Studies have shown that an introduction to music education during early childhood can boost social, cognitive and mental abilities throughout a child’s developmental years. Lucky for members of the Woodbury community, we have two wonderful music studios right in our own backyard.
In 2006, Andrea Zimmerman started teaching piano and voice lessons through a Chanhassen music studio. After a brief two-year stint as a Nashville musician, Zimmerman realized she desperately missed being around her music students. “Kids are where my heart is,” she says. In 2012, Zimmerman returned to Chanhassen and officially founded AJ’s Music Factory, where she continued to teach piano and voice while her then-boyfriend Michael Zimmerman taught guitar lessons. When the couple married and moved to Lake Elmo in 2014, Zimmerman decided to move AJ’s Music Factory to Woodbury.
Considered a contemporary music school, the Zimmermans introduce classic composers such as Beethoven and Mozart, but also focus on students who want to learn more modern work by Journey, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, to name a few. Students also have the opportunity to perform what they learn. “We don’t do competitions,” Zimmerman says. “We want to focus on the process instead of the performance and want kids to fall in love with the music [that they’re learning].” Friends and family can attend recitals throughout the year, many with themes such as Halloween, Christmas and a springtime recital.
In addition to instrument and voice lessons, Zimmerman has also incorporated Kindermusik into her music curriculum. “The more that I taught in the last 10 years, I realized that kids with natural music ability had to have taken some sort of early childhood music class,” she says. Geared toward children birth through age 6, Kindermusik is a music and movement program that focuses on honing social, mental, emotional, physical and cognitive developmental skills in addition to musical talent.
Megha Kaila moved to Woodbury from Michigan about five years ago. Expecting her daughter Riya, Kaila looked for a Gymboree Music & Play program similar to one she’d taken with her older son Neil. She researched and talked to several stay-at-home moms around the community, deciding to start one herself. “I was looking for classes and wasn’t able to find a Gymboree location, so I decided that if no one opens one, Woodbury would be my first location,” Kaila says.
Gymboree Play & Music’s Woodbury location opened in February. Gymboree is a parent-child interactive play program that focuses on developmental skills from birth to age 5 through structured, lesson-based classes. Throughout the Play and Learn program, geared toward children ages 0-36 months, weekly classes last 45 minutes. Lesson plans change every two weeks, “to make it more fun and challenging for the little ones,” Kaila says.
Additional classes include music and programs for children ages 18 months to 5 years old. Music, taught on Wednesday evenings, is a 45-minute parent-child class that explores more than 20 different musical styles. Children will be exposed to R&B, disco, classical, jazz and much more as they engage in a playful and active group environment. Art topics include painting, sculpting, drawing and collages, with revolving monthly and weekly themes as well as three levels (including preschool and school age) to encourage age- appropriate enrollment.
Overall, Gymboree Play & Music has something for parents and children alike. “These are not just classes for children,” Kaila says. “We always tell adults that both parent and child will enjoy meeting new friends while the little ones build confidence, social and cognitive skills.”