San Francisco: Drop-In Music Classes
May 23, 2012
Babies and toddlers love music, but finding a music class that fits your little one’s schedule and doesn’t break the bank can be a challenge. I’ve lived in two of the most expensive cities in the country (New York, San Francisco) and braved the real estate market in one, and I was still blown away when I started looking around for a music class for my then six month old.
$350 on a twelve-week music group at a fixed day and time when I knew Astrid would sleep through half of them? I’m all for artists making money and kiddies being exposed to as much music and art as possible, but for that price, I can join the de Young, SFMOMA and the Academy of Science for a whole year. I wasn’t going to wake my baby up from her nap to dash across town because I spent hundreds of dollars so she could listen to “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” I’m an attentive mom who wants the best for her child and all, but homie, please.
Also, we have a piano and both Ramon and I play, so that made it seem even sillier. I could spend that $350 on 20 hours of childcare while I learn all those kids songs myself. Or on a karaoke machine for each of us, and we could get an RV and hit the road, playing small-town fire halls and clubs in Branson. Which is totally going to happen.
So off I went to hunt for drop-in music classes. Turns out it’s almost as hard to find a drop-in music group as it is to find a drop-in nanny: most are a little unreliable and the ones that are reliable are really popular.
As I’ve noted before, the San Francisco Public Library branches do story and music times at many of their branches. I don’t love our local one, but check yours out: if it has a good leader, you’re all set with a weekly class that’s free and reliable.
The best one I’ve found – and it’s good – is Miss Kitty at the Discovery Museum just across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s far for those of us on the south side of the city, but it’s completely reliable (Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10 and 11AM), it’s $5 (in addition to museum admission) and Miss Kitty is great. She’s not cloying or cutesy with the kids, I love her voice, and she takes requests and sings a different set of songs every week. It might seem odd to go to the Discovery Museum to sit inside for half an hour when they have all those outdoor activity spaces, but we like it. We get there in time for music and then go play and have lunch.
Day One in Laurel Heights has a music hour for babies up to a year – very reliable schedule but also crowded, so get there early if you’re going. ($10 for members, $15 for non-members. By the way, I loved Day One, and the membership we bought paid for itself in about two months in discounts on products and classes. They were my rock when Astrid was tiny.)
Phoenix Books in Noe Valley used to host a free one on Wednesday mornings that was always swamped, but the leader, Alison Levy, has moved next door to The Playhouse to lead Tot Rock there (same time: Wednesdays at 11AM). Classes there are $20 for drop-in, which is a bit steep, but I understand that they’re just getting off the ground as a new business. I didn’t love it enough to commit since the song roster seemed to be almost exactly the same every week, but it’s a fall back if we’re at loose ends. (The Playhouse web site is not great and their hours are odd, so it’s hard to confirm or register for their classes: your best bet is to just show up.)
The Jewish Community Center (JCCSF) in Laurel Heights has three music groups on Monday mornings, but like Day One’s, they’re very popular, so you have to get there and get a pass ($14) at least half an hour before the class starts. Since we live on the other side of the city, this has proven prohibitive for us most weeks: getting over there (30 minutes) + the extra lead time (another 30 minutes) + getting back for naptime (again with the 30 minutes) = a lot of schelpping and waiting for a 30-40 minute class. If you live on that side of town, it’s an excellent option: big space and they limit admission, so there’s ample room to sing and dance. (Jacob, who led the JCC and Day One classes has recently relocated, so I can’t speak to the new staff. If you’ve been and have an opinion, shout it out.)
I hope you find a class that suits your schedule and budget to get your groove on! Happy hunting!