Studies show early music education can give kids a major boost in everything from memory capacity to mathematical skills, but these findings also make clear that the under-10 set must do more than just tickle the ivories, they have to have fun doing it! Tap into your little Mozart’s music smarts with lessons at one of these five off-the-beaten-path music instruction outlets where fun and creativity are the priority.

bllom-bars-dcPhoto: Bloombars via Facebook

Think: Drums With a Purpose
Families flock to this homegrown arts collective in vibrant Columbia Heights for the myriad music and arts educational programming, much of it aimed at the youngest of virtuosos. The popular Harambee, now offered three days a week at peak times, including two Saturday morning sessions, is a favorite among littles under six. This is kiddo’s chance to really bang a drum, dance like no one is watching, and shout as loud as they can. Look out, too, for the new Friday afternoon series Music Foundations 101 for pre-schoolers led by an award-winning jazz vocalist. There’s also plenty for older children and adults to love, including family drum circles, “Bollywood” style dance classes, and family yoga.

3222 11th St., N.W. (Columbia Heights)

gigs-allstars-dcPhoto: GIGS

GIGS Gaiser Inside Guitar Studio
Think: Out of the Box and Onto the Stage
Having fun doing something you love is the main philosophy guiding this studio’s approach. Here, young talent is encouraged to choose their own instrument, and even the music they want to learn to play. Music industry veteran and GIGS founder Sean Gaiser, along with his hand-picked staff, make helping kids shine their number one mission. GIGS All-Stars have several unique performance opportunities throughout their tenure, so when they do take the stage they are confident and enjoy showing off their skills. Community partnerships with local businesses and schools expand GIGS reach and performance space opportunities, inlcuding a mixed media event called “Art Rocks” showcasing both visual art and live performances every June.

3762 Howard Ave. (Kensington, Md.)
11011 Baltimore Ave. (Beltsville, Md.)

rock-of-ages-roam-dcPhoto: ROAM via Facebook

Rock of Ages Music (ROAM)
Think: Rock Star in the Making
While many musicians might say performing is “in their blood,” ROAM founder John Patrick (J.P.), who joined his first band as a pre-teen, might actually be able to prove there is music in his veins. By the time he was in high school at Alexandria’s TC Williams, he was playing in a band, and eventually made four albums and toured across the country with sold-out shows. It is with this firsthand knowledge of the music industry and a passion for teaching that J.P. and his crew of similarly experienced instructors, approach their students instructional needs. From piano and violin to guitar and ukelele, ROAM has an instructor to engage every little music maker’s interest. Your junior jammer wants to be a real rock star? Try ROAM’s Rock School where students are teamed to form a band and practice two hours a week, with a live performance at the end of each semester.

114 Del Ray Ave. (Alexandria, Va.)

marimbaPhoto: Bill Ward via Flickr

Sticks and Bars
Think: Music that Makes the Heart Sing
As founder and director of this marimba ensemble, Premila Mistry doesn’t just talk about a holistic approach to teaching young musicians, she exudes it. Drawing from all over the D.C. area, Sticks and Bars marimba masters aged 10 to 17 rehearse an hour and a half weekly as they develop a discipline enhanced by the Orff style of music instruction. Through lively performance on this deceptively simple instrument, the students seem to dance atop their instruments from small to large, as they engage audiences and bring out the depths of sound for all to enjoy. Making music accessible to children, an emphasis on the natural response we all have to music is key to Sticks and Bars success. Mistry also finds involvement of children in a music experience as early as possible is important, although it depends on the individual child, and the level of commitment to continuing to master an instrument. Get a preview of Sticks and Bars at Columbia Heights Farmers Market, November 7 at 11 am.

3333 14th St. NW

wshington-revels-dcPhoto: Washington Revels via Facebook

Washington Revels
Think: Creative and Classical Fun
Either watching or choosing to join in on a Washington Revels sing-along means becoming a part of a music and arts phenomenon in the D.C. area. Probably best known for their holiday performances as well as a May Day celebration at Rockville’s Strathmore, this mostly volunteer-run community group’s programming offers a broader view of the Revels experience through choral opportunities for all age groups, as well as a new twist on after-school activities. Depending on the age group, on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays Revels 90 minute after school workshops meet to dance, sing and play. A performance by workshop participants at the end of each semester is always a highlight. Bonus for parents: Before care is offered with pick up from Sligo Creek Elementary or Silver Spring International Middle School.

531 Dale Dr. (Silver Spring, Md)

Has your kid tried any of these lessons? Tell us about the experience in the comments section below. 

—Carolyn Ross