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Press Release


Jean Oelrich
Director of Communications
(714) 876-2380

Music and Movement Play Vital Role in Babies’ and Toddlers’ Development During Two Brain-Based Programs Created by Pacific Symphony and Presented at OC Music & Dance

Orange County, Calif. — May 17, 2017

While the smallest citizens of Orange County might have a difficult time telling you exactly why, they love music and dancing too! And on their behalf, Pacific Symphony and Orange County Music and Dance (OCMD) have teamed up to give babies and toddlers a jumpstart on their own development as well as their love of the arts with two unique programs—one specially designed for babies, the other for toddlers—called “Parent and Me: Music and Movement.” Parents and their youngsters are invited to take part in a series of innovative workshops with teaching artist Maria Simeone and Pacific Symphony violinist MarlaJoy Weisshaar that will have parent and child dancing, singing and moving together through brain-based learning activities!

“We are fortunate to be in the same building as OC Music & Dance,” says Susan Miller Kotses, the Symphony’s vice president of education and community engagement. “From the start, we’ve had very close ties and have been talking about the Symphony presenting group music classes for all ages at OCMD as part of our overarching strategic plan, which focuses on a regional strategy of creating ‘hubs’ of activity in different cities in Orange County, with activities ranging from concerts to classes and everything in between. This pilot is our very first step in doing so, and our hope is that it will serve as the first phase of implementing our exciting new vision for the Symphony’s education and community engagement programs.”

The four classes that make up each “Parent and Me: Music and Movement” workshop take place at Orange County Music and Dance, 17620 Fitch Ave., in Irvine. Each registration includes one parent and one child; parents wishing to register more than one child in the same class should plan to bring an additional adult with them to maintain the one-to-one, parent/guardian-to-child ratio. Class dates for “Parent and Toddler” are June 8, 15, 22 and 29, from 10:45-11:30 a.m. Class dates for “Parent and Baby” are June 8, 15, 22 and 29, from 9:30-10:15 a.m. The fee for each four-class workshop is $135. To sign up or learn more about the program, visit or contact Susan Kotses at (714) 876-2341.

“I have two children and I am a single mom. A lot of the songs that we learned in the class helped me to bond with my children and de-stress. They also gave me a lot of great ideas that I am now using at home!”—Parent and Me workshop participant

Parents and a little one should toddle on over for a one-of-a-kind experience and attend “Parent and Toddler” workshops, which are fun, play-based music-movement classes for toddlers (walkers) up to age four! These classes focus on sensory, language and social development. High quality music played by a Symphony musician, combined with movement, nurture a firm neurodevelopmental foundation for each child and strengthen specific sensory systems and language development. Skills that teach and support effective parenting through music, movement and creative play are taught throughout each class.

“Parent and Baby” workshops are definitely a good time, chock-full of play-based musical classes for newborns through crawlers and their parents/guardians. Classes inspire optimal brain development through engaging live music played by a Pacific Symphony musician, tummy time, rhythm patterns and vocal expressions. Relaxation and de-stressing techniques for parents are also taught.

The workshops follow the curriculum of a series of classes the Symphony created four years ago, and continues to present in partnership with the Orange County Rescue Mission and in collaboration with Teaching Artist Maria Simeone. The primary goals for both workshops include: improving verbal and oral skills; learning the importance of play for child development; improving non-verbal communication and parent/child bonding; increasing appreciation of music; supporting and meeting neurodevelopmental markers; providing opportunities for creativity and self-expression; and reducing stress. 

The presence of a Pacific Symphony musician playing live music at every session is key. The musicians are trained to respond to the needs of the class and to the directives of the teaching artist. As they play, they adjust their interpretation to the cues they receive, allowing for a musical experience that is tailor-made for each group at every class.

“And of course, the quality of their artistry is not to be undervalued,” Kotses points out. “The quality of sound that is produced from our professional musicians would be impactful on its own!”

Also, the curriculum is carefully constructed to ensure optimal brain development for the participating children and babies through music and movement that are specifically chosen to facilitate a child’s brain development, as well as to build a bond between parent and child.

Kotses says what she loves the most about the classes is that in addition to the parents being able to see the impact on themselves and their children, the class itself is a joyful experience for both parent and child. 

“Maria explains the rationale behind what she is doing in a gentle way, so as to help coach parents to re-create the experience at home, but it is done in a warm and nurturing way that helps to guide, rather than instruct. This, coupled with our musician’s beautiful and responsive playing, make the experience not only an educational one, but a relaxing and comforting one,” says Kotses. She then adds: “The classes are so incredibly impactful at the Rescue Mission, that we are thrilled with the opportunity to bring them to the broader public with our partners at OC Music & Dance.”