Old Town’s Wiggleworms program celebrates 25 years of early childhood music education

This month, the Wiggleworms early music learning program at the Old Town School of Folk Music celebrates its 25th birthday. The program, which is designed to spark musical interest and talent in kids up to age 5, hits the quarter-century mark with more than 2,000 students are enrolled at seven different locations this year.

There’s a Wiggleworms class for every age, starting with the Lullabies class, where parents sing soft music and gently rock their newborn-to-5-month-olds. At 6 months, babies move on to the actual Wiggleworms program where they sing and dance around the classroom or try out musical instruments especially designed for tiny hands. At age 3, kids graduate into the Wigglegrads program, where their music learning continues with more concepts and a wider variety of instruments.

Carol Weston was only the second Wiggleworms teacher when she joined the staff in 1986. “It just started to grow, and we started offering classes three days a week,” she says. “We started with five or six kids in a class.”

Now Wiggleworms has 37 teachers and up to 12 tykes in each class. Julie Helenius has been teaching for 17 years and says music is an important part of a child’s development. “Parents are exposing their child to live music and it really makes a difference in their growth,” she says.

At least one Chicago mom agrees. Alba Salgado ‘s 11-year-old daughter started in the program as a baby. “It’s a good challenge,” Salgado says. “Now she plays guitar, piano, bass and drums.”

The concert is Nov. 20 at the Old Town School in Lincoln Square. Visit our event listing for more information on the concert, the Wiggleworms program and registering for classes.

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