Internationally-acclaimed musician, composer, and child educator Oran Etkin is no stranger to the New York music scene, for kids or adults. (He frequently performs here and abroad, and since 2005, he’s been introducing young New Yorkers to music of all genres and cultures with his unique Timbalooloo program.) Now, after a dozen years of going where classes were requested, Timbalooloo is opening its first brick-and-mortar location. And it’s having a party to celebrate! Read on for the scoop!

photo: Timbalooloo

Downtown Roots
Etkin developed the Timbalooloo program while teaching at schools in Tribeca and the West Village, and so establishing an HQ in the downtown area felt like the right choice. (When not teaching in the classroom, Etkin lead Timbalooloo sessions, booked largely through community word of mouth, in private homes and building common spaces.)

The Timbalooloo empire now includes CDs, workshops, international concerts, and four Timbalooloo-certified teachers, all trained by Etkin. (He also keeps busy touring and performing for adult audiences, solo and with others.) The SoHo location will host classes for kids ages four months to nine years old, as well as some parent/child classes.

photo: Timbalooloo

What’s a Timbalooloo Anyway?
Not surprisingly, a three-year-old came up with the name of program; Etkin theorizes he might have been combining the names of Tito Puente, about whom he was learning that day. Regardless, it stuck.

The idea at the heart of the Timbalooloo curriculum is that the instruments come alive and “talk” to the kids, via various rhythms, sounds, etc. Etkin utilizes instruments from many cultures, and music of all styles, and introduces kids to a wide selection of great musical masters ranging from George Gershwin to Herbie Hancock to Tito Puente.

While Timbalooloo classes all have a specific goal (learning a certain rhythm or becoming familiar with a style, for example), they’re designed to be intuitive and communicate concepts in non-didactic ways. It’s less about terminology and labels, and more about absorbing the vocabulary of music through experience. (Think: understanding quarter time through a waltz-like dance, or learning an Indonesian scale through a fun call and response.)

The Space
Located at 131 Varick Street, Timbalooloo SoHo will host the full complement of the program’s classes, many of which will be led by Etkin himself.

Etkin looked for a suitable space for a year-and-a-half, and wants kids to feel comfortable from the moment they walk in. With various instruments displayed throughout the space at eye level,  kids are encourage to explore and interact with them.


photo: Timbalooloo

For Older Kids
Timbalooloo also has some uncommon offerings for older kids, including parent-child African drumming and its popular “Growing Glockenspiels” class, in which kids gradually accumulate notes for their instruments, while also learning how to write music.

Grand Opening Concert & More Ways to Timbalooloo
Want to see Timbalooloo in action? A great way to check it out is at the Grand Opening concert on January 13 at nearby City Winery. After the concert, at 12:30 p.m., Etkin will lead a parade to Timbalooloo SoHo for a ribbon cutting.

Etkin also hosts a family-friendly “duo” concert series at Williamsburg venue National Sawdust in which he performs with another musician. The next one is January 20.

Timbalooloo Grand Opening Concert
Sat., Jan. 13; doors: 10 a.m., concert, 11 a.m.
Tickets: $10/adults; $5/kids
City Winery
155 Varick St.

Monthly Timbalooloo Duo Series at National Sawdust
80 N. 6th St.
National Sawdust
80 N. 6th St.

Timbalooloo SoHo
131 Varick St., Suite #935

Has your family taken a Timbalooloo class? Tell us about it in the comments!

— Mimi O’Connor