Little dancin’ machines

Sonya Rios smiles as she watches her daughter Karyssa, 2, play

Kindermusik classes teach motor skills, self-esteem and vocal
development
Gilroy – Some people might feel a little foolish clutching fiddlesticks in their hands and singing aloud, “Roly-poly up, roly-poly out, roly-poly tap-tap-tap, roly-poly in my lap.”

But when its parents singing and dancing with their kids, the feelings of self-consciousness fade away as the smiles on their children’s faces reflect pure joy.

Parents in Gilroy and Morgan Hill are discovering Renaissance Tots Kindermusik, a music development program for newborns to 7-year-olds. The classes use musical instruments, CDs, movements and props to teach young children motor skills, self-esteem, creativity and vocal development. During the classes, parents and their children sing, act out movements and play basic musical instruments such as harmonicas and bells.

The program’s founder and co-owner, David Wang, started the business in September 2003 after the wife of a friend successfully opened a similar business in San Francisco.

A mechanical engineer major in college, Wang moved to the Bay Area in 1995 initially to work for a dot-com company. But eventually, Wang’s love for music – he played the piano for 10 years and the trumpet for six years as a child – convinced him to make a career change.

“There are a lot of studies that say studying music helps develop the mind, mathematically and with logical thinking. But when I was involved in music in my childhood, I also enjoyed the social aspect of it, and meeting people,” he said.

Wang said he named his business Renaissance Tots Kindermusik because he sees the program as a rebirth of art appreciation in children. In the age of the Internet, video games and computer games, Wang said he wanted to take a more organic route toward childhood development.

The 45-minute classes are held throughout the week, including on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Classes take place at the Wheeler Community Center in Gilroy as well as the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center and Advent Lutheran Church in Morgan Hill.

Classes are $10 each with a materials fee that ranges from $25 to $45, depending on the age group. Materials include CDs with songs from the classes, picture books and basic musical instruments. Parents are encouraged to use the materials at home with their children to reinforce the lessons learned during the previous week’s class.

On Tuesday, Gilroy resident Stacey Price and her 2-year-old daughter Hannah attended the class for the first time, bouncing, clapping and dancing their way through the morning.

Price said she used to take her other child, a 5-year-old-son, to a tot music class in San Jose called Music Together. The skills he learned in that class helped him develop musically, Price said, and she wanted the same for Hannah.

“It helps with learning to hear rhythm, and she likes to dance,” Price said. “We play the music together in the car, and she really enjoys it.”

Michael Emanglur and his 2-year-old son Benjamin Michael came to Gilroy from their home in San Juan Bautista to attend the class for the second time. Emanglur said he likes watching his son and the other kids interact simply because they’re happy.

“It’s good for kids to meet and be around other kids,” Emanglur said. “At home, Ben plays and dances around, and he gets so excited when I tell him we’re going to music class.”

The Tuesday class was taught by Alicia Ammann, a 33-year-old San Jose resident who is one of three teachers in the Kindermusik program. Although she admitted to feeling a little winded at the end of each class, Ammann said one of her favorite parts of the job is knowing she’s introducing children to music, many for the first time in their lives.

“I love seeing the enjoyment that children get from music, and hoping that it will continue through their lives,” she said.

That is the main goal Wang said he has while making plans to expand his business over the next few years. He hopes to expand further south, perhaps to Hollister or Watsonville, and also wants to include other subjects in the classes such as nature, art and more dance.

“Seeing smiling and laughing children and happy parents coming out of the classroom,” he said. “That’s something that makes me feel good every day.”

Interested in class?

Renaissance Tots holds weekly classes in Gilroy at the Wheeler Community Center, 250 W. Sixth St. To register, or for more information including class days and times, call 427-2833, visit www.rtots.com or e-mail [email protected]

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