MusicalMe Turns 25
By Jeanette Prather
Within three years we had 500 students, and over the past 25 years we’ve serviced over 75,000 students!
“When MusicalMe first started, we had 35 students, then we went to 80 students the following session, and all the way to 150 students the next spring,” said Lizz Hodgin Weihrauch, Director of MusicalMe, Inc. “Within three years we had 500 students, and over the past 25 years we’ve serviced over 75,000 students!”
MusicalMe, a local and family-owned business under the parent company Music Together, specializes in offering developmentally appropriate music classes for children from birth through eight years old. “Music Together has communicated its basic philosophy – that all children are musical – through developmentally appropriate, research-based classes,” according to MusicalMe.com.
Originating in a roundabout way, Weihrauch explained how MusicalMe got its start from a friend’s referral. “I was a single mom who had a son with down syndrome and autism. I was doing a whole bunch of part-time jobs to support us,” she said. “After I graduated from UCSC in theatre arts, I moved to New York City. About six months after my son was born, a friend gave me a songbook and cassette tape to share with him. It took me nearly two years to finally listen to the tape – pretty much after getting so tired of hearing the same mainstream kid songs repeatedly – and since my son Daniel wasn’t walking yet, it made me thrilled that he got so excited over a song called, ‘Wiggle.’ After that, it really clicked. I was finally able to get out of my own way to be able to see what this was all about.”
Immediately after this, Weihrauch went out to Princeton, New Jersey to participate in a four-day training program to learn how to teach Music Together curriculum, and then brought it to California. “I was offering classes for free in the beginning so that I could practice,” said Weihrauch. “Over the years I’ve had some famous students, like the jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck’s grandchildren, and the founder of Netflix, Reed Hasting’s, children.”
Learning and practicing music with children isn’t just all fun and games, there is extensive research that talks about the benefits behind musical interaction, too. “Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas,” wrote an article published May 2012 on PBS.org titled “The Benefits of Music Education.” “Making music involves more than the voice or fingers playing an instrument; a child learning about music has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously.”
The article goes on to explain how musicality helps to facilitate language development, increase IQ, encourage brain function and spatial-temporal skills, as well as improve test scores. “The many intrinsic benefits to music education include being disciplined, learning a skill, being part of the music world, managing performance, being part of something you can be proud of, and even struggling with a less than perfect teacher,” wrote the article.
“There’s a part of the brain that is entirely focused on being musical,” said Weihrauch, “and when that part of the brain is lit up, it activates the whole brain. We are the only creatures on the planet that have this part of the brain whose job it is to process music through rhythm and tonality.”
Weihrauch, who credits MusicalMe for her son’s (now 27 years old) fantastic rhythm and ability to sing and dance, says that she continues to learn and grow from instructing classes, too. “What I’ve learned from Music Together is really being able to share musicality with other people,” said Weihrauch, who is slated to be the lead role in Cabrillo Stage’s rendition of Candid next summer. “Who knows if I hadn’t been born into such a musical family, if I would have had that opportunity.”
Despite the pandemic and in-person gatherings fluctuating, Weihrauch is continuing to offer MusicalMe programming through online as well as a handful of in-person classes. “We didn’t want children to miss out on a whole year of musical enrichment because we know what an impact it has,” she said. “A lot of speech therapists and pediatricians recommend our classes.”
According to Weihrauch, MusicalMe classes and programming are continuing to “grow like wildfire,” and the company has even expanded its offerings. “We are offering Rhythm Kids for four through eight-year-olds,” she said. “They’re really seeing an impact and what an incredible foundation it’s giving to these kids.”
Additionally, three years ago MusicalMe opened up Canta Y Baila Conmigo Spanish language immersion classes. “That has just been a super popular class, too,” said Weihrauch. “We had a lot of families go through the entire three-year curriculum and wanted more, so we added Canta Y Baila Conmigo and Rhythm Kids angled for musical classes from birth until eight years.”
MusicalMe offers a complimentary first class to anybody wanting to attend, and Weihrauch encourages interested parents to visit MusicalMe.com or call the office to reserve a spot as they fill up quickly. “We cap the number of students in each class, so going online or calling the office to reserve your spot is highly recommended,” she said.
Weihrauch, who attributes her reach and servitude to the help of an anonymous local mom who funded MusicalMe scholarships three years into the business when Weihrauch couldn’t afford to do so on her own, says that she’s been able to offer over $50,000 to local families over the past 22 years. “If children are given the opportunity younger to develop musical skills, they’ll be able to feel comfortable and confident about themselves,” she said. “It’s a gift that you can give your child.”