At Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, a Kindermusik program has parents and their toddlers dancing, clapping and learning.

Love music, baby?

September 14, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

By the time the 45-minute class was nearing its end, the babies were getting restless. Some were crawling with straight-line determination toward the row of pocketbooks and diaper bags along one wall, while others were beginning to whimper as their mothers jiggled them and whispered soothing words.

Instructor Laurie Berman, who has been teaching music classes to babies for 10 years, was undisturbed by the gentle chaos as she led the mothers and their chubby-cheeked youngsters through the pages of a book, showing them illustrations that went with the soothing music coming from a CD player behind her.

When the song was over, Berman stood up. "OK. Do we have our energy restored?" she asked. "It's time to dance."

She instructed the eight mothers sitting cross-legged in a circle to stand and begin to sing quietly, showing the women how to rock their babies and then lift them high in the air as they moved counterclockwise in a circle.

"We really want to get them up there because that is so much fun for them," Berman said. "Put a little lift to that step. It will keep them occupied."

The Kindermusik classes at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, a regional arts center founded in 1979, attracts parents from around the region looking for a fun and educational activity for their infants and toddlers.

The classes, which run in eight-week sessions, are for newborns through 18-month-olds. Other classes are for children age 18 months to 3 years.

Tiffani Schoenberger of Edgewater said she signed her son, Landon, up for the last session and he loved it so much that she's doing it again.

"He really enjoys the music and the dancing and the up and down," she said of her 8-month-old.

And he seems to recognize the music, even when he's not at Kindermusik class. When she plays the CD that parents are given when they join the class, she said, "he just gets real quiet. He really likes it."

Kindermusik International, started in the 1960s by a group of West German music educators, is a licensed music and movement program for children from birth to age 7.

The Kindermusik program at Maryland Hall, along with an art curriculum called Artstart, was purchased from former director Phyllis Castelli three years ago by sisters Bettina Nicklason and Corinna Flynn, who run the programs as co-directors, Flynn said.

When Castelli was ready to retire, "she actually approached us," Flynn said. "We were in her classes from the time our kids were babies. She could tell we were into it."

Nicklason and Flynn focus on art and music programs for children age 7 and younger. Art classes start for children as young as 2. The Artstart classes combine multimedia art with Kindermusik, basing the art projects on themes explored in the Kindermusik classes.

The classes give mothers a chance to socialize and compare notes, said Susan Pavlitsa, holding her daughter, Emily, 8 months.

"It's nice to talk to the other mothers to see what everybody else is doing, who's crawling and who has teeth," she said. But the real draw is that the children enjoy the class.

"She likes all of it," Pavlitsa said of Emily. "She really does. She likes looking at other babies. She likes the welcome song a lot."

Kelly Doyle of Annapolis said 11-month-old Avery is drawn to the musical instruments.

"The drums and the rattle," she said. Like other mothers at Kindermusik, she also participates in a weekly play group, but Kindermusik is the first organized activity she has joined with her child.

Melissa Penkala of West River said she took 11-month-old Brianna to Kindermusik classes over the summer and liked them so much that she came back for a second session.

"She really likes it," Penkala said. "Though lately she's more into crawling around. She really likes the dancing and the music."

Maryland Hall is at 801 Chase St., Annapolis. Classes are $135, or $110 for Maryland Hall members. For more information, visit the Web site at www.maryland, or call 410-263-5544.

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