Mission Hills Native Shares Gift of Music

| April 3, 2012 | 0 Comments

by Denise Montgomery

Anna Robitaille gestures with a seahorse puppet while singing an ocean-themed song. Enthusiastic toddlers follow her lead, singing and waving seahorse finger puppets while sitting in parents’ and nannies’ laps. She tells the kids they will get to dance under a large blue parachute, which they will pretend is the ocean, and the children jump and cheer with excitement. It’s a typical scene at an infant and toddler music class at Mission Hills Music.

Robitaille, who grew up in Mission Hills, opened Mission Hills Music in 2009 to fill a need she saw in the community. “Dance was being offered, but not music classes. I also had greater appreciation than ever for the importance of music for young children, since my daughter was one year old at the time,” says Robitaille. “Music supports language development and has a huge number of other benefits from cognitive development to socializing with other kids and mastering instruments.”

The energetic Robitaille is attuned to her small students throughout the class, continuing an activity if they are particularly engaged, and introducing new instruments, songs and movement at a pace in sync with the kids’ interest level.

A floor-to-ceiling closet hold hundreds of musical instruments used in class, from gongs to ukuleles to guiros, a Latin-American percussion instrument. The large African drums are a favorite among students. Robitaille teaches everything from classical music to world music and children’s music. “The goal is to expose the children to a wide range of styles and help them discover what they enjoy,” she says.

A mother and daughter share a joyful experience during the music class.

Cinthia Buccigross of Mission Hills has been bringing her daughter to the toddler class for two years. “I really appreciate the thought Anna puts into planning the classes, and that she always gives us suggestions of things to do at home,” says Buccigross.

In addition to the Tuesday and Wednesday morning infant and toddler classes, Robitaille teaches private and group piano and keyboard lessons. The school also offers guitar, flute, clarinet, and voice lessons with other music professionals.

Robitaille, who is classically trained and holds a BA in Music, believes in a strong foundation of music fundamentals. Her piano and keyboard students learn to read music as well as music theory. Originally a math major in college, she sees a link between the mathematical nature of music and music theory, which she incorporates into each class, at all ages.

“For the youngest children, I demonstrate rhythm and teach basic terms such as ‘forte’ and ‘piano.’ The older students learn about the form and structure of compositions,” she says.

Recitals held twice a year give instrument and voice students a goal to work toward, help build their confidence through public performance, and often help them learn resiliency. Robitialle teaches her students to recover and keep playing if they make an error during a performance, an experience that can be as meaningful as the opportunity to showcase their abilities.

Students also get to hear each other and their teachers play. Often a student will be motivated by hearing a new piece of music and say “I want to learn to play that!”

Music festivals and competitions are optional for everyone from beginning to advanced students. During the Sonata Competition at San Diego State University in December 2011, a seven-year-old who has been studying with Robitaille for a year-and-a-half was a finalist, much to his delight.

At the end of the day Robitaille packs a crate full of musical instruments for activities she will lead at a birthday party in Pioneer Park over the weekend. There, the kids will decorate and play maracas. “I love what I do, and I love being in this neighborhood,” she says, smiling.

For information, call (619) 293-3232 or visit missionhillsmusic@ymail.com. Mission Hills Music is located at 930 W. Washington Street, Suite 9.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Local News

About the Author ()

General articles by the Presidio Sentinel and Associated Partners.