Babies and Natalie Weiss get down to the business of beats at the Baby DJ School. Photos by Jonathan Alpeyrie
BY STEFANIE IRIS WEISS | Natalie Weiss (no relation to this writer), the founder of Brooklyn’s Baby DJ School, the first school of its kind, knows something about music, babies and brain development: Her mother is a jazz musician, audio engineer and piano teacher who studied pediatric neurology at the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia.
Weiss’s own long list of credentials — she is a composer, a fellow with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, a performance artist, a playwright, an acclaimed DJ and an alternative arts educator — are just some of what she brings to Baby DJ School. In addition to a mega-dose of Weiss’s raw, unbridled enthusiasm, the babies in her charge are getting an invaluable early music education. But this is definitely not just another round of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” — and that’s just one of the reasons it’s gotten national attention.
All the coverage of Baby DJ School as a hipster fad in twee Brooklyn — specifically Crown Heights, Park Slope and Williamsburg — might lead one to believe that this Mommy (or Daddy) and Me class is just fodder for yet another trend piece. Sure, some parents are probably intrigued by how cool their progeny look in headphones, but the hand-eye coordination and other neurological benefits of Baby DJ class are real. Studies have shown that classical music helps create new pathways in babies’ brains — why should it be any different for electronic dance music?
Weiss’s incredibly innovative approach to teaching music to babies isn’t just a novelty. Like hiding vegetables in cookies, these kids get the good stuff. But to the baby dancing around to “Daddy Loves Disco,” it all simply tastes sweet.
Of course, a few of the infants respond to headphones and records by trying to either eat or throw them. But, eventually, most of them are so engaged in the class that the social, spatial reasoning and even language skills they get are worth a few moments of drooling on the MIDI machine.
From scratching and mixing, to learning to distinguish between deck A and deck B, the babies get a real immersion in the basics of DJ’ing, and their parents love the interactive quality of the class. Unlike other music classes for this age group, Baby DJ School is all about collaboration between the babies and their caregivers.
The classes are available for infants and toddlers from 3 months to 3 years old. Tuition is $200 for a seven-week session. The winter session begins Jan. 16. For more information about Baby DJ School, visit natalieelizabethweiss.com.