood development. He's figured out a way to teach music concepts in a way that's fun and entertaining to kids. The classes are hands-on with many instruments ranging from drums, strings, brass instruments and even a kid-sized electric guitar. He also has CDs with songs that teach about music, and videos online for practicing at home.

When our son first started at Jon's school he was a reluctant participator (ie. shy). Jon was extremely patient with our son, understanding that there are many ways to learn. Gradually, in his own time, our son felt compelled to join in. It's been remarkable to see his both his confidence and music skills develop under Jon's teaching. Jon's School of Music has sessions in Berkeley for kids in different age groups. -Ariel


I think you should try Jon's School of Music. My son did his classes from age 18 months until almost 6, and my daughter attended the classes when she was 4 until 6. In Jon's classes kids use a large variety of cool instruments, but they are not being instructed how to play particular instruments. Rather, they learn a lot about music through structured play with the instruments (and their voices). My kids loved the classes, and learned so much about rhythm, pitch, timing, etc. just through having fun. They are older now, and both entrenched in their chosen musical pursuits. Get more info at www.jsom.com. anon
My son has been going to Jon's School of Music in Berkeley since he was three and now as a six year old. It's great fun for children and wonderful exposure to music, musical knowledge, and rythym. Highly recommend it. Happy with class
Go for Jon's School of Music. Jon is truly great and connects with kids through his sheer goofiness. One of my kids is very shy and the other is outgoing. Jon appealed to both, and kept them both learning. On top of that, he is a good musician and knows a lot about music, which means he emphasizes the skills you need to play music with others. The kids play on real, mostly kid-sized, instruments. The songs he teaches the kids, which both we and the kids love to hear and sing, actually remind the kids about important aspects of performance. I sang one to my boss the other day to help him use a microphone, and he actually remembered the lesson. In short, I feel like Jon has helped us towards my goal of having a family band. Aspiring bandleader
HI there- I can strongly recommend you check out Jon's School of Music- jsom.com- He teaches in Berkeley and SF at lots of varied times during the week/weekend. I have had my two children in his classes for about 3 1/2 years now-(taking breaks for swimming/gymnastics/etc). I have a musical background and one of the things I love about the class is that the kids learn lots of musical theory WITHOUT actually knowing they are learning it! ( I was always so bored with that stuff in music class!) They get to play real instruments- drums, trombone, cello, piano, trumpet, guitar, etc and they are truly learning music - but most important, is that they are learning that music is FUN! You have to be ready to participate and let it hang out and have fun too! My kids talk about his class and the things they have learned and my older child (6 1/2) still wanted to do this instead of an individual lesson. Good luck! Deirdre
Hi, Jon's School of Music is the best choice for you. jsom.com!! Jon's program is the best one around. My son who is four, loves this class. It is fast moving, educational, and they are exposed to such a variety of instruments. Jon has real instruments not just shakers and ribbons. Yesterday, my son played the guiter, drums, piano, violin plus some. He is also learning notes and can tell you where D is on the keyboard, after Jon's very creative and fun way of teaching. Even my husband enjoys going to this class with our son. Jon lets you try the first class for free, so check him out and I am sure you will all enjoy it. I am even learning. Please feel free to email me if you need more info or have trouble finding the website. Signed: Sarah
We've had a great experience with Jon Merker of Jon's school of music: http://www.jsom.com/2012-Spring-Schedule Jon is very engaging and funny. You sit around in a circle and everyone takes turns using different instruments which is great. He uses some theory too. At first my son was a little shy, but now, in his second round of classes, he asks every day, ''How many days until music class?'' and can't wait to go. Jon also asks that parents get involved too which can be pretty hilarious. You can start anytime which is nice and I believe you can drop in for one free class, which a great way to check it out. We started in the middle of the last session and so we're ending in the middle of the current one...very convenient! We go to the Berkeley class which is easy to get to...on Shattuck close to the Cheesboard (great to taking home for dinner after class!). Feel free to contact me with any questions. Cheryl

Affordable Music lessons for African-American boy

March 2012

Hi BPN, I'd love to get my 5.5 son playing/exposed to playing an instrument...but we don't have much extra money to spend. Are there any music scholarship programs for kids out there? We're African-American, if that makes a difference. Thanks! My son wants to play the flute


Musically Minded Academy has a scholarship/sponsorship program. People from the community donate to a general fund or to a specific students. Let us know what you can afford and we will try to see if we can cover the difference through one of these programs. www.musicallyminded.com, 510 610 5700. Anna
My sons have been going to drumming/percussion class with Tacuma King for several years. They practice music from Haiti, Brazil, New Orleans and all over the world. Tacuma is a very special teacher. The class is truly diverse with a variety of ages, abilities/disabilities, languages and cultures. Tacuma has high expectations for all students, fosters a love for music and a variety of instruments, and has done this work for decades. Classes are Saturdays from 12-2 at the Malonga Center in Oakland. Classes are donation based and organized as a parent coop. We ask a donation of $5 per child per class. kafi
Dear mama looking for music for and by people of color: Please check out the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, they have a Diploma Program for young adults, and individual lessons in different performing arts. They have scholarships and support specifically for youth of color. http://www.eastbaycenter.org/. They do great work. Check them out. All the best to you and son. Peace, LPV
Try Harps Etc in Walnut Creek for affordable private and small group harp lessons for all ages. They have harps of all sizes for rent or purchase, lessons 7 days a week and teachers who travel to your home. 925-937- 4277 Jessica

Music Instruction for 3 & 6 year olds

July 2011

I am searching for a high quality but fun music class for both my three year old and six year old. We have done Music Together and enjoyed it but now would like something that is more instructive, will teach notes, basic theory (at their level), and individual instruments. My kids do not need to be in the same class but I would prefer somewhere that can teach both ages if possible. I am open either to individual instrument instruction or a group class. In particular my son has expressed an interest in learning guitar but we are also open to other instruments. Most importantly I want it to be a fun, engaging experience and not a high-pressure environment with too much emphasis on scale practice and drills. I have already tried Jon's School of Music and the Orff class at Crowden (a few years ago with a different teacher than is there currently, so recent reviews of that class or other Crowden classes would be welcome). What other options are there? music loving mama


You can try group music classes for kids at Albany Music School (510-528-4047, info@albanymusicschool.com). They teach all instruments and accept kids 3-5. Kids love it and they learn a lot. At the end of the program they have an ensemble class in which they teach kids how to play ''Twinkle, Twinkle'' as a band (piano, violin, drums, etc.)! They also have individual classes if you prefer that. Jack
I am in the same position as you so will be curious to hear the responses as I am also looking for a new music class for my kids who love music. They are also getting old for Music Together and we most recently (spring 2011) tried Jon's School of music. I put this out there as some sort of balance to all the glowing reviews he has received because it was because of all the great reviews on the BPN we signed up for his classes. I witnessed him several times bark at other parents and children and also my own. I have zero problem with all his rules and structure - my problem is that at no time does he make his expectations and rules clear. At the beginning of class, he should clearly tell parents what the rules are so we can help our kids enforce them. When a child gets up and wanders over to another instrument or parent in the middle of the class (this was fine by me and was always ok in Music Together), that child does not deserve to be barked at. Jon never made the rules clear.We felt we could have bought a bunch of the instruments for the same price, looked up some youtube videos and done our own version of his class. For what it's worth, we are HUGE fans of Music Together and had a wonderful experience with it.
We just started music classes with Jon's School of Music which we found on BPN. After a few sessions of Music Together, I can say that Jon has such a different and more upbeat, kid-friendly style and we are really happy. Our son is now about 2 years old and Jon keeps him fully engaged and captivated during the class. The kids get to try out a bazillion different instruments all in one hour, and Jon treats the class like it is a band, so they all have roles. Kids range from 1-6 or so and the older kids get to lead the ''band'' from time to time. We are learning a lot too and he's a great teacher and actually puts some real technical knowledge in there. Highly recommend! Alissa
I recommend Jon's school of music (jsom.com) for parents wanting to get their kids involved in music while still young. We liked Music Together but my 3 year old son really responds to Jon's program even more. I think the main value is that the class gets the kids actively participating in the music. They are exposed to ~ 5 different instruments which change each class and then through games, they learn music theory without knowing it - should be valuable in the future. Jon developed this amazing curriculum himself and has such a way with the kids - they adore him. Even without all the research on how music activates areas in the brain only when exposed at a young age, this class would be worth it for the sheer fun we all have. -committed to music education

Summer music opportunities for kids

May 2011

Where can I take preschool and elementary aged kids to hear or make music during the summer? I'm not looking for camps but rather concerts and/or classes where kids are welcome, during the week or on weekends. For example, if anyone has found a great lunchtime outdoor concert series in the past, we would love to know about it. Thanks for sharing information. musical


Our fabulous piano teacher has a couple of openings in her home studio. We've been with her for 6 years. Recently she has integrated Apple's Garage Band into her lessons and the kids LOVE it! Contact: Joyce McBride 548-3111 MCB
Both of my kids have gone to Jon's School of Music and have really enjoyed his classes. They love the fact that they get to play real instruments, like drum kits, electric guitars, cellos etc... I love that and also that Jon keeps them so engaged. Check out his website for more info- a great summer music activity! http://www.jsom.com/ mara

Music classes for 6 year-old

Oct 2010

I am looking for music classes for a 6 year old. More fun than structure... Any recommendations? Thanks Maria


Crowden Music Center in North Berkeley offers several classes for children of all ages. I would suggest Songbirds Chorus, Kodaly for Kids, or Music Fundamentals in the Orff Tradition. All of these classes are aimed toward 4-7 year old students, and are quite delightful. Check www.crowden.org for more details. Best of luck! Eugene
Check www.goldenkeypianoschool.com The method is fun and children friendly.The school won the best of Berkeley in Music lessons in 2008, 2009 and 2010! Katrin

Music Lessons for 5 and 7 yr olds

Oct 2010

We are new to the area and I am looking to start my boys off with some kind of music lessons. I'm not so interested in rigid lessons where I will need to hound them to practice during the week. I had that and it turned me off pretty quickly. Instead I am hoping to find someone to encourage and inspire them musically, while having fun. We are in Oakland. thanks... greenzebra


Michele Voilleque is a fabulous music teacher with a LOT of experience working with kids. She will strive to make the lessons like play for your 5 and 7 year old. Her pedagogical philosophy: 'If it's not play, it's not working.' See her website at http://mvmusik.com/mvmusik.com/Home.html , email mvmusik@earthlink.net , or phone 510.522.8160. David
Sallie Hanna-Rhyne, 510-843-1963, (Berkeley) is very experienced, and great with all ages. She mixes basic classical with some blues/boogie woogie type material so it's fun for the kids. laura
For fun piano lessons check Golden Key Piano School. The curriculum is fun and very professional at the same time. www.goldenkeypianoschool.com 510-710-0995 Katrin
We have been very happy with Connie Tyler as a piano teacher (849-0788, near Rosa Parks school) for our kids. From day 1, she encourages composition and includes music games as part of the lessons. She's a skilled teacher who can respond to the strengths and interests of each child. She hosts quarterly music playdates for groups of kids, and the recitals are inspiring. A lovely person, too. Katia

Music lessons for kids 4 and 9 in Albany?

March 2010

Hello, I have two kids - 4 and 9 - who are very musically inclined. The little one loves the drum set he got at Christmas and the older one sings all the time and plays simple tunes on our 10 year old Yamaha piano. I would like for them to get some formal training from an experienced musician who also knows how to work with kids, someone who can nourish their enthusiasm for music. If you have some good experience with such a person, please let me know. I would prefer someone local in Albany, but if the teacher is really exceptional I would consider even someone non local (say up to Oakland). Thanks. Joan


Definitely try Albany Music School (on San Pablo, just opposite El Cerrito Plaza). I have known the director for several years. She's incredibly sweet/patient with kids and she's very prepared technically. My kids simply love her: she has a wonderful way to communicate music theory and teach practice to children, while holding their attention in a fun way (so progress is fast and effortless).

They teach piano, voice, flute, violin, guitar and drums and they offer group classes for small kids (age 3-5) and private lessons for everybody else (including adults). 9825 San Pablo Ave, 2nd floor (opposite El Cerrito Plaza) El Cerrito, CA 94530 Tel. 510-528-4047 web: www.albanymusicschool.com E-mail: info@albanymusicschool.com Jack


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2003 & Earlier


Orff Music Teacher for 6-year-old

September 2001

My 6 year old daughter very much wants to learn an instrument, and is not interested in a general little kid's music class without instruments anymore (she is very musical, has a good singing voice and a good ear, but no training as of yet with instruments). She is open about which instrument, although she is taken with both the cello and recorder (and flute, but I understand 6 is to young to be successful at the flute). The orff method has been recommended, and I looked into the Crowden school, but the group classes for her age group also require private lessons (which gets expensive with the group class fees) , and the ones that don't do not allow 6 year olds. Can anyone recommend an orff method teacher for small group or private lessons, or a good group class somewhere based on this method that offers instrument training for a 6 year old? I am open to other methods as well as long as they are fun and low-pressure. Thanks for the input! Lyla


Juliesmt Music Together is now offering Orff based classes for 'big kids'. You can contact Julie at (510) 843-8641 or juiesmt AT aol DOT com
Claudia Mills teaches music at Hillcrest in Oakland. Both my kids (K and 3rd last year) really enjoyed it, particulary my shy, sensitive younger daughter. She is offering Sat. classes for 6 to 8 year olds beginning in Oct. She can be contacted at Orffschulwerk AT hotmaill DOT com or (510) 652-7782. Terry
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