Introducing Smart Start

The Pasadena Conservatory of Music is incorporating the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Smart Start program into our Young Musicians Department. Smart Start is a new, transformative program created by RCM’s Neuroscience Research Centre in collaboration with expert music educators that uses music to develop cognitive skills. Tailored specifically to the developmental stages for children ages 0–3, the program’s curriculum consists of age-targeted, weekly classes delivered by one of PCM’s certified Smart Start instructors.

Smart Start Develops Four Key Cognitive Skills

Smart Start classes strengthen the following key skills by guiding children through an intentional, hands-on sequence of songs and activities with highly trained teachers.

Attention — How we concentrate on a mental or physical item.

Memory — How we store and recall things in the mind.

Perception — How we make sense of the world.

Cognitive Flexibility — How we adapt, innovate, and create.

Research shows that cognitive skills can be developed from a very early age, and that music is one of the very best ways to help develop these skills.

The Scientific Link

The cognitive skills activated and developed through the Smart Start program—attention, memory, perception, and cognitive flexibility—help children in activities as varied as reading, planning, games, socialization, and of course, music.

A study in the peer-reviewed journal Music Perception showed that children who participated in Smart Start demonstrated increases in vocabulary size, pre-reading abilities, and singing ability after their first year.

Smart Start is a program that uses music to develop cognitive skills. Smart Start classes are comparable to current YM classes in that the program’s curriculum consists of similar, age-targeted, weekly classes delivered by one of PCM’s fantastic, certified Smart Start instructors.

The program differs in that the music and activities of each class are designed to develop specific cognitive skills in the young child. Resources provided through the Smart Start parent portal help guide and support the parents’ understanding of their child’s musical and cognitive development.

The parent portal provides digital access to RCM’s Smart Start Resources. The $60 annual fee replaces the previous YM materials fee.

The materials fee for regular YM 4, 5, and 6 classes continues until those levels of Smart Start are phased in.

Cognitive skills are the basic mental abilities that support us in our everyday activities. Skills such as attention, memory, perception, and cognitive flexibility are crucial for activities as varied as reading, mathematics, planning, games, and socialization.

Research shows that cognitive skills can be developed from a very early age, and that music is one of the very best ways to help develop these skills. Children who learn these skills do better in every sphere of their lives, and starting early is associated with better cognitive skills.

Developing cognitive skills is a natural part of music education. In a class, a child might be remembering a new song, paying attention to the teacher, and switching between tapping to the beat and clapping the rhythm. This kind of activity is just one of the many ways that our teachers help to develop your child’s cognitive skills as well as musical skills.

Our Smart Start teachers understand that young children learn best when they are engaged by an activity. They are highly skilled in using a great variety of teaching strategies, including stories, play, and games. And don’t forget, children naturally enjoy both mental and physical activity. From memory games to creative play, cognitive skill development through music will be more fun than work.

Research plays an important role in the development, evaluation, and continuation of Smart Start classes. The curriculum is based on current neuroscientific research into the role of music education on cognitive development. Our teachers receive training in this research, and we continue to refine our curriculum based on it.

Great! We can’t wait to meet you! You can register for classes online, call us at 626-683-3355, or email us at music@pasadenaconservatory.org.

For the upcoming school year, during construction of PCM’s new Learning Center and Courtyard, all Smart Start and Young Musicians classes will be held in spacious classrooms on PCM’s satellite campus (directly across the street from the main campus, on the grounds of Hill Avenue Grace Lutheran Church). The satellite campus is self-contained, will be fully staffed, and provides ample parking.

For the 2023–2024 school year, there will be no need to cross the street to visit the main campus for Smart Start or Young Musicians.

Of course you are always welcome to visit the main campus – but please use the crosswalk at either Colorado Blvd. or Walnut St. if you are coming from across the street. 

The Young Musicians Tree

A comprehensive plan for your child’s musical growth

Tree illustration

2023–2024 Schedule

August 29, 2023 – June 1, 2024
Annual Tuition: $1008
Material fee: $30–$60

  • Smart Start Infants

  • Smart Start 1

    Saturdays
    10:15 am
    Sharon Weed

    More Info & Register

  • Smart Start 2

    Thursdays
    10:15 am
    Sharon Weed

    Saturdays
    11:00 am
    Sharon Weed

    More Info & Register

  • Smart Start 3

    Tuesdays
    11:00 am
    Sharon Weed

    Saturdays
    9:15 am
    Sharon Weed

    Saturdays
    11:00 am
    Mary Alonso

    More Info & Register

  • YM 4

    Thursdays
    11:00 am
    Sharon Weed

    Thursdays
    3:00 pm
    Rachael Denny

    Saturdays
    9:00 am
    Mary Alonso

    Saturdays
    10:00am
    Mary Alonso

    More Info & Register

  • YM 5

    Thursdays
    4:00 pm
    Rachael Denny

    More Info & Register

  • YM Jazz

    Saturdays
    10:00 am
    Sherry Luchette

    More Info & Register

  • Bridge to Piano I

    Tuesdays
    4:00 pm
    Rachael Denny and Steve Cook

    Saturdays
    9:00 am
    Rachael Denny and Renee Gilormini

    Saturdays
    10:00 am
    Rachael Denny and Renee Gilormini

    More Info & Register

  • Bridge to Piano II

    Saturdays
    11:00 am
    Rachael Denny and Renee Gilormini

    More Info & Register

  • Bridge to Strings

    Mondays
    4:00 pm
    Rachael Denny and Natalie Brejcha

    More Info & Register

  • Bridge to Winds

    Tuesdays
    5:00 pm
    Rachael Denny

    More Info & Register

Class Descriptions

Begin making lifelong connections with music and developing the foundations for basic cognitive skills through fun parent-child activities.

The positive atmosphere of this class helps foster lifelong connections with music, builds strong parent-child emotional bonds, and develops the foundation for basic cognitive skills including attention, memory, perception, and cognitive flexibility. Through Smart Start’s neuroscience-based curriculum, you and your child will learn about the fundamentals of music by moving your bodies, singing, and playing. In every class session, you will learn multicultural songs and games with particular attention paid to beat, rhythm, and listening skills. You’ll also receive access to the parent portal which includes downloadable activities to try at home, curated articles and content on childhood development, and updates on your child’s growth throughout the course.

A care provider accompanies their child for all classes for this course.

Enrollment is for the entire school year. Annual tuition includes 36 weeks of instruction.

Expand your child’s musical skills through movement, and further develop cognitive skills in fun and engaging ways.

The positive atmosphere of this class helps foster lifelong connections with music, builds strong parent-child emotional bonds, and develops the foundation for basic cognitive skills including attention, memory, perception, and cognitive flexibility. Through Smart Start’s neuroscience-based curriculum, you and your child will learn about the fundamentals of music by moving your bodies, singing, and playing. In every class session, you will learn multicultural songs and games with particular attention paid to beat, rhythm, and listening skills. You’ll also receive access to the parent portal which includes downloadable activities to try at home, curated articles and content on childhood development, and updates on your child’s growth throughout the course.

A care provider accompanies their child for all classes for this course.

Enrollment is for the entire school year. Annual tuition includes 36 weeks of instruction.

Develop your child’s musical abilities through more independent activities and expand cognitive skills through creativity and self-awareness.

Set your child on the right path by engaging them in multicultural music, movement-based play, and neuroscience-based learning. This class focuses on cognitive skills relevant to music, such as sustaining attention, remembering songs, and recognizing perceptual cues as well as developing gross motor function in toddlers by encouraging them to move their bodies in time to sounds and music. Children will also practice listening and singing, playing simple instruments like maracas and drums, and taking turns, leading to musical competence, confidence, a sense of belonging, and increased social skills. You and your child will participate actively in the class, while you support the development of your child’s musical creativity and build further skills for musical interaction together. You’ll also receive access to the parent portal which includes downloadable activities to try at home, curated articles and content on childhood development, and updates on your child’s growth throughout the course.

A care provider accompanies their child for all classes for this course.

Enrollment is for the entire school year. Annual tuition includes 36 weeks of instruction.

Singing, dancing, playing games – children adore this active, play-based learning environment.

This neuroscience-based class supports the growth of your child’s cognitive skills through activities such as recognizing musical patterns, focusing on the most important aspects of music, and understanding connections across artistic representations. Your child will learn foundational musical skills such as tempo, meter, pitch, and volume, and play a wider variety of percussion instruments. They’ll also play with picture-based pre-notation and collaborate in musical activities with other children designed to foster basic musical knowledge and encourage individual and group creativity. You’ll also receive access to the parent portal which includes downloadable activities to try at home, curated articles and content on childhood development, and updates on your child’s growth throughout the course.

A care provider accompanies each child in Smart Start™ (3 Years) for the first few sessions only.

Enrollment is for the entire school year. Annual tuition includes 36 weeks of instruction.

YM 4 classes engage children in activities that strengthen their emerging understanding of music as a language. Children learn to recognize melodic and rhythmic patterns through singing, chanting, dancing, and creating. Students will have opportunities to play a wide variety of pitched and unpitched percussion instruments.

Enrollment is for the entire school year. Annual tuition includes 36 weeks of instruction.

Singing, rhyming, creative movement, and folk dancing complement the beginnings of rhythmic notation and identifying melodic patterns. In YM 5, ensemble training and creative improvisation begins as children sing and play together using a wide variety of pitched and unpitched percussion instruments. Performing for an audience is also introduced.

Enrollment is for the entire school year. Annual tuition includes 36 weeks of instruction.

Teacher and author of The Flying Jazz Kittens, Sherry Luchette, will engage students in learning music through the medium of Jazz. Featuring movement, play, listening, improvisation, and instrumental play, students will learn musical foundations, history, and love of America’s native musical style.

In Piano Bridge 1, students will have the opportunity to both experience making music through PCM’s YM 5 and 6 curriculum and to learn the fundamentals of piano. Students will sing, move, and play and use their musical knowledge as they learn about the piano keyboard, rhythm and melody reading, and playing along together. Students who take this course as 5–6 year olds will be better prepared to begin piano lessons in the piano department the following school year.

Enrollment is for the entire school year. Annual tuition includes 36 weeks of instruction.

For students ages 6–8, Piano Bridge 2 follows the same curriculum as Piano Bridge 1, but allows for older children to proceed at a faster pace as their developmental skills allow. This class is an excellent first step to piano lessons in a less strenuous practice setting.

Enrollment is for the entire school year. Annual tuition includes 36 weeks of instruction.

Students under age 6 enrolled in violin, viola, cello, or bass and their parents will gain group class experience while reinforcing foundational musical skills in this class. Parents have the opportunity to engage with one another and be guided by strings department faculty Natalie Brejcha and Sherry Luchette as they begin their journeys as Suzuki practice partners.

*For students currently enrolled in private lessons at PCM

This class is for young singers, who want to learn longer and more complex songs, with an emphasis on healthy singing, pitch matching, solfege and music literacy, and group singing.   This playful and engaging class will also feature folk songs from around the world, movement, and dramatic play.  Young singers will perform unison, canon, and simple choral arrangements in concert twice each year.

Using recorders, students will develop their music literacy and foundational skills to make a smooth transition into woodwind or brass lessons. The class will feature opportunities to hear, hold and explore the instruments of the woodwind and brass families, in addition to using percussion instruments for accompaniment and rhythmic proficiency. Students will perform in ensemble twice each year.

Students build instruments using household items, recycling materials, and found objects to create their own beats. This class is an opportunity for students to improve their rhythmic skills while having fun. Ages 4 – 6.

Jazz Kittens includes singing, movement, instruments, and storytelling with Sherry Luchette, author of The Flying Jazz Kittens. She introduces students to swing time, blues form, and great jazz music from all eras.

Age 5–8. No prior experience required.

Register here

Join percussion teacher, Dr. Yuri Inoo, for her rhythmic jam! Wake up your inner desire to bang and groove with friends. Students learn to improve time, rhythm, and ensemble-playing skills while drumming on buckets of all sizes. No prior drum experience required. Age 7 – 10.

Information for New Families

Placement

The placement in a class is based on the child’s age as of September 1st. Enrollment for the entire school year is required.

Parents Attend

In the class levels Smart Start Infants through YM 5, a parent or caregiver must attend class with the child. Parents learn how children develop musically and how to encourage musical experiences at home to enhance and reinforce what is learned in class.

Resources

The Young Musicians Handbook

A guide to getting the most out of the Young Musicians program.

Download a pdf version.

Young Musician Handbook brochure

Playlist

PCM faculty perform favorite songs from the Young Musicians curriculum.

A Ram Sam Sam

Aiken Drum

Hop Ol' Squirrel

The Old Grey Cat

Fiddle-i-Fee

Hickory Dickory Dock

My Hat, It Has Three Corners

Naughty Kitty Cat

Over the River

Over in the Meadow