When I was around 18 years old, I inherited a 1973 Ovation Model 1111-4 Balladeer round-back guitar. One of my grandmother’s tenants had abandoned it in her rental property in Kansas City, and I happened to stumble across it one summer’s day while I was helping her clean out the storage room. It was a fateful day, for that was the beginning of my music career.
I immediately took that naturally finished fingerboard with me back to Southern California, and like every kid with a guitar in SoCal, I drove straight to the beach with it. I cringe now as I remember my puka shell necklace, Nick Carter haircut (imagine the Backstreet Boys circa 1999), and baggy cargo shorts, all the while sitting next to some bonfire pit at Corona Del Mar State Beach strumming that guitar. Back then, however, I felt pretty cool. I played that thing until the frets numbed and calloused my fingertips. Unfortunately, and despite my best efforts to impress my audience, and by “audience” I mean girls, I was a terrible musician.
I was able to learn a couple classic riffs, the ones all the wannabes learn: Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” and Tom Petty’s “Free Falling,” but that was about it. What I had really learned was how to become a walking, talking, Southern California cliche. Thus, my career in music came and went as quickly as the fashionability of those puka shell necklaces. I sold that guitar soon thereafter and invested the money in my college education. Hindsight tells me it was the right decision.
In spite of my lack of musical aptitude, I’ve always appreciated the power of music; it entertains, enlightens, promotes cognitive growth, and much more. Across time, place, and culture, music has embedded itself into the fabric of human existence. That’s why I wanted my son, Jameson, to be exposed to music at a much earlier age than I—and I wanted to save him from the embarrassment of some beachside-delusion of grandeur. Towards that effort, my wife and I enrolled Jameson in him in Shelby Lively’s Rhythm & Sol: Reno.
Rhythm & Sol
Rhythm & Sol is an “enhanced music program” that is designed to help children not only develop an appreciation for music but to prime a child’s brain for language, reading, math, motor skills, and social development. This is because the program is partnered with the Arizona Children’s Association (AZCA) and the founder of New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development, Jill Stamm. Therefore, the curriculum in Shelby’s Rhythm and Sol classes is guided by research from Dr. Stramm’s best-selling books, Bright from the Start: The Simple Science-Backed Way to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, From Birth to Age 3 (2007) and Boosting Brain Power: 52 Ways to Use What Science Tells Us (2016). Admittedly, I am no musician, but I am an academic, and my ten years in academia has taught me that when practice is guided by research, practice is that much better for it. Thus, Shelby’s approach to nurturing the minds of her young students, my son included, is one I trust and appreciate.
Jameson started his participation in Shelby’s classes when he was six months old, so we enrolled him in the Baby Beats class. Each age group of children has its own class with its own cognitive and educational foci:
- The Infant Rhythms class (newborn to 5 months) focuses mainly on improving the physical coordination and language skills of babies.
- The Baby Beats class (6 months to 14 months) begins the process of socialization and an introducing children to various musical instruments.
- The Mini Mozarts class (15 months to 27 months) explores different music styles from all over the world to help build rhythm, language, and coordination. Toddlers at this level also have more freedom to run and play with their classmates.
- The Beethovens class (28 months to 3.5 years) offers singing, dancing, and imaginative play to help children master social cooperation, complex rhythms, and individual performances (if the child is comfortable with it) to improve confidence.
Across all four classes, parents are intimately involved. My wife, Natalie, is the one that usually takes Jameson to class (due to my work schedule), but the times I have attended, I’m singing, dancing, playing, and encouraging my son’s participation by my own. Each class, therefore, is a highly-immersive experience for parent and child alike. These immersive experiences and the memories built in each class, as my wife tells me, are ones she will cherish well beyond Jameson’s formative years.
Jameson is now 17-months old, so he has since moved from the Baby Beats to the Mini Mozarts class. This move is appropriate since, as my wife also tells me, Jameson prefers to run laps around the room, acting as the Pied Piper, leading the other students in a mini-revolt as opposed to following the curriculum at hand. By nature of the course and toddlers in general, however, Shelby allows for this innocent exercise of freedom all the while encouraging and redirecting the children back to the activities at hand. In fact, all of the in class encouragement and hands-on instruction led us to buy Jameson his own collection of musical instruments, all the same stuff he plays with in class: claves, sleigh bells, a kazoo, a tambourine, a triangle, maracas, symbols, bongos, and more. We even dusted off my dad’s old Hohner Chrometta 8 harmonica for Jameson to use; it’s one of his favorite instruments to walk around the house with, surprisingly hitting notes that are more pleasant to the ear than not. He’s our own little in-house Blues Traveler. Eventually, I may even buy him is own Ovation acoustic guitar, so we can have our own in-house Carlos Santana and so my beachside dream can live on vicariously through my son— or maybe, as Natalie would prefer, I should let that dream die and simply let Jameson chase his own dreams.
Admittedly, Jameson is my only child and he has been enrolled in Rhythm and Sol for the better part of his young life, so I don’t have a point of contrast for his cognitive development. Regardless, I strongly believe his participation in Rhythm and Sol has improved his hand-eye coordination, musical appreciation, and social skills. In sum, he has developed as a toddler more than I could have hoped for as a parent. He loves books, music, language, and people. What’s even more surprising is that he loves sharing his food and toys with others— a trait that single children often don’t possess. Even if I only credit some of Jameson’s personal development to Shelby’s class, it would be more than worth it. He’s better prepared for preschool, kindergarten, and social situations, and honestly there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing my son light up when his mamma asks him if he’s “ready to go to music class?”
Parents, grandparents, and guardians who are interested in Shelby’s classes can get a free trial to determine if the 45-minute session is right for their individual child. Also, if a family has more than one child, she offers a 30% sibling discount. The Winter Session (January 8, 2019 – March 23, 2019) is currently under way, but future sessions will begin soon thereafter, and families are welcome to join at any time during one of the sessions. Lastly, as an added bonus, Shelby is offering a free 5-week mini-session for The Infant Rhythms class (newborn to 5 months) from February 19, 2019 – March 23, 2019, and 3 free classes for any of the other age groups if parents make contact before the end of this month.