An enriching endeavor: After-school music lessons boost kids’ confidence levels and skill sets

“Music is a form of self-expression and offers a sense of independence; it’s an internal thing. And it’s fun!” — Karin Orenstein
Settlement Music School 1
Courtesy of Settlement Music School

Music can be a beautiful thing to parents’ ears (and lives). After all, it helps develop the brains, skills and confidence levels of young children, according to those who both teach and learn from it.

With the start of a new year, now is the perfect time to start kids on an instrument.

Many families are fortunate to have programs in public and private schools, but there is a significant segment of students in the Greater Philadelphia area that no longer have access to in-school instruction. For these kids, after-school and weekend programs are available at different locales and price points throughout the region. Instruments do not have to be purchased; most can be rented during the academic year and summer break.

Music is vital to the interests of young children, says Karin Orenstein, dean of the Settlement Music School, with five locations in the Philadelphia area, as well as a branch online.

“Everything is new for them; they learn so many skills, and that learning happens so fast,” explains Orenstein. “With musical instruction, they utilize parts of their brains in different ways; it reinforces skills and focus in reading and listening. Music is a form of self-expression and offers a sense of independence; it’s an internal thing. And it’s fun!”

She says the online branch came about with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when existing students wanted to continue their lessons and those of varying ages stuck at home sought to reinvigorate their skills. Orenstein says they got calls from alumni all over the country who wanted an entry back into music.

It’s an example, she adds, of “taking that skill set into the rest of their lives and incorporating it into everything they do.”

As with other outlets, Settlement has since had time to hone its online instruction, and these days, that new option saves parents from one more commute around town.

Orenstein says that when it comes to playing music, kids, especially, “get to create the storyline and figure out how to execute it. It’s not about being a virtuoso but about the experience, about understanding the art form. And if and when they get the chance to perform, formally or informally, they gain a strength and confidence that’s invaluable.”

‘I wanted to develop their well-roundedness’

Melanie Rolon of Bensalem agrees.

She and her husband, Amador, have three young children involved musically. Hannah, 8, plays piano, and her brothers — Amador, 7, and Josiah, 5 — play violin, all using the Suzuki method. The three kids, who are homeschooled, attend after-school lessons at the Willow Grove branch of the Settlement Music School and practice at home.

The couple grew up in Philadelphia, and Rolon, who plays both guitar and a box-like percussion instrument called the cajón, says her husband had always heard of Settlement, which prompted them to sign up their children. She, on the other hand,
jovially made it a point to mention that she’s “tone-deaf.”

“I wanted to help develop their well-roundedness,” says Rolon, noting that the kids also play sports. The interest in music came from the children themselves, recounts their mom — initially, Hannah through hearing piano and the choir at church; Amador having seen the violin in a kids’ cartoon; and Josiah “just fell into it.” All three have their owninstruments.

“It’s an activity they enjoy and that offers them structure as well,” says Rolon. “It’s a different aspect of education. More than that, it gives them something for when they are older to relax with, a hobby — one that perhaps they’ll teach their own kids as well.”

The Rolons have since started going to stage performances like the “Charlie Brown” musical and “Cinderella” ballet, as well as seen “Scrooge” at a local high school, to accentuate their experiences and give the kids a larger look at the arts in action. These outings also work to boost overall child development.

In fact, it all melds together to create one enriching endeavor, affirms Orenstein: “They speak the language of music — a common
language in different cultures and different places all over the world.”


Check out these area venues for instruction:

Settlement Music School,
215-320-2685 (multiple locations)

Music & Arts,
888-721-5396 (multiple locations)

School of Rock 

421 N. Seventh St.,
Philadelphia, PA 19123, 267-639-4007,

philadelphia (multiple locations)

Chestnut Hill Music Academy 

22 E. Chestnut Hill Ave., 

Philadelphia, PA 19118, 215-284-5510, 

The Green Tambourine 

711 S. 50th St., 

Philadelphia, PA 19143, 


Mister John’s Music 

904 S. Ninth St., 

Philadelphia, PA 19147, 


Philly Music Lessons 

2111 E. Susquehanna Ave., 

Philadelphia, PA 19125, 215-645-0405,  and 1548 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147, 215-645-0405 (multiple locations)

New Groove Music Studio 

914 Pine St., Unit 1 F, 

Philadelphia, PA 19107, 



Mobile Music 

122 Chestnut St., Unit 402, 

Philadelphia, PA 19106, 


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