Maybe it’s not exactly a sanctuary. But it does take place in a church building.

And isn’t there a sacredness around family moments exempt from multi-tasking (i.e. folding towels, preheating the oven and answering the phone while half-playing Go Fish)?

A space where children, along with their caregivers, dance the tango and beat drums with total passion?

Welcome to Music Together.

This research-based music program has not only been enriching Island families for more than 16 years, but also currently serves 2,500 communities in over 40 countries.

"Of course, Music Together is about more than just music. There's that 'together'" part." — Courtesy Moira Silva

Joyce Maxner of West Tisbury brought the program here in 1998 by offering a few demo classes. “I never advertised. It just grew and grew and grew,” she recalled.

Not long ago, when the economy was stronger, there were eight family classes in addition to six preschool classes taught by both Joyce and her daughter Jenni Powers of West Tisbury.

Sadly, aside from the preschool classes, there are now just three weekly family classes being held in the First Baptist Church annex in Vineyard Haven. It looks like Music Together could be wrapping up its Island tour. “It would break my heart to see Island children lose this opportunity to explore music at the most crucial time in their development,” said Jenni, who is head teacher at Music Together. Despite declining enrollment, the program feels as vibrant as ever. And Jenni could not be more energetic or fun.

Come to class. You’ll see. There’s Jenni in her element, easily engaging the musically challenged (myself), a grumpy toddler and/or any dads trying to hide out in the corner.

All ice is broken during the first session’s warm-up, as the participants begin barking like a puppy and making car noises to warm up their vocal chords. “These kinds of rituals [also] create a safe space for the children,” Jenni said.

A Hello song, with a guitar accompaniment, welcomes each child by name. Little ones feel like a star as their names are called. In the hour-long circle of music that unfolds, a beautiful blend of routines, combined with surprises (a wee one jumping in perfect rhythm or answering one of Jenni’s questions for the first time), makes the class a delight for all. Parents communicate without speaking to their children for the entire class, allowing their children to simply follow their example instead. “For the parent, it’s all body, smile and silly quotient . . . it reminds them they are their child’s first teacher.” Jenni beams.

Playing with a variety of materials, like a spatula, a scarf, a streamer combined with real instruments like castanets and cymbals, makes music feel tangible and whimsical at the same time.

Class has its restful, vivid and even silent notes, like music, ending with a snuggly lullaby and cheerful goodbye song, where each child is, again, called by name.

Jenni says her magic moment is when, “I get to witness a child matching a pitch or moving in rhythm . . . [then] I know that child will be able to sing and dance for the rest of their lives.”

Of course, Music Together is about more than just music. There’s that “together” part.

It’s the promise of powering down a children’s video so a small person can spend time playing with a favorite grown-up. Boogying to a fast-paced Spanish rumba can be a surprisingly bonding experience.

And that shared experience transcends music classes, making family events like travel easier and more enjoyable. After learning many hand games in class, such as how to take the Itsy-Bitsy Spider to a whole new level, I bravely boarded a red-eye to California with my 15 month old. There, we sat wide-eyed all night long, me pulling trick after trick out of my Music Together repertoire (How about the whiny spider? The tired spider anyone? Anyone heard about the frog that ate up all the soap?).

Another time, my husband and I paced the halls of the Boston Children’s Hospital emergency room softly singing I Gave my Love a Cherry That Had No Stone to our very sick toddler over and over. Talk about creating a sanctuary.

For working parents, I’m told it’s a huge relief to know there is that scheduled time to be present with a tiny child. To see their child socialize with peers is also a gift. “It’s a highlight of my week,” said Suzanna Crowell, an Edgartown mother who runs two restaurants.

The activities in class even teach caregivers how to bring music and fun into everyday activities like vacuuming or driving.

Beyond the parent-child connection, there’s the greater community that’s also strengthened. When I had my older son, I met an amazing group of women through prenatal yoga; one had an older child and knew of Music Together. We all signed up for a session and then stayed on for two years, cementing our relationship as we crooned, “Train is A-Coming, Oh yeah . . .”

Music Together offers us as parents the chance to do something we will never regret: Setting aside some golden time so our child can learn lifelong skills in a joyful, safe space.

I feel incredibly lucky that I learned of this well-orchestrated program that now appears to be endangered. Being on a small Island, I’m always amazed how such treasures can remain so hidden. I hope others will discover it, too, so families can find sanctuary with their children while honing their pitch and wildly shaking their maracas for many years to come.

Moira Silva is a writer who lives in West Tisbury. She and her four-year-old son blog about making healthy pancakes with an Island twist ( For more information about Music Together, contact Jenni Powers at 774-487-4464. A free demonstration class will be held on Dec. 6 at noon. Visit