With five kids under the age of six between them, friends Allison Meador and Alex Williams are always on the lookout for fun activities for their children to participate in.
One day, the two began talking about what business they could bring to the Frederick/Urbana area that was young family friendly. That night, Meador was scrolling through her Facebook feed before bed and found an advertisement for Songs for Seeds, a musical program open to children ages birth to six.
Founded in 2009 by the owners of a New York City children’s play space, the program features a weekly 45-minute class led by a three-piece live band of musicians who also serve as teachers. The program has franchises in nine states including New Jersey, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida. In early June, Meador and Williams opened the program’s first franchise in Maryland at 3558 Worthington Boulevard in Urbana.
The songs, played on guitar, keys and drums, include ones written for Songs for Seeds by Mr. Ray, a children’s composer. Each song focuses on early education such as colors, animal sounds and shapes. Each week they also play a couple of different child-appropriate Top 40 hits including Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”
The audition process to find their musicians took awhile. “Not only are you looking for talented musicians that can perform live and are good at what they do but they have that passion for working with children,” Williams said. “When we were auditioning people, the first question was ‘Why do you want to work with kids?’ Obviously, it is one thing to be able to perform at bars at night but it is another thing being able to captivate an audience of kids.”
Out of the three selected, one is a teacher at a local music school and plays in a band while the other two have worship leader backgrounds.
During one segment of the class, kids get mini instruments and play along with the band. Each week also features a different nursery rhyme. “The class is structured in a way that every week you see the same nine segments, but the content is different,” Williams said.
While there are other music programs for young children in the area, the pair believe Songs for Seeds is different because of the live band. “You have that exposure to live music which a lot of kids don’t get until later in life, if ever,” Williams said. “Not only are they watching the live musicians but at the end of class we always invite them up to play with the instruments. They can touch and feel them and play with them. The drums are always a huge hit because you know kids just love to hit them as hard as they can and make a ton of noise.”
Meador works in property management and Williams assists in the office one day a week. The two met several years ago when they both worked full time in the industry. “We hit it off immediately,” Meador said.
The program has a monthly fee and families sign up for once-a-week classes. If families miss a class, a makeup class is offered at another time. There are 100 weeks of curriculum. “For two years, you are getting a different class every single week,” Meador said.
Williams’ children are ages 2, 4 and 6. Before Songs for Seeds, she would be able to take her two older kids to a class but had to sit back and figure out how to entertain her youngest. Kids are not separated by age at Songs for Seeds.
“It is refreshing to have a class where you can take kids birth to 6 because then you don’t have to worry about leaving anyone out or trying to entertain the one while the other ones are playing or learning,” she said. “… What a 2-year-old is going to get out of class is going to be different than what a 4-year-old gets. My 2-year-old loves the beat. He loves to play the instruments and he just feels the music and is visually stimulated. Whereas my 4-year-old is actually learning.”
After two weeks of classes, Williams notes her son was at the dinner table singing some of the songs, including one that teaches the children how to say hello in different languages.
“There is no way I would have been able to teach (my son) that on my own,” she said.