Friday, December 7, 2012

West Philly Spotlight: All Around This World Music

Jay Sand is well known among West Philadelphians - he's our neighbor, a fellow parent and the teacher of one of the most popular music classes in the city: All Around This World.  Anyone who has met Jay knows that he is incredibly upbeat and enthusiastic, and this certainly flows over into his instruction. My favorite part of the classes, though, is the great concept behind them.  

Each 11 week session focuses on a different part of the world and each class starts with a little overview of the country from which that lesson’s songs came.  So, in addition to new songs (often incorporating different languages), we also learned a bit about the geography, culture and traditions.  

Our family's first introduction to All Around This World was about a week after we'd moved to Philly when we stopped in at Milk and Honey Market and Jay was offering a free sample class.  Leo had a blast and it was a great way to meet other neighborhood families. When the opportunity came up to review this class I was excited to enroll Leo in this Fall's session focusing on Latin America.  

Jay hosts the classes in his West Philly home and the timeslots are divided up by age group.  One of the great things about All Around This World was getting to know Jay through the intimate classes in his living room.  Each class is 45 minutes packed with songs, stories and games - everything from shaker eggs, to marching and balancing mugs on our heads. One of Leo’s favorites is dancing with scarves.  

In Musical Scarf Heaven

Another great component to the classes are the resources Jay provides to supplement. On his website, Jay offers the lyrics to all of the songs from class in both the native language and English, and even includes an MP3 of him singing these songs.  Each week he sends an email with background information on the country we will be learning about and each family gets a CD with all the songs.

If you've taken an All Around This World class before, surely you've gotten a CD with Jay and his guitar belting out the songs - and it was great.  BUT - Jay is in the process of re-recording all twelve of the CDs.  We got to check out the first re-recording.  The Latin American  CD has 23 tracks from the class with full instrumentals and fantastic vocals performed by Latin artists.  The quality is great and it really gives you a feel for the music with so many instruments giving a well rounded  representation of the rhythms and melodies.  These new CDs really take the whole All Around This World program to a whole new level.

I think these classes a neat way to expose young kids to a mix of music, language, geography and culture.  I also love that it's a neighborhood based program.  Of course if you don't live in West Philly, don't despair!  Classes are now being offered in:

  • Fairmount
  • South Philly
  • Fishtown/Norther Liberties
  • Center City
Be sure and check one out!  Also - with the Holiday season upon us, this is a great thing to add to your wishlist.  When my family asks what to get for our kids I try to encourage "doing" gifts rather than toys.  I think friends and family members would love know that they could give a gift that will be engaging for weeks on end and provide learning and fun memories.   

Disclosure: All Around This World Music provided Leo's enrollment in the class for review. All opinions are my own.  

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