Music Classes for Toddlers, Babies, & Preschoolers

Early Childhood

Music Classes for Toddlers, Babies, & Preschoolers

Introducing Smart Start™

The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music is now the first institution in the United States to offer Smart Start™, a new and innovative Early Childhood education program that uses musical activities to train fundamental cognitive skills for children ages 0 – 4.

Studies have demonstrated that Smart Start™ helps children achieve growth in vocabulary, pre-reading abilities, and singing ability after their first year, with similar levels of growth in years two and beyond.

For children ages 3 and up, WCM’s First Instrumental Study classes will help young students build basic techniques while exploring fun and familiar music selections. Classes include hand drumming, piano, and ukulele, with beginning Suzuki strings/guitar classes available through a comprehensive package.



smart start

Music that Teaches Children How to Learn

What is Smart Start™?

Smart Start™ teaches children how to learn. Through playful, familiar activities like singing, listening, movement, stories, games, and music making with age-appropriate instruments, children develop important cognitive skills. Songs and activities are carefully chosen to match each age group’s specific developmental needs.

Smart Start™ builds on the inherent link between music and the mind to help prepare children for success in literacy, mathematics, and other academic pursuits.




Hallet Family

Increasing access to early childhood music education

What is WCM’s Mission for Smart Start™?

The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music is dedicated to providing access to music education for all students of every age and skill level. At WCM, we believe in meeting our students where they are, not the other way around.

Our vision for Smart Start™: To make the program accessible city-wide; in every zip code. Music education is an essential part of getting children ready to attend school, and through Smart Start™, children develop better school readiness skills such as memory or language acquisition, social-emotional skills through teamwork and collaboration, and the confidence to authentically grow.

It is vital that we continue to expand our Smart Start™ programming so all children in Milwaukee can receive the benefits of music education.

Countdown to Kindergarten

Smart Start™ Develops Four Key Cognitive Skills

Smart Start™ classes strengthen these key skills by guiding children through an intentional, hands-on sequence of songs and activities with highly trained teachers.

How we concentrate on a mental or physical item.

How we store and recall things in the mind.

How we make sense of the world.

Cognitive Flexibility
How we adapt, innovate, and create.

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Family Discount Program

Register For The Conservatory

Save on classes and private lessons when enrolling multiple family members. Receive a 5% discount for 2nd and 3rd siblings and a 10% discount for 4th and additional siblings!

Your discount will be applied on the final checkout screen, once you have selected your courses.



Early Childhood Faculty

Meet Our Teachers


Kathryn Craney-Welch


  • Bachelor of Music, Music Therapy/Voice | University of Evansville, Evansville, IN
  • Current Board Certification Cycle, initiated 2021 | Certification Board of Music Therapy


  • Currently serving as a home hospice music therapist.
  • Specializes in working with adults 18+ with memory impairments.
  • Provided music education to elementary students through WCM partnership.
  • University-level music therapy educator through classroom and fieldwork experiences.
  • Presenter for community-based groups on topics including music relaxation, music appreciation, and diagnosis-focused music therapy.

Danielle Gedemer


  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music, Vocal Performance | University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


  • Joined the Conservatory faculty in December 2021.
  • Has taught singing in various forms since 2013.
  • Composes and co-directs an annual musical for the West Bend Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Has attended two National Association of Teacher of Singing conferences and completed the Estill Singing workshops.
  • Enjoys singing at St. Paul’s Episcopal and throughout the Milwaukee community.
  • Wrote a libretto for the Florentine Opera for Kids program.

Kaisa Herrmann

Kari Johnson


  • Bachelor of Music, Piano Performance | St. Olaf College
  • Master of Music, Piano Performance/Pedagogy | University of Wisconsin-Madison


  • Joined the WCM faculty in 2019 with 18 years of experience teaching private lessons as well as group piano.
  • Studied under Catherine Kautsky, Jessica Johnson, and Kenneth Graber.
  • Enjoys teaching students of all ages and levels, and her students have regularly participated in WMTA Auditions and the NFMC Festival.
  • Has served as an adjudicator for piano festivals and competitions.
  • Worked as a faculty member at community schools in the Boston, MA and Madison, WI areas.
  • Is a collaborative pianist for instrumental and vocal soloists and choirs.

Sofia Mattson


  • Bachelor of Science, Psychology (Summa Cum Laude) | University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee


  • Sofia has been playing the harp since she was six years old.
  • She achieved several music honors and awards in high school, such as earning first place in the senior division of the Northern Illinois University Community School Talent Scholarship, and playing as principal harpist for the ILMEA Honors All-State Band in 2017.
  • Despite her success in music, she chose to complete a psychology degree over a music degree with the goal of becoming a clinical psychologist, while taking harp lessons at UWM and playing for various UWM ensembles to build her repertoire.
  • Sofia worked as a Child Research Technician for the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study at UWM, and authored two publications for research in working memory appearing in Biological Psychology (2021) and Frontiers in Psychology (2022).
  • Since graduating, she has been focusing on returning to her musical, creative roots by working towards making harp music, and music education in general, more accessible to her community.
  • Sofia is thrilled to join the WCM team and the Smart Start program, fulfilling her background in cognitive neuroscience and passion for promoting music accessibility.

Elise Pennington

Chair – Early Childhood


Bachelor of Music, Minor in Psychology | DePauw University in Greencastle, IN


  • Joined the WCM faculty in 2005.
  • Taught preschoolers at the Tutor Time Child Care/Learning Center while attending DePauw University.
  • Worked as a music teacher for Little People’s Music. Inc and at the Academy of Learning and Leadership for three years as a preschool teacher of two- and four-year-olds.
  • Received training in the Kodaly Concept, completed coursework at the Community Coordinated Child Care Center, and is certified as a lead Early Childhood Teacher.
  • Teaches in the Early Childhood Program at WCM and also taught music to children in grades K4 – 8.

Anna Rasmussen

WCM Board Faculty Representative


  • Bachelor of Music Education with a Strings Emphasis | Baylor University
  • Master of Music in Violin Performance | University of North Carolina


  • Violin and Viola faculty at the Conservatory since 2016.
  • Completed Suzuki Teacher Training with Julia Hardie, Mark Mutter, Doris Preucil, Ann Smelser, Nancy Jackson, and Kathleen Spring and Sarah Bylander Montzka, and long-term training with Allen Lieb at the School for Strings in New York City.
  • Over 11 years of teaching experience in Suzuki, traditional, and El Sistema-inspired schools in Wisconsin, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Texas.
  • Plays Baroque violin in Early Music ensembles in Beloit, Madison, and Milwaukee.
  • Performed in the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra, Western Piedmont Symphony, Raleigh Symphony Orchestra, Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, and the Waco Symphony Orchestra.
  • In 2016 recorded tracks for Grammy award winning Broadway composer, Paul Bogaev.

Dana Sherman


  • Bachelor of Arts, Music Performance and Mathematics | University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Master of Music, Music Performance | Northwestern University


  • Started at the Conservatory in the Fall of 2018.
  • Is currently Principal Horn of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Third Horn of the Wisconsin Philharmonic, and a member of Alloy Horn Quartet, which was the Featured Guest Artist at the 2018 International Horn Symposium and featured soloists with the Kenosha Symphony Orchestra and Dubuque Symphony Orchestra.
  • Is a substitute musician with Lyric Opera, Milwaukee Symphony, Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, and Grand Rapids Symphony.
  • Held positions in Omaha Symphony (Acting Associate Principal Horn) and New Mexico Philharmonic (3rd Horn).
  • Served as Brass Instructor and Associate Band Director with the El Sistema inspired program at Ravinia.
  • Taught horn at the Merit School of Music in Chicago, Glendale Community College in Phoenix, Arizona, and the Omaha Conservatory of Music.
  • Played at several summer music festivals, including Peninsula Music Festival (in Door County, WI), Grand Teton Music Festival (in Jackson Hole, WY), Pacific Music Festival (Japan), Sarasota Music Festival (Sarasota, FL), and Aspen Music Festival (Aspen, CO).

Annemarie Weyer


  • Bachelor of Music Education | UW-Eau Claire
  • Kodaly Certificate Completion | Silver Lake College
  • Masters in Music Education | Silver Lake College


  • Has over 15 years of experience in K-8 vocal music teaching and Liturgical music coordinating.
  • Has worked for the Milwaukee Children’s Choir as an Associate Director and taught for Silver Lake College’s Music for Tots program.
  • Has held office positions in the Wisconsin chapter for Kodaly music education, AWAKE, and is an active cantor and accompanist with her church.
  • Loves singing, playing the piano, and being with children.
  • Lives in Oak Creek with her husband and twin baby daughters.
Wisconsin Conservatory of Music Piano faculty member, Annemarie Weyer, demonstrates an Early Childhood sample lesson.


Girl Playing The Violin

Music Education For The Community

Community Partnerships

Does your school, church, early childhood center, public library, senior center, or community organization have a need for quality music education programs in the Milwaukee area? The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music offers community programs to match your need!


The Royal Conservatory of Music

Smart Start™ was developed by the Royal Conservatory of Music, one of the largest and most respected music education institutions in the world. For more than 130 years, The Royal Conservatory has translated the latest thinking about creativity into inspiring programs benefiting millions of individuals around the world.