These aren't your parents' music lessons, Lisa Rae Vaughan said.
"Drums, jingle bells, shakers, scarves—it's very free-form," said Vaughan, a 20-year music educator from Hopewell. "This is not a teacher standing up there saying, 'You need to know this, or you need to know that.'"
Vaughan is a certified instructor for "Music Together," an early-childhood music program that pairs kids with their parents as they learn basic musical concepts through singing, dancing and listening.
"Music education supports all education," Vaughan said. "It helps them to develop those cognitive skills."
Vaughan's program, offered at the Sweetwater Center for the Arts and the Laughlin's Children's Center in Sewickley, will now have a home at Arena's Performing Arts Centre on Brodhead Road in Moon, where Vaughan will also give voice, string, piano and woodwind lessons to older children and teens under her Lisa Rae Music Studio LLC business.
Vaughan's program, taught with teacher Lauren Garcia-Slawianowski, will launch at Arena's on Jan. 16. Previous classes had been hosted at the Play Academy preschool in Moon Township.
She said the classes typically include a dozen children "from birth to 5 years old" alongside their parents or other adults, such as grandparents or nannies.
The grown-ups gather to sing and dance, while toddlers crawl around, tap on a drum, or chant along.
"Some of it involves getting on the floor and clapping," Vaughan said. "Some of the songs include counting or foreign languages. There are fast songs, slow songs, and some are kind of improvisational."
Vaughan said parents seek out the program as a way to kick-start their child's education. One of Vaughan's Music Together-devotees began attending classes while pregnant to expose her unborn child to the program's cheery sing-alongs.
For the younger set, Vaughan also offers a "Babies Music Together," as a class for infants and mothers.
She said the sessions foster a sense of community among parents who attend.
"It's constant singing," Vaughan said. "It looks like fun, but it's actually educational. It's inclusive and welcoming of students with special needs. You'll go to a class, but you'll sing and dance along with your child and other families, and then you take that music home with you."
Vaughan, a Hopewell native whose mother, Natheleen Murphy Vaughan, worked as a music teacher, said the new Moon Township location will allow her to better serve clients in the community.
"We're now very centrally located," she said. "And we'll really be able to serve communities that have great music programs in the school district, like Moon, Sewickley and West Allegheny."