Moving Through Music: Tempo Music and Arts Brings Outdoor Rhythm and Sound to Columbia Kids

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Are you always on the hunt for something new, educational, and fun for your kids? I know I am! After an extensive search for some new activities for my two-year-old daughter, I ultimately stumbled across Tempo Music and Arts. Little did I know, this was exactly the type of class my daughter and I needed, as we would soon come to find out. 

Tempo Music and Arts in Columbia, SC

What is Tempo Music and Arts? 

Tempo Music and Arts is an outdoor music and rhythm class for infants and toddlers. In fact, it’s currently the only outdoor children’s music class in Columbia, SC. 

Founded by Kim Donovan in 2020, she revealed that “Tempo grew organically as a result of the COVID pandemic. I wanted to bring music to babies in a smart and safe way. Outdoors. It’s important for child development to have sound and music development at the infant stage. Music play thinks of development as a language. Children learn music the same way they learn a language.” 

Donovan is a University of South Carolina graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Masters in Educational Leadership. Prior to creating Tempo, she pursued a career in music education at the elementary level for 8 years.

Tempo offers two age-appropriate 30-minute classes every Friday at Senate End’s Campus on the outdoor covered deck (formerly the Market Tea Room). The first class is dedicated only to newborns – 2 years old. The second class is for toddlers aged 2 – 4 years old. 

Donovan adds, “In the infant class, the children sit in their parent’s lap, and in the toddler class, the kids are typically standing with their parent and looking at the movement of their feet. There’s lots of movement going on!” 

Each class has a maximum capacity of 10 students, and everyone maintains safe social distancing at 12 feet apart. 

Tempo Music and Arts class in Columbia, outdoors

How do you register for Tempo Music and Arts Class? 

Tempo offers a couple of registration options for the infant and toddler classes, a fall and spring semester membership, as well as an “a la carte” option. All classes follow the University of South Carolina school schedule. The semester membership is valid for 10 weeks (plus 1 free week for any makeup classes) and is offered at a discounted rate of $120. A la carte is a pay-as-you-go, non-committal option for $20 per class. *Please note, if you choose the a la carte route, you must register at least two hours prior to class. 

Music kits, (which the classes provide at no charge) are available to take home for a $10 fee.

Who are the teachers?

Tempo has a partnership with the University of South Carolina that allows for one second-year and one first-year music education graduate student to teach Tempo as part of their practicum. It’s a rotating practicum, so there are different Tempo teachers each year. The same teachers also teach a Saturday indoor infant and indoor toddler Music Play class (identical to Tempo) at the University of South Carolina School of Music each semester. This is a great weekend alternative for those who are unable to join Tempo classes on Friday mornings. 

Julia Turner, a second-year graduate student in the Master of Music Education program at USC, and Ashley Cobb, a first-year graduate student of the same program, both teach the infant and toddler Tempo classes.

“We believe in a child-centered music environment where we allow the children in the class to guide their musical experiences and freely vocalize to make music, says Turner.

She adds, “The class is also very playful and we have a lot of fun! Children are encouraged to use their music kits, which include rhythm sticks, egg shakers, scarves, and scrapers, and they may drum throughout the class. We also incorporate a lot of pretend play to engage students’ imaginations.” 

Tempo teachers

My Tempo Class Experience 

Upon discovering Tempo Music and Arts, I decided to register my two-year-old daughter, Elle, for the toddler class using the a la carte pay option. Our first class, neither of us knew quite what to expect, and I certainly experienced those first-day jitters! I did, however, come prepared with a quilt in tow after reading the Tempo Music and Arts Frequently Asked Questions portion of their website. Aside from that, we brought ourselves and an open mind.

As we united with the rest of the class on the porch, I immediately felt at ease. I grabbed a music kit with mostly blue instruments and joined a small group of four other parents and children on the porch. As I spread out my pink and white quilt for my daughter and me, teachers Julia Turner and Ashley Cobb began class with nothing short of whimsical excitement. 

Turner and Cobb led with a melodic, “Let’s sing hello to Elle…hello, hello, hello,” and proceeded to sing their welcome song to each of the children by name. 

After the welcome, we did some vocal warm-ups as the children and parents loosened up. 

For the first exercise, we grabbed our “steering wheel” (a flat rubber circle) and all jumped to our feet and mimicked “driving” and honking the “horn” in a song-like “beep beep…oh beep beep!” The children and parents marched around as the kids laughed, played, and practiced “steering.”

After we took our “cars” for a spin, we each quickly grabbed a colored scarf from our kits (each of the music kits contain various matching colored instruments). Ours was blue. Turner and Cobb each grabbed their prospective scarves and crumpled them into a ball cradled by their tightly-clenched fists. With a gentle toss and release, they roared “WHOOOO,” and my daughter and I joined in the “WHOOOO” chorus. We do this rhythmic catch and release several times before we moved on to our blue “scrapers” (two hand-sized foam rectangles).

The teachers led everyone in song, “Scrub a dub dub, a scrub a dub dub” as they pretended to scrub the floor with their scrapers. The kids laughed copying their teachers’ movements, and some even ran around the porch improvising their own moves.

“Alright everyone, should we get out our shakers?” Turner enthusiastically asked the class, holding up a plastic egg. We reach into our music kit for our blue egg, and Elle gently shakes it, releasing a rattling sound reminiscent of a maraca.

Tempo Music and Arts class outdoors

After our shaking session, Turner grabbed her set of rhythm sticks (aka drum sticks), hitting them together in a beautiful cadence. This seemed to be a class favorite, as most of the children grabbed their rhythm sticks and moved toward the center of the circle to take their turn on the community drums (*handmade by two undergraduates). My daughter had been waiting for this moment the entire class, pulling her sticks out of her kit, every couple of minutes in fact.

When it was time for drums, my daughter anxiously shuffled toward the drums. “Boom boom bap, boom boom bap,” she proudly tapped her sticks.

And before we knew it, the class was over as quickly as it began. Each of the kids was asked to select an instrument to play for the closing song. Elle chose rhythm sticks.

“Bye-bye Elle…Bye-bye Elle…We’ll see you next time…we’ll see you next time,” Turner and Cobb serenely sang.

Mom Review: Tempo Music & Arts

To my surprise, my daughter absolutely thrived during her first Tempo class. I seriously couldn’t wipe the smile from my face! To watch her dance and strut with such unadulterated enthusiasm was the ultimate gift as her parent. That was it for me, I knew we would be back. And we were…the very next Friday.

What: Tempo Music and Arts
Where: 302 Senate Street Columbia, SC 29201
When: 9:00 – 9:30 am & 9:45 – 10:15 am Friday

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Looking for more classes and activities? Check out The Premier Guide to Classes & Activities for Kids in Columbia, SC!

About the Author
Kelly is a native of Hartsville, SC and lives in West Columbia with her husband, two-year-old daughter, and pets George and Gigi. She is now a stay-at-home mom after a long career in beverage sales at Republic National Distributing Company and Sazerac Company. Kelly is a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and has a degree in print journalism. She’s passionate about her family, writing, shopping, and any and all crime dramas.

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