Singer-songwriter helps preschoolers grow in “Little Rockstars” class

Bishop teaches her student, Gabriella, how to strum the guitar. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)
Singer-songwriter Holly Bishop teaches her student, Gabriella, how to strum the guitar. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH – Twenty-two-month-old Erika Ignacio bounced around the Kempsville Library meeting room, laughing and squealing as she played with her mom and other children.  The toddler wasn’t always this interactive, said her mother, Colleen.

Erika was born prematurely at 27 weeks, resulting in some developmental delays. At six months, she still had trouble focusing her eyes and sitting up. That’s about when Colleen began taking her to Holly Bishop’s “Little Rockstars” class once or twice a week.

“With the things that Ms. Holly has taught us, me and my husband, how to play with her, how to do music, how to do activities, and just interacting with the different families and children, it’s really had her blossoming,” Colleen Ignacio said.

Erika chooses her instrument and toy for the day. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)
Erika chooses her instrument and toy for the day. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)

Bishop started teaching music lessons in the area in 2005. In 2012, she turned it into a full-fledged business. She started the program in the summer at the Farmer’s Market with about two classes every Saturday.

“That summer it just went ‘poof,'” Bishop said, gesturing with her hands to show the rise in popularity. “And I had to add two more, and it was crazy.”

Her weekly classes — there is one in Virginia Beach and one in Norfolk — are structured to get the children and their parents, grandparents or caretakers up and moving.

“It’s a workout,” joked Sharron Lane, who attends weekly with her 3-year-old granddaughter, Addison.

Bishop sits down with some members of her class while they play with the toys and instruments. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)
Bishop sits down with her class while they play with toys and instruments. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)

Bishop begins each class, guitar in hand, with everyone gathered around her. The group welcomes each child.

“Welcome Addison to music class,” Bishop sings.

Many of the songs they perform are written and produced by Bishop. Almost all involve a pattern of motion that everyone gets to participate in.

“The more movement you incorporate into music the more it helps them with their neurological development,” Bishop said. “I really wanted to do what I could to create products that could be used not only in my class, but can be used all over.”

Bishop is a part of the singer-songwriting duo Mountaintide. She and Jim Newsom released their first album “Dancing in the Sun,” in June, and a children’s album, “Away We Go,” in November. Eight of the 12 songs on “Away We Go” involve movement, which is something Bishop said she noticed missing in other songs.

Brendan tries to play alongside with Bishop. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)
Brendan tries to play alongside with Bishop. (Kelly Kultys/Southside Daily)

“When I was trying to find movement songs to use in class — there’s stuff out there, but it’s not very good and I get tired of doing the same thing over and over and over again,” she said.

About half-way through the hour-long class, Bishop gives the kids a break and lets them play with toys, including a xylophone, cymbals and maracas. The children let loose for a few minutes, and Bishop brings out the guitar again for a few closing songs, including the Hokey Pokey.

The classes are $7 each, or $40 for an eight-class card. Just like each session begins with a welcome, each one ends with a farewell.

“Goodbye friends to music class, goodbye friends,” Bishop sings with her dancing students. “Goodbye friends.”

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