There is a lady in town who performs folk music for young children daily. Sonia Brooks, The Moozic Lady, drives around Asheville, NC every morning playing music for the youngest members of our city. For nearly 20 years now, Brooks leaves her home in the morning with a guitar in one hand and a bag of rhythm instruments in the other, and heads to her first gig which usually starts around 9:00 a.m. Have you tried singing that early in the morning? Brooks uses her Tap-n-Shake Rhythm Training Program which she developed for preschools, handing out rhythm sticks and then shakers for a lively all inclusive experience. Sometimes it even turns into a dance party!
Inspired by her two daughters when they were young, Brooks began focusing on children’s music, and took her guitar into their preschool. It didn’t take long to add the structure of the rhythm sticks and shakers. After a year of teaching rhythm to young children, she approached other preschools and day cares. That was back in 1994. Very quickly she was dubbed “The Moozic Lady”, as it isn’t easy for very young children to say “music.” Since then, she’s taken only a short three year break while attempting a “normal” job. But teaching folk songs to children is what she loves and what she has chosen for her life work.
Into each classroom she goes on the half hour. The Moozic Lady can be heard up and down the halls for hours as she performs in each and every room. Usually groups consist of between 12 and 25 children, and occasionally up to75! Sonia knows how to hold the attention of young children, and her energy and creativity engage everyone in the room. Tapping sticks allows even the very young child to sit and focus. When the sticks are exchanged for shakers, suddenly children are jumping, stomping and swaying!
First she performs for tiny little ones who have just learned to walk and are just beginning to talk. As soon as the guitar starts playing, the babies freeze and stare. After serenading the babies with songs like This Little Light of Mine, she goes into the toddler room where tiny tots immediately start dancing around and asking for Baby Beluga, and Shake Your Sillies Out, songs by Raffi. After finishing with Twinkle, Twinkle, next she heads down the hall to the three-year- old room where the program begins to take on structure.
After a “hello” song, such as All I Really Need by Raffi, she gives out short six inch rhythm sticks for tapping poems and steady beats. Everyone in the room receives instruments including all teachers and helpers. After tapping out a few rhymes, children tap along with the guitar to folk songs like, The Garden Song if it’s spring or I Love the Mountains if it’s fall. Next she hands out identical cylinder shakers for active songs that include guided movement. Lots of jumping and stomping is encouraged with traditional songs about trains and rivers and cats! While it is a dance party for the toddlers, for the three year olds, music time with The Moozic Lady becomes their first brush with what they perceive as a rock star. Many ask for guitars for Christmas!
Moving on down the hall, the four-year-olds settle into what becomes a campfire sing-a-long atmosphere. They are easier to guide, and follow directions more willingly. Children sit in a circle, or on the big blue rug (every school has one), and tap their rhythm sticks on the rug to make what Brooks calls, “the rug sound.” It usually sounds like rain which is amazing to all. Of course some will say horses or crickets or drums or hammers. Brooks has taught nearly every four-year-old she knows to tap along to Pete Seeger’s, If I Had a Hammer.
Inevitably, a child will start yelling out, Apple, Apple or The Fish Song which are rhymes recited while tapping the rhythm sticks. Then as soon as the sticks are collected, there is usually a chorus of “Train song! Train song!” which is the traditional Get on Board Little Children. Brooks asks them to jump their way through this one, so you can see why they like it! Also they ask for “the cat song” which is the famous Old Grey Cat, that includes pretending to be a cat and a mouse, and also the famous The Cat Came Back. Adding new songs can be tricky, because kids love and need repetition. And they also love lullabies.
The Moozic Lady always finishes with a lullaby at which time all the children are encouraged to “lie down and pretend to sleep.” Usually there is enough room for everyone to lie on the floor. Most children love to hear a song at bedtime. Many ask for “the sleeping song” as soon as she enters the room. Twenty jumping children will suddenly be lying still on the floor, resonating with the lull of picking on the guitar and a simple soothing melody. These days she sings lullabies which she wrote about the love and the light within each of us, or she uses a traditional such as Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, Puff the Magic Dragon or Rainbow Connection. Finally a round of applause, and a quick escape as she dashes out of the room, and down the hall to begin the program all over again in the next room.
Since 1994, she has used traditional music for children, many songs by Raffi, as well as well known American folk songs. Last year The Moozic Lady recorded two original CD’s of her own! After so many years of studying and performing children’s music, she was able to determine exactly what works, and what doesn’t work, and what parents and kids would both enjoy. The new folk songs she has written and recorded are accompanied by guitar, mandolin, piano and harp, and teach self-awareness, self-assurance and self-acceptance. There is even an original folk song in Spanish! Sonia can be found performing these songs on second Saturdays of the month at 11:00 at Grateful Steps Book Shop here in Asheville. Samples of these new original folk songs can be heard at www.soniabrooks.com. Also mp3s can be purchased there through CD Baby.
And The Moozic Lady does birthday parties!
Brooks specializes in creating magic out of chaos at young childrens’ celebrations. Her endless energy and creativity engage everyone in the room. She is able to guide party goers with rhythm sticks and shakers, playing traditional folk songs such as Down by the Bay, and and also her own originals such as River of Love. Brooks is also available for festivals and any events designed for young children and their families.
Sonia Brooks is the creator of Tap-n-Shake, an interactive rhythm training program which enhances development in the young child. She has been traveling around teaching music to children daily here in WNC for 20 years, and is known throughout the area as “The Moozic Lady” (a child’s pronunciation of “music”). In the past, she has spent years collaborating with a puppeteer, was featured as one of the objectives in an early literacy grant for Smart Start, and has taught a great many performances for the local libraries including Native American Drumming and Chanting workshops. She has produced five recordings for children including two new original albums, Add a Little Honey, and You Are the Wings. Visit her at www.tapnshake.com and at www.soniabrooks.com. Or contact at email@example.com, or facebook.com/mooziclady.