Popular Laguna Live! music program for toddlers will continue through the summer months

By THERESA KEEGAN

So many sing the joys of summer, it seems a natural fit that area youngsters will now have an opportunity to join in the fun, thanks to Laguna Live!

For the first time, the nonprofit dedicated to celebrating a love of music, is hosting a summer series for the youngest members in our community by extending the popular “Live! Music Matters” program at the library.

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Photo by Theresa Keegan

Musician Zach Churchill was not sure what to expect when he started performing the Live! Music Matters program at the library community room almost two years ago, but is thrilled it has been so popular

“This is a great program,” said Laguna Live! board member Susan Davis. “Some kid is going to get turned on to making music. It will have a real impact on one of these kids and we may never know who.”

Ironically, Zach Churchill, the musician who brings these live events to the library every Tuesday morning, developed his love of music at an early age.

“I was exposed to music as a kid, really early, so it’s always been a passion in my life,” he said. He tells of his grandparents singing French duets, as well as other singing experiences.

“A love of music can just be awakened in a child,” he said. “It happened for me.” While he always loved the performing arts, he wasn’t sure of his passion, until he picked up a guitar in middle school. Ever since, he’s been playing, singing and recording music.

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Courtesy of Zach Churchill

Musician Zach Churchill plays at many area venues, including the outdoor patio at The Ranch on weekends

“I’m fortunate to make a living through playing music exclusively,” said the Mission Viejo resident. In addition to the children’s program, Churchill’s repertoire also includes a variety of adult musical performances. He plays at The Ranch, does weddings and also private events and composes his own music. Each has its own demands and joys.

The one requirement of his Tuesday morning programs, designed for toddlers under age 5 (accompanied by a caregiver), is that there be fun.

“I love to see kids get excited about music,” he said.

The program has attendees singing, dancing and playing instruments. With an audience of children, Churchill is very aware that means anything can happen, including even having his microphone taken over by enthusiastic revelers.

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Photo by Theresa Keegan

The library program is geared for children younger than age 5, however a caregiver must remain and also attend the program

“With kids it’s just more interactive,” he laughed. “Kids will be kids.” He is appreciative of the library support and, since a caregiver needs to stay during the 30-minute program, there is always a set of helping hands should the crowd become overly enthusiastic.

“If there’s some wildness going on with a kid, I can’t stop playing music and address that,” said Churchill. “The parents and (library) staff really let me focus on playing the music.”

When the library music program started in fall 2022, no one was sure how it would be received. It began as a six-week pilot program with funding assistance from the Laguna Beach Rotary Club.

However, any concern about its popularity was immediately squashed. Many folks attended the initial event, and since then, attendance has just grown. Churchill estimates anywhere from 20-30 children attend each week – and many are regulars. Laguna Live! now receives program funding from not only Rotary, but also the FOA Foundation and the Assistance League.

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Photo by Theresa Keegan

The library community room on Tuesday mornings has become a hand-clapping, toe-tapping sing-along venue thanks to the Live! Music Matters program

“The best thing about this is seeing the kids who have been coming for a while,” said Churchill. “I can connect with them and seeing their joy, I feel it’s something that is so valuable.”

Laguna Live! board member Betsy Jenkins recently attended a program with her 2-year-old grandchild and agrees.

“Zach holds the children’s attention with fast-paced singing and playing,” said Jenkins, who likes that children can choose percussion instruments to play along. “It all creates a joyous cacophony of harmonious and fun children’s music.”

Churchill is a fan of the sing-alongs of Disney and other children’s performers. Although Raffi’s Baby Beluga is a top favorite, he is constantly creating new programs.

“I have to keep learning new songs and sometimes switch it up with instrumentation and equipment,” said Churchill who was “pleasantly surprised” the program will continue for the summer months.

“I think if an impression is made (on a child) and they really feel something – a connection – it can inspire kids forever,” he said. “And seeing their joy during the Music Matters program is so great.”


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