Child's Play: Janet Casson helps grownups make music with their kiddos
So, you've got a kid, huh? Whether it's your own rambunctious preschooler or the bratty nephew you've been charged with keeping alive for the next five hours, the most important thing is leaving your house where valuables are liable to be destroyed and seeking refuge on somebody else's property. In this series, we'll be exploring fun, local, and quirky spots that are kid-tastic and adult-friendly, too.
If the thought of sitting through an hour-long music class for toddlers makes you want to have your eardrums forcefully expunged with an old hanger, then you probably haven't been to a Rocky Mountain Aardvarks class with the talented and funky Janet Casson, a New York expat who brought some pretty unique Brooklyn-bred music classes to Denver.
Music for Aardvarks was started by a Brooklyn dad, David Weinstone, who had an affinity for grunge and wanted to create original songs after he grew bored with the familiar classics, Casson explains. So, he wrote about 150 original tunes and started sharing them with neighborhood kids. Casson teamed up with Weinstone and taught Aardvarks classes in the Big Apple for six years before bring the classes to Colorado.
"I saw there were other kid music programs going on in Denver, and I knew I had something a little bit different to offer," Casson says. "I thought I'd see if it would fly."
It did. Casson's classes have been so well received (many have sold out) that, she's added a few more to the current line-up. Over the past two years, she's also expanded to new locations, including Highland, Stapleton, and South Pearl Street.
Casson's classes are different because they're more about teaching grownups how to enjoy music with their kids than about teaching kids how to play music. It's important, she explains, because music "opens up a different part of the brain that can't really get tapped into with any other means."
Casson's upbeat classes start with a "hello" song, and take off from there. Some of the songs are based on big city things like apartments and public transportation, and she's also got a few tunes about friends of different colors
Children develop fine motor skills with things like shakers and sticks. There's always a big movement activity, usually with a parachute or scarves. The kiddos bang on drums and stomp their feet while dancing around. Sessions end with a relaxing quiet song.
Best of all, Casson has a fantastic voice. She sang through high school and college before veering into theater; Aardvarks classes allow her to blend all of this training. Parents can participate one whatever level they'd like: singing along, dancing, or simply sitting back and enjoying the music.
Casson offers her three-month to five-year-old Aardvarks classes in six- and ten-week-long sessions. Registration for the spring session is happening online now. And, if you'd like to try a class before committing, Casson offers $10 drop-in classes on Saturdays at various locations. Check her website for details.
For older kiddos, there's Big Kids Tunes and Play Me a Tale. Call 720-515-VARK or go online for information. The last Friday of every month, Casson hosts a free, family-friendly musical story time at the Tattered Cover on Colfax at 6:30 pm. She's also started a program called Ready Set ROCK! at the Children's Museum, which takes place every first Monday at 10:30 am. Want to learn more about Rocky Mountain Aardvarks? Visit Casson's website or follow her on Facebook.
Follow Jamie Siebrase on Twitter.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.