by Paula M. Riley
Healing comes in all different forms. Tammy Keorkunian, founder/director of Children’s Music Express, (www.childrensmusicexpress.com) found this comfort in music, yoga, and meditation.
A child born to a homeless family, Keorkunian spent her first five years of life never knowing where she would be sleeping or eating. When her extended family finally took her, her mother and siblings in, Keorkunian spent most of her time with senile relatives. As a result of this chaotic life, she developed anxiety and depression.
When she was 21 years old, she picked up her friend’s guitar and learned some guitar chords.
“I was pretty fluent within just a few hours,” Keorkunian said. ““I knew I had a gift for music and singing, but growing up I didn’t have support to explore that.”
Her passion for music grew, and later she discovered the power of yoga and meditation. As she developed her musical skills, wrote many songs and pursued her college degree, she felt the healing power of music, yoga and meditation. Keorkunian wanted others to know this healing power and especially wanted to give children what she never had as a child – a creative outlet.
Today Children’s Music Express, provides music, movement, yoga and meditation classes and workshops for teachers, families and children and their caregivers, as well as children with autism, different abilities and special needs. Classes and workshops are designed to promote learning through creative expression and interactive activities.
Keorkunian first started teaching children’s music and movement classes at Little People’s Music in Chestnut Hill. She worked with local children and their caregivers for more than six years and developed a strong presence in the community. When Little People’s Music stopped offering classes, Keorkunian decided to develop her own program. In 2006 she rented space in Huntington Valley to host classes and birthday parties, created the teacher-training program and, later, cut her first CD.
During this time Keorkunian was pursuing a master’s degree in Applied Meditation Studies from Won Institute of Graduate Studies in Glenside and earned her 200-hour yoga teacher certification from Yoga on Main. She was thrilled to incorporate these practices into her children’s programs.
“Finding yoga and meditation was life transforming for me,” she said. “Once I knew the nature and patterns of my mind, the anxiety and depression fell away. I want to share this practice with others.”
For Keorkunian, yoga is a lifestyle and only a small part of it is the physical practice known as “asana” she explained. This asana practice was traditionally meant to prepare people to sit for long periods of time in meditation.
Children’s Music Express teaches children yoga and meditation as well as music and movement at locations in Chestnut Hill, Abington and Doylestown. It also offers birthday parties, special programs and teacher trainings. The music/yoga program includes three specific offerings. Music classes include multiple parent/child classes for children from infants to five years old. (Classes are separated by age ranges).
Families love the Music Monkeys, birth-4, mixed ages class. Music Lions, ages 3-5, is held Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill.
Other classes are designed for differently-abled children, ages 3-12. Musical classes are 45-minutes, once a week, and include various styles of music, singing, dancing, large and small movement activities, chanting and more.
The Yoga Music Fusion for 3-5 year olds is a great introduction to yoga with music woven into the program. Through play and repetition, children learn yoga postures, enjoy music and learn about pitch, rhythm and other musical elements. It is designed to be the perfect sampling of yoga and the musical pieces.
Yoga/Meditation class uses music to teach the yoga. This is a more inviting experience to yoga and focuses on the physical practice of yoga, as well as the meditation. Designed for children 3 to 12 years old, the classes include journaling, arts/crafts, and games that foster leadership, team building and a sense of community.
Kelly Guller, of Lafayette Hill, recently joined Children’s Music Express with her youngest daughter. Guller, who has four children, took her oldest son to Keorkunian’s Music Monkey’s classes when she taught at Little People’s Music.
“Tammy’s spirit and enthusiasm kept us coming back for many sessions,” said Guller. “I truly believe she sparked an interest in my son that is still there today, 12 years later. He continues to take music lessons, and I have no doubt music will always be a special part of his life. It all began with Tammy.”
Customers also appreciate the community feeling Keorkunian works to create in her classes. She calls it a “tribal feel,” as she wants all the families to feel good and comfortable together. She and her teachers work to create a space where families can be comfortable expressing themselves. By creating a balance of engagement, everyone’s participation is important and is encouraging to other children.
Keorkunian wants to achieve that tribal feeling of a village coming together, supporting each other and embracing their true gifts, talents and abilities. She wants everyone to have an opportunity to express themselves, enjoy music and learn the healing impact of music, yoga and meditation. She is motivated by more than this though.
“What drives me is that little girl who was homeless,” Keorkunian said. “All children deserve access to these types of programs.”