My baby girl was born in 2012, exactly one hundred years and one month after my grandmother was born. (Yep, 1912 was the same year that the Titanic sank.) The last time I saw Nana before she passed was the very first time she laid eyes on my daughter Sophie. She even kissed those little feet before leaving our world two days later. Gosh–we are all so lucky. I think about Nana a lot. When I’m sauteing garlic for the pasta fagioli. When I find myself saying things to Sophie like, “I love you, a bushel and a peck.” And I always think about Nana at my daughter’s music class.
Babies & Grands is a music and movement program for young children six months to six years old, but here’s what makes it different: It’s held at a senior center in Hastings-on-Hudson, where elderly residents are invited to watch and participate in the music-making. Instructor and founder Jenny Murphy holds court with an acoustic guitar and a rich and layered singing voice, steeped in blues and folk. Parents and caregivers sit together shoeless in a circle while the little ones bang the drums to rock music, shake maracas to latin tunes, and play their pick of instruments during the group jam session.
Jenny is a singer-songwriter with over 15 years of experience working with children. She’s the kind of person who makes music interesting for infants, thirty-somethings, and the Greatest Generation, and makes it all look like a breeze. I’ve learned new songs that are now part of my rotation with Sophie. (Yes, this is a big deal–I have been working in an office the past 12 years, so I don’t exactly have an arsenal of tunes beyond Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.) I even find myself googling song lyrics after class. De Colores, a catchy one that I haven’t been able to get out of my head, is a Joan Baez cover. (Sweet. My taste hasn’t entirely been shot by nursery rhymes.)
At home, Jenny encourages parents to lose their musical inhibitions by “singing around the house, making up words to melodies during tasks like changing diapers or picking up toys, and experimenting with household musical instruments.” You know, pots and pans, coffee can drums, or Tupperware. Best advice? “If you want your child to be musical,” she says, “be musical. Young children adoringly imitate the grownups they love and this is true with music.”
Classes are paced to keep the children engaged and are structured to be hands-on. Children are allowed to touch all of the instruments, including Jenny’s guitar. Even while she plays. “When my own children were young, I remember the frustration of do not touch,” she recalls. “Young children especially need to explore by touch and feel.”
Another kind of touch–the joy of connection that the seniors and youngsters experience during music-making–may be the very best part of this class. I have been told, on more than one occasion, that it is the very thing that some residents look forward to all week. When I boogie down with Sophie during dance-time while she holds hands with one of her elders, it may very well be the highlight of my week. We may not have my Nana anymore, but we have the privilege of hanging with other people’s Nanas.
Babies & Grands Music, classes are held at the Andrus on the Hudson Residence, 185 Old Broadway, Hastings-on-Hudson; 914-274-8117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org