Richmond Folk Festival Spotlight: Mary and The Classroom Instrument Band

We sat down with Mary Anderson, also known as My Music Mary and the founder of My Music Starts Here, to explore her journey and how she arrived at this point in her career. Anderson, along with the Classroom Instrument Band, will perform at 1:45 pm on Saturday, October 14, at the Richmond Folk Festival on the Family Stage presented by JAMinc.

Anderson, who previously taught preschool and elementary general music for over twelve years, is on a mission to give all children quality musical experiences. She believes that it is something that children deserve, not something that only a lucky few get to experience.

Growing up in a musical household, Anderson says that she was surrounded by music and she soaked up every note of it. As she started her own musical journey, she had wonderful teachers who taught her the power of sharing and participating in music with others. This is something that she carries with her and strives to pass along to the children that she teaches. “Music connects us as human beings, and everyone can find a way to participate,” says Anderson.

Anderson received her Bachelor’s degree in Trumpet Performance from Virginia Commonwealth University and went on to get her Master’s degree in Music Education from Boston University. Working on these two degrees helped her to find her own musical voice and prepared her for reaching children through music. However, her most powerful learning moments have come from watching children react to music in her classroom. Those are the moments that drove her to launch My Music Starts Here, a platform that empowers educators to reach more children through music – giving them authentic, fun, engaging, and developmentally appropriate musical experiences with the intent of building a strong, resilient brain with a musical foundation that will last their lifetime.

When she’s not working together with her husband, Mike Anderson, on My Music Starts Here or teaching her own students, Anderson is performing classical trumpet, singing anything that comes her way, and practicing ukulele. Let’s learn more about My Music Mary…

Can you paint a picture of the turning points and pivotal moments on your musical journey that have led you to where you are today with My Music Starts Here?   

Performing music has always been one of my first loves, but once I got my degree in music education and had a better understanding of how music can have such a positive impact on a child’s development, sharing music with children became absolutely magical. Being in a classroom and watching music work through a child – engaging them, turning on their creativity and imagination, connecting them to the larger world – has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

What inspired you to participate in the Richmond Folk Festival, performing on the JAMInc stage, and what does it mean to you to be a part of this year’s big event?  

This will be our first time ever at the festival, but we have heard about it from so many of our closest friends and colleagues. From their descriptions, we know that the festival is all about sharing folk music in a way that is meaningful and engaging and an intimate experience for the audience. As musicians, educators, and performers, that is definitely what we are all about and we are truly so honored to be a small part of it and especially on the JAMInc stage. We want our performance to be a musical gift to children and their families – taking the energy of the folk festival and making it just the right fit for the littlest audience members. 

What instruments or musical techniques are unique to your style of music, and how do they enhance your performances?  

For this particular performance, we thought it would be really fun to take all of our original songs and the cover tunes and perform them using classroom instruments – so, instruments that are more accessible to children – instruments that they might even have at home or in their school classroom. We want our audience members to watch what we’re doing and think, “I could do that!” We’re going to use rhythm sticks, xylophones, egg shakers, small drums, and other small percussion instruments and we’ll fill out the rest of the sound with ukulele, guitar, and keyboard. Every musical decision we make is grounded in the goal of engaging children in the music, so that they feel connected to it and inspired to sing, move, dance, and the freedom to let their inner musician shine. 

Catch Mary on Saturday, October 14th at 1:45 on the Family Stage presented by JAMinc. Mary & The Classroom Instrument Band will includes Music Mary; LaLa, the Puppet; Mike Anderson; Tevin Davis; Quinton Jones; and The Sweet Potatoes. 

Click here for a printable Richmond Folk Festival Schedule.

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CategoriesArtists, General, Live

Erin Frye is our Lead Story Marketer at the Grid Collective. Anyone who knows Erin will tell you that she’s incredibly motivated by elevating people, sharing impactful stories, and improving our community. She is also a singer-songwriter, a yoga teacher, and a voiceover artist with In Your Ear Studios. When she's not working, you can find Erin bringing hope and healing to communities worldwide through accessible music and wellness experiences. Her travels as a volunteer musician have taken her to orphanages, refugee camps, juvenile jails, and more…from Africa to Europe, and across North America. Locally, she is also the founder of Gals for a Cause RVA, a Teaching Artist with FreeHorse Arts, a former Big Sister through BBBS, and a former Teaching Artist/Performer with SPARC’s inclusive LIVE ART program. Erin is most recently a recipient of the Crisis Response Philanthropy Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), an Honoree in Gallery 5 Movers and Shakers, an Honoree in JMU’s 100 Years, 100 Days, 100 Dukes ‘One World’ Program and was inducted into the JMU’s ‘Be The Change’ Hall of Fame.