Picture this: The stage is set for the band. The audience is in their seats. The emcee says, “Presenting…the Preschool of Rock Band.” Then the curtain opens revealing your little superstar and the other tiny bandmates. To thunderous applause, the children begin their “mini” show. Michael Napolitano, the band’s founder, begins playing live music. The kids then join in by beating their drums: some play air guitars, others sing. They dance, and, of course, they shake.
The feeling that Napolitano and his staff try to create in every class at Preschool of Rock is one that makes everyone feel like a member of the band and part of the show — including the parents! Each class feels like a jam session where babies and toddlers get together to learn musicality, discover instruments, and create music with the help of their parents. The program is infused with Napolitano’s passion for music—he’s a multi-instrumentalist from a family of musicians—his high energy, and his desire to create a dynamic musical learning environment for children. This, coupled with intelligent, engaging material, is the recipe for a fun kids’ rock party where music is the gateway for learning.
Napolitano founded Preschool of Rock (POR)—a family-run, interactive music experience for children up to age 4—about 10 years ago because he was dissatisfied with the music programs that existed when he was taking his daughter to music classes. For Napolitano, those classes “were a little too controlled for babies and toddlers.” He desired a program that allowed kids to have the freedom to explore organically instead of having a teacher “direct where it is supposed to be going.” He also wanted a program with “a rock theme, louder music, and drumbeats that were easily recognizable for children to move their bodies to.”
So, based upon his experience with the Blue Man Group organization and as a pioneer of the music program at the Blue Man Creativity Center, the Blue School, fused with his musical background, Napolitano created POR.
“[POR’s music] is rhythm based where the drums lead a lot of the songs, which is really rock-n-roll,” Napolitano says. And it seems likes the kids love the high energy songs. “There’s a song called ‘Shake It’ that they really like. It’s a rock song,” Napolitano adds. The children also love “Safari Song,” which is all drumming with a tribal rhythm. When the kids hear it, they grab their imaginary binoculars and search for animals.
POR, which has locations throughout the Tri-State Area, hosts both Parent & Me classes and an Enrichment Program. The 10-week Parent & Me program focuses on, as Napolitano says, “how to prepare kids for preschool and to be the next generation of music makers.” Here, children learn how instruments such as the djembe make music, and how those instruments are made utilizing STEM principles on a weekly basis. They also learn how to clap to the beat, sing, say “hello” and count to 10 in different languages, and play a drumming pattern. And they investigate uncommon instruments like the vibratone, which is a big hit with the kids. “It’s a big cylinder that vibrates,” Napolitano points out while playfully humming. “Children can feel the vibrations with their hands.”
While the kids are grooving to the beat, they also learn basic life skills, build confidence, learn to share, and how to put things away. The children learn socialization by working with each other and parents. The classes are also comprised of different ages, which makes for a nice mix. “The babies work with the toddlers and the toddlers work with the babies,” Napolitano notes.
The Enrichment Program combines music appreciation with a STEM-based curriculum for kids up to second grade. Children learn basic notes, sight-reading, how to clap to the beat, and the conductor’s role. Toddlers also examine unique instruments, learn about their characteristics and how they play.
By next year, Napolitano hopes to reach more kids with his dynamic program through selective licensing opportunities, fresh programming content (including new fitness and art programs), and a new CD. He also plans to partner with more schools.
After 45 minutes, the “show” must come to an end. The band wows the crowd one last time with their drumming skills while adding a few wiggles. Afterward, your little superstar and their bandmates bow to a standing ovation.
To learn more about Preschool of Rock, visit preschoolofrock.com.