LINCOLN SQUARE — Old Town School of Folk Music's Wiggleworms program for tots is all grown up.
The music class, which serves the school's youngest students (and their parents), is turning 30 and celebrating on Sunday with a bash befitting such a momentous milestone. The event will feature sing-alongs, cupcakes, children's activities and appearances from the program's original teachers.
Lucia Marker-Moore will play a dual role during the weekend's festivities as both a Wiggleworms alum and a Wiggleworms mom.
The daughter of WXRT Radio personality Tom Marker, Marker-Moore grew up surrounded by music.
"It's hard to verbalize" why music is so important, she said. "It kind of touches you. It makes you move, it makes you feel good."
She attended Wiggleworms as a toddler with her mother and is now extending the tradition to her own eight-month-old daughter Willa.
"It's a good family legacy," said Marker-Moore, who will take part in the introductory segment of Sunday's event, along with her parents and Willa.
"I know it means a lot to my mom that I wanted to repeat what she had found," she said.
In the absence of any musical skills of her own or a "repertoire of songs to sing at home," Marker-Moore, like so many other parents before her, turned to Wiggleworms as a way to engage her child with music — singing songs and taking up basic instruments like tambourines and triangles.
"From the moment we walk in the room, Willa just gets excited," said Marker-Moore. "It's Willa's favorite 45 minutes of the week. The parent interaction is a big part for me. It gives us a different way of playing and connecting."
Old Town School's music class for tots is all grown up. Join Wiggleworms' 30th birthday party on Sunday. [Old Town School of Folk Music/Kevin Viol]
Parents often get as much out of the class as the little ones, said Erin Flynn, Old Town School's program manager for children's music, and also a Wiggleworms teacher and mom.
"It's a parent-child class. We tell parents, 'Let go, be brave, be musical with your child,'" Flynn said. "You have to convince the parent, 'The child wants to hear your voice, the child is in love with your voice,'" not the teacher's.
The shared experience is something children can carry with them for a lifetime, a "musical memory they made with their family they can call on in need," she said.
Wiggleworms, which draws from a pool of approximately 30 teachers, enrolls children up through age four and as young as zero months, or "as soon as mommies are ready to venture out," said Flynn.
Marker-Moore, who lives in Avondale, signed up when Willa was just four or five weeks old.
"That was definitely more for me than her, to meet other families," she said. "Some of our closest friends we've met in class. It's just a phenomenal place to meet other families."
For the children, "music ignites this joyfulness that leads to learning. You'll see all of these amazing developmental leaps happening in class or because of class," said Flynn. "Some kids sing before they speak. It's so amazing when you'll be singing something and hear the littlest echo back."
Whether Wiggleworms' infants and toddlers grow up to learn an instrument is ultimately beside the point.
"It's important to me that they are considered music-makers from the very beginning," Flynn said. "Everyone has a right to be musical, everyone has a right to sing."
Wiggleworms 30th birthday party is open to all, 10:30 a.m., Sunday, Maurer Hall, Old Town School, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets can be purchased online and cost $12 per person or $30 for a family package (as many as four people).
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