Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a great break! I spent some time during the holidays looking at classes my little ones can attend in the Spring term, now that the eldest is 3 there are more and more options. She loves music and dance so I have always looked at a wide variety of music classes in London and tried out quite a few. I don’t know about you, but I quickly got bored of singing the “Incy Wincy Spider” and “Wheels on the Bus” for the hundredth time and tried to find classes that actually encourage musicality and a variety of styles rather than repeating (shouting?) the same nursery rhymes over and over again, as happens in many baby music classes. Here are my favourites:
Colourstrings (Richmond, North London)
The Colourstrings Music School offers music education from the age of eighteen months to eighteen years. The Colourstrings approach is based on the Kodály method, which integrates instrumental tuition with aural training and musicianship. The school’s special strengths are in building up music literacy from the very beginning through kindergarten musicianship, nurturing the innate musicality of each child at every stage, turning concerts into a normal activity and building up childrens’ confidence as performers. Waiting lists are long so it is a good idea to put your child’s name down early!
Music House for Children (Shepherds Bush)
The Music House for Children is a not for profit organisation established in 1994 that runs music education classes and concerts for children and adults in Shepherds Bush. Their under 5s baby and toddler music lessons are an experience in live musical instruments, dancing, joyful singing and moving. Different music styles are introduced with orchestral instruments from visiting musicians. There are “music appreciation” classes for 3 to 4 year olds, followed by group piano and violin classes for children from 4 or 5 year olds. Older children can take individual instrument lessons.
This is a great free (donations welcome, of course!) singalong session with a proper band held on Wednesday and Thursday mornings in a Church Hall on Exmouth Market. I have to take my 1 year old into the tube for half an hour to get there but it is absolutely worth it. There is a proper band playing a mix of children’s songs and world music and they make sure the parents and babies participate by singing along, dancing and shaking rattles (you can see my 1 year old enjoying the class pictured above). My baby had a blast there. Another benefit is that the great coffeshop Caravan is only a few steps away from the Church.
Bach to Baby
This is high on my list though I haven’t made it to their events yet. This classical concert series was set up by mum and pianist Miaomiao Yu after becoming frustrated at not being able to take her children to the sort of quality classical music concerts that she regularly enjoyed as a professional musician. Concerts run from weekday mornings 10.30 am- 11.30 am, and Friday afternoons 4.00pm – 5:00pm in locations across London (including Notting Hill, Wimbledon, Islington, Hampstead).
Guildhall School of Music Kindergarten programme
This is a very popular and oversubscribed programme open to children of Reception and Year 1 age in preparation for the selective string training programme in higher years. The classes follow the Kodaly method to introduce children to rhythm, notes, movement and listening. Places used to be allocated on a first come first serve basis but have shifted to a lottery system a couple of years ago. Getting lucky in this ballot is probably about as likely as gaining a Reception place in the Bute House ballot, but it’s worth a shot (I am trying, for sure)! You can also try your luck with a similar string training programme at the Royal Academy of Music.
If that’s not enough to keep you busy, there is quite a few interesting music software programmes to enjoy music at home. I find this much easier than going to music classes in faraway places at inconvenient times, especially in winter, and it’s a great way to learn about music on a daily basis. My children love the programme “Little Musician” by the company Brillkids, which teaches children perfect pitch and music appreciation, although their favourite is the “clap along” section. You can download a free trial here (use the code BKAFF115621 for a 10% discount!)
If you have a piano or keyboard at home, I have heard the programmes PianoWizard and SoftMozart are great for children from 3 onwards, but I haven’t tried them myself – I am afraid I might spend money on a software and then find out my 3 year old has no interest in following the programme, so I’ve decided to follow the Colourstrings approach of singing and enjoying music together to learn about harmony and rhythm and worry about instruments later on. What are your favourite music classes in London?