The Hazel crew brings you the ultimate guide to the Jersey City summer music scene and how to make music part of your child’s everyday life!
When I was brought into the world, my dad—a professional pianist and lyricist—and my mother—a singer—made sure music was an integral part of my life. There was live music in our house, either from my parents themselves or any number of their friends, who, now in their sixties and seventies, still perform in various Jersey Shore venues. Or we listened to recorded music: the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, with the Golden Oldies radio station always on in the car. My first concert was to see James Taylor, at what was then called the Garden State Arts Center.
Babies respond to music early, with experts saying that infants can recognize melodies and musical patterns as young as two months old. Playing music for babies has also been linked to improved language skills. And moving, singing and listening to music might even release oxytocin—meaning that when you sing (even off-key!) and groove along to some tunes, you and your child are bonding.
Some of us have been lucky to have a very “musical” upbringing. But what if you didn’t? What if you want to raise a music lover even though music is as foreign to you as another language?
“I would start [kids] in baby music group classes,” says Donovan Cain, who’s not just the co-founder and co-owner of Hazel Baby & Kids, but a dad and a musician. “Introduce them to the joys of music and expose them to [music] immediately.”
In fact, beginning next month, we’ll be hosting a Summer Jam Session with our amazing friends from Jam with Jamie every Thursday morning at our Downtown Hazel location. Kiddos ages 0–3 are welcome at the event—don’t forget to RSVP!
Donovan also recalls that, around the time his son, Landon, was born, he was playing in several bands, and his wife, Elizabeth, the other half of Hazel Baby, and Landon would tag along to shows. Today, right here in Jersey City, many venues offer live music, like FM, Fox & Crow and the Hutton, among others. Always call ahead to make sure little music fans are welcome (and if you’re worried about noise levels, purchase noise-reducing headphones—kids can still enjoy the music!—or choose an outdoor venue where you can sit farther from the stage).
Groove on Grove, Donovan recommends, is a free live concert event that is, yes, outdoors! At the Grove Street PATH Plaza, all ages are welcome to attend the event on Wednesdays from 6–9 p.m., now through September. We’ll have to catch the Jersey City Jazz Festival in 2020, but JC’s Summerfest concert and dance series, with concerts on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning in July and running through August, and dance performances on Wednesdays in July, in various venues, is another opportunity to enjoy live music outdoors with your little one.
Another great way to add music into everyday life is to give your child, however young, an instrument. Percussion instruments, believed to be the oldest of human instruments aside from our voices, are perfect for tiny hands that might not be ready for keys or chords. Hazel carries a wide selection of instruments for little ones, from this adorable Percussion Owl to big drums and double drums to tambourines and xylophones. And if your child does show an interest in a particular instrument, like the guitar? Hazel has these wonderful Chord Blocks, which can make learning progressions fun.
And when it comes down to the type of music: Do you choose adult music . . . or well, “Baby Shark”?
“Both,” Donovan says. “‘Baby Shark’ is suuuuuuper catchy. There’s no denying it!” But he also adds, “I never tell [Landon] what to like; I let him choose,” and says his son knows how to Shazam songs on a phone and asks Donovan to add new music he likes to his Spotify playlist.
And of course, wearing shirts from your favorite bands is something adults and kids can get on board with. Hazel offers a pretty awesome selection of tees no matter your child’s taste (again, this is for your kids, guys—so don’t look for your size). Come into the store to find shirts picturing greats like Janis Joplin, David Bowie and Pink Floyd. And obviously our Jersey boys or girls need to represent with tees featuring the Boss and Bon Jovi.
Bottom line: “Music doesn’t have to be performed by an individual to enjoy it,” Donovan says. So grab your babes (and a drum), go Groove on Grove and add your own rhythm to the songs of summertime.
PS Listen to Donovan play the bass here!
Live Music Venues in Jersey City*
More Music Classes for Children in Jersey City*
Elite Musicians for Kids
*Did we forget you? Let us know!