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Learning through music
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Liz Hallack helps her daughter Elena as she tries to follow along with the lessons at the Little Tunes studio in downtown Turlock (PAWAN NAIDU/The Journal).

Ashley Soto grew up loving to dance, but when she had to have knee surgery in 2019, her doctor told her it was time to find a new hobby. The trained singer and dancer thought about the fun she had taking her kids to baby music classes in the Bay Area, but when she moved to Turlock with her family, she realized there weren’t any here. That’s when she decided to open Little Tunes in October 2019.

“I was asking around, are there some in Modesto or Merced, but nobody was doing them,” said Soto. “I’m a classically trained singer and dancer, maybe I should start doing these classes.”

Soto operates Little Tunes in the Alegria Performing Arts Center at 320 E Main St. in downtown Turlock. There are a variety of lessons for students. The classes do songs in sign language and other languages. The students play in rhythm and learn about movement. They also learn about traditional music such as jazz and ballot.

The classes are for children ages 0-5 and they participate with whichever adult is bringing them that day. The first classes had two to three students and grew to include 40-50 people in the room per session.

“At first, people were not sure what it was,” said Soto. “I had to do a lot of explaining in the beginning of my company. I tell everyone it’s never too early to learn about music, I tell them don’t worry about age just bring them. Those of them that started with me as a newborn are not afraid of sounds, they can handle people and they’re going to participate with me a lot more.”

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Nick Braden and his daughter Bonnie attend classes every Saturday (PAWAN NAIDU/The Journal).

Little Tunes was starting to get a lot of momentum after a couple of months of being open, but like most of the world, had to shut down due to the pandemic. In June 2020, the studio opened back up and teachers had the option of going back.

“I thought I’m just going to go back because people are getting so sad, and these kids are struggling because they’re stuck in the house,” said Soto. “I just felt like even if we only have a few people it’s going to make a big difference.”

When Little Tunes first opened up classes, they had a capacity of 10 and gradually increased so they are now back to running classes like they were before the pandemic.

Soto is also getting a master’s degree in education and with her experience she wants to make sure this program is infused with activities that are going to be developmentally appropriate for kids.

Once students turn five and want to continue with singing, Soto teaches small group and private lessons out of her house in Turlock.

Little Tunes offers classes on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings. For information people can visit Little Tunes on Facebook and Instagram. To contact Soto directly, call or text (209) 648-9340.