Aaron Bertram strode to the front of a classroom at Patti’s Preschool in Huntington Beach on Friday morning and asked 10 students to sit in a circle, where they would indulge in musical activities for the next half hour.
Right before they filled their bellies with lunch, the children filled their ears with the sounds of their impersonations of exotic animals, like lions and elephants, and kid-friendly music.
Bertram smiled as he led the kids in dance and song, something that he does regularly with audiences when he plays trumpet for Huntington Beach ska band Suburban Legends.
Inspired by his efforts with the band, Bertram, along with his wife Rachel Charest-Bertram, founded the Little Rockstars music and movement class in 2006 because he felt music was an important part of child development.
“I think it’s important that kids, at least preschoolers, be exposed to not just singing and dancing, but the actual instruments and the mechanics of the instruments,” Bertram said. “If they understand how it makes music, they respect it more and maybe will want to pursue it.”
Charest-Bertram said being a professional musician gave a teacher a special understanding in leading a music class.
“It’s a perfect job for a performer because it gives you that freedom,” she said. “It’s great to teach kids during the day and then have time to perform on stage at night.”
Now in its seventh semester, Little Rockstars began classes at various preschools around Orange County this week.
Little Rockstars travels to preschools in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo and elsewhere.
Because schools may not have the funds to support the music program, Little Rockstars is offered as an option to students. Parents can opt to enroll their children in the Little Rockstars class at an additional charge to tuition. Only students enrolled in those preschools are eligible for Little Rockstars.
The class, which is taught to kids ranging in age from two to eight, is comprised of different eight-week units that focus on topics like animals, travel and transportation.
“Kids like to sort of jump into a world,” Bertram said. “So, if we can offer a themed structure to the class, it helps them get in the mood and into an imagination realm.”
For the “Around the World” unit, Little Rockstars teaches its students about different languages and cultures.
“Students can learn traditional songs from various countries,” Charest-Bertram said. “We like to incorporate countries we’ve visited ourselves and teach the kids songs that other kids from around the world are learning.”
Prior to the creation of Little Rockstars, Bertram and Charest-Bertram both had experience working in preschools. Combining that knowledge with their drama degrees from UC Irvine, the couple’s school is interactive and theatrical. Students dance, perform “magic” and play instruments, for example.
They also have a musical group, Kids Imagine Nation, that regularly performs at corporate family events, fairs and birthday parties. In August, the group performed 30 shows around Orange County, with three performances in one day at times.
"[Kids Imagine Nation] organically turned into this show that kids and their families enjoy,” Bertram said.
For more information about Little Rockstars, visit https://www.littlerockstars.net.