To her constituents, Heidi Harmon is the mayor of San Luis Obispo. But to the gaggle of giggling, wiggling kids crowded into the back room of San Luis Obispo’s Boo Boo Records, she’s Miss Heidi, singer of silly songs.
For 20 years, Harmon has been the face and voice of Music Time, a weekly music class for children. Held on Wednesday mornings, it offers a fun, family-friendly space for preschoolers and their parents to sing, dance and shake their sillies out.
“This has been one of the most positive and fun affirming things in my life,” Harmon said following a recent class. “It’s been good for the community, good for the kids, good for the parents ...”
Music Time, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on July 18, is the brainchild of Harmon, Boo Boo Records owner Mike White and Eileen Vavra, a former Boo Boo Records employee who now works in donor relations at Cal Poly.
“We were all new parents. We were obviously into music,” Vavra said, so a song session for young children seemed like a natural fit.
Harmon, a mother of three who once taught preschool at Old Mission School, “was the perfect person for the job,” Vavra said. “She’s expressive and engaging.”
“When I first started,” Harmon said, “It was kind of embarrassing. It was just me up here being silly and one mom and one kid (in the audience).”
But word spread, and today, Music Time attracts a regular crowd that ranges from tiny infants to toddlers, plus the occasional elementary school student.
During the July 18 class, kids and grownups sat cross-legged on the floor of Boo Boo Records’ vinyl room, surrounded by concert posters and wooden crates filled with LPs. Vintage cardboard record sleeves covered the walls.
Participants clapped their hands and shook plastic egg shakers as Harmon, stationed on a small, carpet-covered stage at the front of the room, ran through a playlist that included such classics as “The Wheels on the Bus,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and the alphabet song.
She demonstrated sign language during Raffi’s beloved “Baby Beluga” and got the crowd moving for a hip hop-inspired exercise song. (All the music Harmon uses is sold at Boo Boo Records.)
Harmon’s set list hasn’t changed for at least five years. And that’s just fine, said Wendy Wendt, executive director of First 5 San Luis Obispo County.
“The kids love it. They all know the motions she’s doing,” which builds confidence and memory skills, said Wendt, whose group works with children ages 0 to 5 and their families.
Another aspect of Music Time that hasn’t changed much is the price. Harmon charges just $2 per family.
“It’s just this great, amazing community event” that’s allowed Boo Boo Records to grow its children’s music section and its customer base, said White, whose sons, David and Matt, were among Harmon’s first students. “We’re indoctrinating (kids) in the record store (culture).”
“Music is huge for kids, and they love it,” said Los Osos resident Kelli Kaperonis, who attended the July 18 class with her 5-year-old daughter, Kennedy, and 3-year-old son, Niko.
They’ve been attending the class since Kennedy was six months old. “It’s been great,” her mom said.
San Luis Obispo resident Alicia Veium started bringing her twin sons, Hans and Walden, to Music Time when they were just three or four weeks old.
“I wanted to get out of the house,” said Veium, adding that the weekly class helped her cope with “that blur of babyhood” by giving her an activity to share with her sons and connecting her with other parents. “Just seeing other people made a big difference.”
Although the twins took a break from Music Time for a while, the 2 1/2-year-olds are back at class again. “They love music. They love Miss Heidi,” Veium said.
Harmon loves her students, too.
“The whole reason I’m mayor is this future generation,” said Harmon, who was elected in 2016. “Being in a room with 50 kids, it’s a good reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
Harmon, a progressive Democrat who’s running for re-election in November, said she plans to continue teaching Music Time even if she wins a second term.
“When I’m 100 and I’ve forgotten everything else, I’ll still remember the lyrics of ‘Wheels on the Bus,’” she said with a laugh.
Besides, she said, the class often offers a pleasant contrast to her work at City Hall, just up the street.
“It’s more inspiring and grounding and invigorating at times engaging with a room of 3-year-olds than engaging with people at a council meeting,” she jokes.