Her voice was hoarse from a recent allergy attack, but the seven toddlers in Kitty Rea’s midday Kids’ MusicRound class in Half Moon Bay didn’t seem to mind. They bounced and babbled along to Rea’s harmonies, with a little help from their nearby mothers.
Part of a packed schedule of classes Rea teaches each day of the week, both at her school on Main Street and at , the MusicRound focuses on the smallest of students, with the current class encompassing students four to 18 months old. Rea, who squeezes the class in between two morning classes in Moss Beach and an afternoon piano class each Thursday, said that although the students are young, we start learning how to carry a tune and keep a steady beat at an early age.
“The main goal is to get the kids tonally and rhythmically competent,” she said.
Since taking ownership of the former , now known as Ms. Kitty’s Harmony Road, Rea has been hard at work recruiting new teachers and brainstorming new class ideas to create a summer schedule full of music and academic camps for kids and teens.
In addition to a year-long schedule that includes classes in everything from piano and woodwinds to marimba drums, Rea has created curriculums for various Creative Connections Camps, which run from mid-June to early September, and incorporate disciplines beyond music.
“I am able to stretch anything and find music, math and science in it,” Rea laughed as she described some of the camps’ various themes.
Beginning with an African Drumming Safari camp, Harmony Road’s summer schedule will guide learners through lessons in Japanese fans, bird calls, songs and even solar energy, uniting themes of culture, art and science through a common musical thread.
Rea's goals for the summer camps are the same she uses in all her classes: to ignite a love of learning through fun, hands-on topics and instruction.
“The goal is to get kids to learn things and get really engaged,” she said.
Aside from the camps, Harmony Road’s year-round schedule utilizes the teaching skills of local musicians, including Lisa Spector, who continues to teach piano at the school.
With a school philosophy that emphasizes what Rea calls “full musicianship,” students are taught not just how to play an instrument, but all aspects of the music, from timing to singing along. Rea said that even pre-schoolers who take piano lessons are first taught to sing the words of a song, then to put notes to the music and eventually to play and sing the piece, giving them a rounded approach to music.
As Rea says, using an approach that at once teaches theory and rhythm makes it easy to slip academics into the mix and teach kids math skills and an instrument.
“There’s some math hidden in there when we talk about the rhythms and how they fit together,” she said, adding that one of the main ideas behind her new camps is to add academics without kids realizing they are learning things beyond music—a tradition that continues at Harmony Road through the recent changing of hands.
“I’m continuing the legacy [of Lisa Spector’s school],” Rea said. “It’s a different name, but the same good quality music.”
Rea said that she will be featuring students of all ages in an end of summer concert series, but before that she will lead young Hatch Elementary musicians in performances this week. Two shows, themed “From the Redwood Forest to the New York Island,” will be held in Hatch’s multi-use room, one at 5:30 p.m. and another at 7 p.m. tonight and tomorrow evenings. Each performance will feature different classes, with the early show consisting of kindergarten through second-grade performers and the latter featuring third through fifth graders, and will showcase Americana songs.