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Children grow with Kindermusik classes

Isabella McClanahan enjoys singing and music with her dad, Dustin, during the Kindermusik session at Butler Covenant Presbyterian Church. Christine Border/Special to the Eagle

Samantha Drohan began her experience with Kindermusik in the late 1990s when her first child participated in classes. After the teacher retired and Drohan had her second child, a friend who initially introduced her to the class suggested she teach it in 2003.

“I’ve always felt that it’s been a terrific program, and I’ve never entertained the thought of stopping,” said Drohan, owner, director and educator at Kindermusik with Samantha Drohan. “It’s one of those things that you keep doing what you love and all of a sudden 20 years go by.”

In the beginning, Drohan’s husband would bring their second and third children to her Kindermusik classes, which include singing, dancing, instrument exploration and play, prop exploration, listening to music, learning sign language and more.

“What I’ve found is that having that opportunity to actually participate, to purposefully go do an activity that involved me was the highlight for me each week because it was focused attention on my child,” Drohan said.

What began with only 20 children a week has skyrocketed to over 300 across more than 40 classes at three locations.

Ashley Jeannerat, of Slippery Rock Township, has been a longtime Kindermusik mom, with all three of her children going through the program. Her older sons, Carter, 14, and Preston, 9, completed the program a few years ago. Her daughter, Sadie, 4, is currently in Level 3. They all started at a young age, starting when each of them was less than a year old.

“I love that it is devoted one-on-one time with my child,” Jeannerat said. “I’m primarily a stay-at-home parent, but when you’re at home you’re busy with home stuff. With this, it is uninterrupted time focused on me and my little one.”

“We’re not focusing on trying to create little Mozarts, the whole idea behind Kindermusik is that music helps to strengthen the child’s development in all areas,” Drohan said.

Parents and children enjoy songs and music during their Kindermusik session, led by instructor Samantha Drohan at Butler Covenant Presyterian Church in Butler. Christine Border/Special to the Eagle
Socialization

While enrolled in Kindermusik, parents can expect their child to learn better socialization skills, inhibitory control (the ability to pause and think before acting), steady beat skills, fine and gross motor skills, strengthen musicality as well as reading and phonemic awareness, math skills, sharing skills and language skills.

“It’s so important for our children to start becoming socialized at an early age,” Drohan said. “COVID did a number for a couple of years, and we’ve found that there were children that were coming in that were struggling with socialization.”

Shannon Hilderbrand, of Adams Township, has noticed her daughters, Zoey, 5, and Kenzie, 2, come out of their shells after being enrolled in Kindermusik. Both girls have been enrolled since they were 6 months old.

“(Zoey) was super shy, and I noticed when she was there, she was completely observing, and she wasn’t participating right away,” Hilderbrand said. “But when we would come home she would be singing the songs, so I knew she was retaining it.”

Research-based

Kindermusik was founded in the United States in 1978 and is based on a kindergarten music and movement program developed by German educational experts in the 1960s. It has since spread to 38 countries across six continents.

“It’s completely research-based, and that’s one of the reasons why I love it,” Drohan said. “Everything is very purposeful in what we do.”

Sarah Kube has been taking her 20-month-old son, Logan, to classes with Drohan for around nine months. As a pediatric speech-language pathologist, she recommends Kindermusik to multiple families of children she sees.

“One of the big things that I point out is how knowledgeable Miss Samantha is in multisensory learning and child development in general,” said Kube, of Fairview Township.

Kindermusik provides classes for children between the ages of 6 months and 7 years, with each class designed for a different age group.

“Children really thrive on consistency and predictability. That’s how they feel safe and once they feel safe they can open up to learning,” Drohan said. “The typical class starts with a ‘Hello Song’ and leads into any number of activities, and we always finish with a ‘Goodbye Song.’”

Classes are broken down into five levels — Level 1 is for babies, Level 2 is for toddlers between ages 2 and 3, Level 3 is for children in preschool, and Levels 4 and 5 are for children ages 6 and 7.

Class sizes range from three to 10 children and their parents. Classes for children in Levels 1 and 2 have parent participation for the full 45 minutes.

Classes for children in Levels 4 and 5 are 60 minutes and are between the children and the instructor. For these classes, parents or caregivers are invited to join near the end of class. These classes focus on teaching children the fundamentals of music, notation, rhythm and learning how to play simple child-friendly instruments.

“My only complaint would be that we wish the class was a little longer,” Hilderbrand said, explaining that her children are very sad when it is time to leave.

With the number of activities, children are always busy and moving. Jeannerat’s daughter is always excited for Kindermusik classes and it helps her get out of bed and ready to go.

Holly Wilson and her daughter, Josie, participate in one the Kindermusik programs held in Butler at the Covenant United Presbyterian Church. Christine Border/Special to the Eagle
Musical instruments

For families with children across multiple levels, Drohan offers mixed ages classes. Activities in these classes are adapted to accommodate all children and their abilities.

Classes are developmentally appropriate for the children’s ages and the instruments become more sophisticated at each advanced level. Babies start with egg shakers and baby-safe bells, toddlers play with rhythm sticks and triangles, and the oldest children learn how to play the glockenspiel, dulcimer and recorder.

“As they age, their focus and attention increases so we can do more,” Drohan said.

Over the years, Hilderbrand said she’s noticed a shift in the kinds of toys her daughters want. While they still love their baby dolls, they ask for instruments like the xylophone and the piano and often make music together.

“They’re becoming more loving of music and experimental with instruments,” Hilderbrand said.

While the classes have an instructor, Drohan explained that the children lead the classes with what interests them and their imaginations.

“We follow the lead of the child so that we give them space to grow and to learn, not just on their own but also with their parent,” Drohan said. “We lean into the parents to help guide them and challenge them with how they want to play an instrument or how they want to interact with a prop.”

Growing demand

As Drohan’s classes became more popular, she created more classes and spread to different locations.

Drohan’s classes are held at the Covenant United Presbyterian Church on East Jefferson Street in Butler, the Heritage Professional Building on Crider Road in Mars and the English Lutheran Church on Grandview Avenue in Zelienople.

While her classes have grown and expanded, the families have stayed the same.

“I feel that I am extremely blessed because the families that seek us out all have one thing in common, they want the best for their child and they are coming because they know the program is going to be good for their child, and for them too,” Drohan said. “I feel deeply that parenting is the hardest job in the world, and if you can find a community that you can connect with that has young children that you can laugh and share information with is incredibly important.”

When families come to Drohan’s classes, she finds that these families stick around and enroll future children in her classes. During this time, she builds a trusting and loving relationship with families.

“It’s really hard because you develop this relationship with a whole family for over the course of several years, and you’ve been a big part of each other’s lives and at some point, you have to let them go and move on,” Drohan said. “It’s bittersweet, it can’t last forever.”

In her classrooms, Drohan believes she and her other teachers are building their own Kindermusik families.

“You take care of them, you guide them, you lead them, you laugh with them,” Drohan said. “That’s the end goal for me is to create that family.”

Samantha Drohan works with Josie Wilson during one of her Kindermusik classes. Christine Border/Special to the Eagle
Favorite teacher

Hilderbrand’s daughters have been attending since 2018 and have had classes with Alice O’Melia at the Mars location. Both Zoey and Kenzie get excited for class and being with their favorite teacher.

“They get off the elevator and they both run into the class,” Hilderbrand said. “They hug her, they sit in her lap during the class. They are so attached to me but they go sit on her lap during class instead of mine, which says a lot.”

Hilderbrand’s daughter, Zoey, participates in four activities outside of school, including Kindermusik, soccer, dance and swimming. Her favorite activity has been Kindermusik.

In the future, there will be summer camps, seasonal classes and silly themed classes, such as a pajama night, in addition to yearlong programs that start in September after Labor Day and run through the following May.

Kube first got into Kindermusik through a summer program in June 2022 when her son was about 1 year old. She and her son enjoyed the program so much that she signed up for the fall and spring.

“I enjoy taking him there, Miss Samantha does a really good job of incorporating a lot of developmental information,” Kube said. “It’s something that I definitely want to keep up with as he ages.”

Enrollment is $65 per month and includes weekly classes and unlimited digital streaming of Kindermusik songs for each level while the child is enrolled in that class. More information is available on Dorhan’s website.

Kube, Jeannerat and Hilderbrand have used Kindermusik songs at home, most notably, the “Clean-Up Song.”

Samantha Drohan signs with Angela and Madelyn Monnie at her Kindermusik class held at the Butler Covenant Presbyterian Church. Christine Border/Special to the Eagle
Dustin McClanahan and his daughter, Isabella, participate in one of the Kindermusik programs held in Butler at the Covenant United Presbyterian Church. Christine Border/Special to the Eagle
Samantha Drohan leads a Kindermusik class Tuesday nights in Butler at the Covenant United Presbyterian Church. Christine Border/Special to the Eagle
Samantha Drohan leads one of her Kindermusik classes at the Butler Covenant Presbyterian Church with participants Angela and Madelyn Monnie and Joseph Snyder enjoying the parachute activities. Christine Border/Special to the Eagle
Samantha Drohan leads one of her Kindermusik classes at the Butler Covenant Presbyterian Church, welcoming participants with their parents in song. Christine Border/Special to the Eagle

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