Free tasters for budding musical tots

Songbuds children's music sessions: with cellist Liz Hanks
Songbuds children's music sessions: with cellist Liz Hanks
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A SHEFFIELD singer and composer is offering a month of free fun music sessions for tiny tots.

Vanessa Johnson has toured the world as one half of electro dance music duo Grandadbob with her husband Dave. The band were signed up to Norman Cook’s Southern Fried Records, producing 18 singles and two albums, and accompanied Fatboy Slim on tour to Japan. They also appeared at festivals round the world, including Glastonbury.

Vanessa said: “It was a really fantastic experience. I had so much fun doing all the festivals. When I had my little girl Jenny (who is three), I wanted to stop going travelling and settle down and bring up a family, so I decided to set up Songbuds.

“I wanted to keep singing but pass it on to little ones. I’m always singing with Jenny like I did with my own dad, who taught me how to harmonise. He was a professional painter and landscape artist but he sang in a Methodist church and he did eight-part harmonies with groups. He passed that love on to me from being really little.”

She started Songbuds last year and has run sessions in Ecclesall Road and Stannington, where she lives, as well as working in nurseries and junior schools. The weekly sessions are aimed at children up to four years old.

Vanessa is offering a month of free sessions in Crookes in March as she is moving into a new area. She said: “If you take a child to a free taster just once you’re not sure if that’s a true reaction. If they do a month of sessions they can come back again and again before they have to pay.

“Over the weeks the children will start responding more and coming out of their shells. i find it’s the best way to start a new group.”

Vanessa mixes up familiar nursery rhymes and songs that perhaps children have heard on TV with her own music. She said: “I still manage to write my own music but it’s very different from what I used to write!”

The aim is to encourage children and the parents, grandparents or carers that come with them to feel confident to sing out loud together. By the end of a set of sessions the adults will have a range of lullabies that they can sing to the little ones, with song sheets to help them.

Vanessa said that very young children like repetition, so she gradually introduces new songs each week and then brings them back at later sessions. Children also enjoy starting to understand the form of music and gain a real sense of achievement when they finish learning a new song, she said.

“We also have free-flow musical play every Songbuds session when children try out child-size instruments in the room. This gives young ones a chance to express themselves, clanging, dinging, strumming and experimenting with music without having tons of equipment at home or disturbing the neighbours, and adults can have a coffee and chat too!”

Vanessa brings musicians in to some sessions to play for the youngsters: “They go so quiet and sit there with their mouths open. it is a really nice experience and a different one for the children as well.”

The Crookes sessions at St Vincent’s Church run on Wednesday mornings, starting on March 6. To book, contact Vanessa at or phone 0114 233 0503.