When Faith Erdmann of Richmond and her then 10-month-old daughter Emmie left their first Candy Mountain Music class over a year ago, Erdmann thought to herself, “That wasn’t like anything else we’ve tried. It was almost magical.”
And that from a woman who works part time running her husband’s law office, where magical thinking is not the order of the day.
But making musical memories is the mission of Sarah Smitha, founder and teacher of Candy Mountain Music, which relies on her original lesson plans, innovative class structure and her musical talent to delight children and parents alike.
“She oozes authenticity and passion for music and children,” Erdmann said.
“With her lesson plans, she’s not reading from a book. It’s all very mindful and has a natural sequence.”
Ruth Willoughby of Lexington, the mother of Maxwell, almost 3, and Anna, 1, echoes those sentiments.
“My son is energetic and he really gets to move around,” she said. “Miss Sarah is really invested in the experience for the child and the parent. We have a wonderful time there.
“She’s popular for a reason.”
Popular, indeed. Candy Mountain Music is the winner of Favorite Music Program in the 2015 Lexington Family Magazine Family Favorites contest.
Smitha’s six weekly classes at Baby Moon on Richmond Road, which meet Monday through Thursday in the morning, afternoon and evening, continue to sell out every month.
Weekend special events, including the upcoming Shake Your Tail Feathers for Thanksgiving and the much anticipated Star Wars: The Music Class, will go just as quickly.
Mother-to-mother word of mouth spread and actually led to the launch of her business four years ago.
Smitha, a single, homeschooling mother of Arbor, 8, and Clover, 18 months, has always had a love of singing and dabbled in experiences as a singer-songwriter at open mics in college.
When Arbor was born, Smitha’s world – and her music – changed.
“I started making her the center of my music,” Smitha said.
She immersed herself in “Kindie” music – alternative children’s music – and incorporated that into her work as a preschool teacher.
(She also cohosts a Kindie radio show on WRFL on Saturdays, 9-10 a.m.)
She then worked for four years at a Lexington children’s music and play program but left that job when she needed to devote more attention to her daughter.
“Parents then approached me and said that because my interpretations of the classes were so creative, they would pay me to come to their house and teach an original class,” Smitha said.
Word spread and Candy Mountain Music was born.
Smitha has built her business on original lesson plans and affordable prices.
Classes for children 4 months to 5 years old are $40 a month and capped at 12 children.
Smitha also offers reasonably priced, themed birthday parties in your home.
Everybody gets plenty of bang for their buck – and lots of time to bang on instruments and make their own music.
Each 45-minute class includes 30 minutes of themed directed instruction from Smitha and ends with 10 minutes of free exploration with instruments and a 5-minute cool down.
That’s when lights are turned out, deep breaths are taken and everyone decompresses from the stimulation of the class.
“Reading the energy of the classroom is something that I am always doing,” Smitha said.
“There is an intentional mindfulness of the children’s experience and energy that I know parents appreciate.”
With sequenced activities that are repeated three times, Smitha teaches tempo, rhythm and timing – essential concepts to understanding music.
In a recent class, for example, the theme was Singing in the Kitchen.
With eggshaped shakers in hand, each child cracked the eggs on the ground and “threw away the shells” as the shakers disappeared behind their backs.
Smitha sang an original version of “Shortnin’ Bread” while they worked on sequence and timing through play.
Later, with colorful scarves in hand, children acted out a series of movements while Smitha sang the childhood classic rendition of “On Top of Old Smokey” about spaghetti covered in cheese and losing her meatballs when somebody sneezed.
Parents join right in, modeling the activities for children who need it and clapping and singing along with the ones who don’t.
“Parents have to participate, which is great because before you know it you’re involved and having as much fun as your child,” Erdmann said.
Smitha prides herself on making the Candy Mountain Music experience beneficial to all members of the family.
“When I became a mom I was amazed at how attracted children are to all those bright and lively children’s TV shows simply because of their use of diction, rhyme and music,” she said.
“I wanted to create something that captivating in real life.”
Like making musical memories? Mission accomplished.