Children dance under a raised rainbow parachute to the song, “What Child is This.” They manage instruments to the piano tune of “Linus and Lucy.” And they let their parents cuddle with them in a dimmed room to “Silent Night.” These activities are part of Teacher Sean’s Holiday Jingle Jam. Santa Clara’s Parks and Recreation Department has offered this two-week holiday class for the last six years. This year’s classes run throughout December.
“I grew up in a school where there would always be holiday caroling around the class, and I think it’s important that kids experience that festive feeling,” says Sean Mendelson, who also teaches the department’s year-round Music Factory classes. “Also, because of the Park and Recreation Department’s schedule, there would be a two month void of my music classes if I didn’t offer the holiday class.”
In the holiday class, children and parents enjoy dancing, movement, and instrument play while singing songs to further engage them in cheery seasonal music. The lesson plans include dancing to the Nutcracker march and performing the traditional jingle bell rock.
“I try to have an eclectic mix of songs, much like what I do in the Music Together program and in my albums,” Mendelson says. “I have the standards, like ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.’ I also do a few Hanukkah songs, including the ‘Dreidel Song’ and ‘Rise Up Oh Flame.’ We also do one Kwanzaa song.”
Mendelson feels that learning music from different cultures can help participants learn about people from other backgrounds.
“Although the majority of the songs are secular or mainstream holiday songs, the advantage of teaching the ‘Dreidel Song,’ for example, is that a child who celebrates Christmas can learn how people who celebrate Hanukkah have fun with their holidays as well,” he says.
Mendelson is enthusiastic about the song selection for his Jingle Jam classes.
“Every song is upbeat,” he says. “They are all timeless melodies. And they’re easy to learn on the fly.”
Irene Saranteas Bassalee’s two-year-old twin girls, Sophia and Eleni, are enrolled in the class.
“We’ve been attending Teacher Sean’s other class, and he mentioned this holiday music class,” Bassalee says. “So we decided to come here and practice our Christmas songs with other families. My kids are having fun.”