By Dawn M Chiossi
Music, dance and creative arts. It engages all of the senses. For both kids and adults, it is not only fun, it can also be therapeutic.
In the world of pure imagination, people can be anything or anyone they want to be. By utilizing imagination, all things are possible. For kids with autism, this is especially important. By making learning fun, Turtle Dance Music LLC is helping kids of all abilities come out of their shells.
Staunchly believing that learning takes place in and out of the classroom, Turtle Dance Music Company LLC, was founded by Livingston Alumni Matt Mazur and David Colicchio.
Geared toward children in Pre- K, Kindergarten to 5th Grade, and also children with autism, Turtle Dance Music Company combines arts like music, dance and even theater to spark the imagination and curiosity about learning. Their motto is to further both early childhood development and autism intervention through sensory-friendly shows and concepts.
According to Mazur, the most essential thing about their programs is engaging the children creatively, teaching them about important social, emotional and educational topics.
Coming up with the idea for Turtle Dance Music Company was kind of a no brainer for this Livingston Grad, Class of 2006. Throughout his school career, he was very involved with music and theater and gravitated towards the arts. He has worked as a teacher, musician and Autism Intervention Specialist.
The company’s programs are filled with hands-on, sensory experiences. They are just perfect for both kids, adults, and the whole family. Excitedly telling that some of their shows are great for children on the autism spectrum scale, and others are focused for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) programs.
He’s hard-pressed to choose a favorite, he enjoys them all equally.
Mazur tells that the main show they do for schools, libraries, families, and autism centers is their “Music Bubble and Comedy Show: Why Reading Rocks!” This is a high energy music and comedy show about why reading rocks. This inclusive program is filled with songs, bubbles, comedy, and music technology. It’s wonderful for children, children on the autism spectrum scale, parents and caregivers. Each song in the show is accompanied by hands-on, visual and sensory experiences. During the program, kids can sing, dance, and understand why reading is so important to the future.
With “Space! The Cosmos For Kids”, children in grades Pre-K to 2nd, grades 3-5 and families, can enjoy this techno-space dance party. Soar to new heights when Information about the universe is filled with music, technology, and a thumping beat.
“Songs That Count” is just perfect for children who love to count, read, and make up original hip-hop beats. This is an inclusive, autism-friendly program filled with music movements and counting activities. With “Songs That Count,” it is for sure that addition and subtraction will never be considered boring again. Participants get into the act playing instruments, trying out interactive technologies, and dancing.
“Wally and the Water Cycle,” and “Why Ecosystems Rock” explains biodiversity, evaporation, condensation, and more. Through creativity, these great programs make important issues understandable, creative and fun.
Bright and energetic, Mazur assets that he didn’t want his programs to be considered boring or lame by the kids. “Especially since they are so in tune with YouTube and the instant attention of social media these days, we want to grab them right away.”
Realizing that information–especially important information– can be dry and monotonous depending on how it is presented, Mazur and Colicchio decided to spice it up.
Utilizing his background in theater, musicals, and all creative arts, Mazur decided to combine it with his love of information and reading. The Livingston Grads went a step further tailoring their programs so that children could become active and absorbed in their learning.
The results were amazing. “Kids often come into libraries or the assembly with their arms crossed thinking that our programs are going to be lame and the same as every other program they sit through. At the end of it, they are raising their arms, singing along, laughing and having fun with us. It’s great!” he enthuses.
Now, Turtle Dance Music LLC presents 20 to 50 performances a week. They entertain at schools, libraries and autism centers, with thousands of happy kids coming out of their shells.
Mazur likens his program to Schoolhouse Rock, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood or Sesame Street programs of the past, in the way that these shows had inspired kids to learn years ago.
Candidly sharing that there was a time in his life where his self-esteem took a massive hit, Mazur says he took solace in the free public libraries, reading and learning all he could. Through that simple action, he realized he didn’t feel so alone. Through books he felt empowered to be more, to do more.
It was a feeling that he wanted to share with the next upcoming generation. In co-founding Turtle Dance Company, he decided to make learning innovative and to educate kids about important issues at the same time.
“At Turtle Dance Music we combine creativity with the ideas of Stephen Hawking,” he enthuses.
The response from the public was something they never would have predicted.
Turtle Dance Music’s live performances, recorded albums, and “Dance-A-Long” music videos have become widely popular in communities throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland.
Additionally, Turtle Dance Music was recently selected as “Performer of the Year” by all 33 libraries in Delaware, and the founders are thrilled.
For Mazur, Turtle Dance Music is all about heart, and about honoring all of the teachers that inspired him. “I started the company because I knew how it felt to feel alone and isolated. I didn’t ever want anyone else to feel that way. It’s all about giving hope to others, no matter what.”
There are so many amazing moments for Turtle Dance Company, but for Mazur, one of the most simple is also the most heartwarming: “It is just so incredible when parents or caregivers mouth the words thank you to us for what we’ve done for a shy or autistic child. I get so emotional,” he shares.
For further information or details on Turtle Dance Music, please visit www.turtledancemusic.com/.