Curriculum & Production
CD production, original songs, curriculum development and teacher training committee
Willie Aron grew up in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. When he was a toddler, his parents noticed how much he liked to bang his silverware on the dining room table, and they thought he’d be a drummer. Then he started banging on the living room piano too. They put him in lessons at age four.
Willie trained as a classical pianist and soon branched out to multiple instruments, absorbing a variety of musical influences—rock, folk, jazz, and world music. These influences came together in the critically acclaimed folk-rock group that Willie co-founded in 1984, The Balancing Act. Signed to IRS Records, the band made three albums and toured with R.E.M., 10,000 Maniacs, and They Might Be Giants, amassing many international tour miles and gaining a small, devoted following.
After the band broke up in the late 1980’s, Willie became a sought-after session musician, recording and performing with such talents as Rickie Lee Jones, Lucinda Williams, Joe Henry, Van Dyke Parks, Rebecca Pidgeon, and many others. In 2000, he transitioned to composing for film and television. He garnered awards for his work and also developed a fruitful relationship with celebrated singer/songwriter, and fellow film and TV composer, Peter Himmelman, who later enlisted Willie to co-produce a children’s album he was recording. Willie’s interest in children’s music had preceded the project, as many of his musician friends had recorded kids’ albums, but it was Peter’s invitation that really sparked his interest in “making music for no other reason than for pure joy.” The result of the collaboration, My Green Kite, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album of 2007.
Willie began writing children’s songs and found it to be a transformative process. He has since begun a promising career as a music educator, teaching music and leading group sing-alongs for several preschools in the Los Angeles area. Willie’s gregarious, gentle personality and infectious songs have been embraced by both children and parents, and as a grateful father of 5-year-old twins, he feels that his entire musical journey has led him to this place. He is excited and proud to be associated with PLAY music.
curriculum development and teacher training committee
Julie Ingram showed an interest in studying piano at age 7, and her grandmother, also new to the piano, was inspired to join her. They took lessons together in the early mornings before school.
Since then, Julie has continued to understand music as a common language between generations. When she observed her first early childhood music class years later, she was attracted not only to the surprising amount of musicality that could be observed in children so young, but also to the willingness she saw in the parents, who had little or no musical background, to give themselves over to the experience for their children.
Julie’s love of languages, the arts, and “living in places rather than visiting,” led her all over the country for her education. After teen years spent studying classical voice and listening to classic rock in her hometown of Long Beach, California, she went to UC Berkeley where she studied languages and music, earning a BA in Italian. She moved to New York City for a year, completing an arts internship at the Juilliard School.
Julie attended the University of Texas at Austin for her Masters in Music, and it was while there that she was introduced to early childhood music at the Armstrong Community Music School of Austin Lyric Opera. After teaching at the school for a year and a half, she became the coordinator of their early childhood music program and went on to help develop and implement two successful curricula still in use there. She also sang with the Austin Lyric Opera Chorus in such productions as Philip Glass’s Waiting for the Barbarians, and Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
In 2007, Julie’s first job in Los Angeles was teaching music classes at Play, where she soon began developing her own program, Scruffin Rock. Having found that the creative challenges of that project really suited her, she was excited at the prospect of contributing to PLAY music.
Julie can be found making music with people of all ages all over Los Angeles. In addition to her Scruffin Rock classes and her work with PLAY music, she leads the Highland Park Senior Citizen’s Choir, teaches for the LA Migrant Workers Education Program and is on the faculty of the Young Musicians Department of Pasadena Conservatory of Music. She is also a certified Orff teacher.
curriculum development and teacher training committee, CD production, executive production, PLAY founder/owner
Anne Kelly-Saxenmeyer grew up in Berkeley, CA, and the far north suburbs of Los Angeles, where she spent most of her free time dancing. She was fortunate to study under ballet master Patrick Frantz in her teens, and after graduating from high school she was chosen for a one-year scholarship program at the bygone Joe Tremaine Dance Center in North Hollywood.
After a brief commercial dance career and the memorable experience of choreographing modern-dress, musical adaptations of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and Romeo and Juliet, Anne went back to school to pursue her other lifelong interests in literature and creative writing. She graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a B.A. in English with a creative writing focus. Her mentor at UCLA, novelist and book critic Carolyn See, taught her (among other things) how to write articles and charming notes to editors. Anne spent the next five years writing theater reviews, profiles, and features for publications including the Santa Monica Mirror, Back Stage West, the LA Weekly, LA Downtown News, and Moving Pictures Magazine.
Anne and her husband, James, became parents to Jack in 2002. Participating in family activities and classes over the next couple of years, they found some they loved and others they thought could be better. Tired of being freelancers, Anne and James started to imagine a business that brought together the best of what they had found for Jack, plus a place to easel-paint other than their kitchen, all in a comfortable space where parents could be with their kids in a community. They began licensing a music program and hosting it in temporary spaces in 2004. A year later, with a business plan worked over at the SBA, a financial vote of confidence from their families, a little help from credit cards, and design services from Dake Wilson Architects (other parents they had met in the park), they opened their current space on West Third Street. In January 2010, they launched PLAY music.
Anne continues to be challenged and excited by PLAY and is very grateful for the people she has met and experiences she has had there.
executive production, PLAY® founder/owner
James Saxenmeyer grew up in New York City. After graduating from St. John’s University with a B.S. in Marketing, he decided to do what he really wanted to do, go to theatre school. In 1990 he graduated from the Neighborhood Playhouse’s two-year theatre program where he had the opportunity to study with Sanford Meisner. James went on to found a small theater company with a good friend, and he produced, directed, and acted in several one-act plays, which gave him the chance to work with some very talented playwrights and actors. From the plays came a few small TV and film roles and, naturally, he moved to L.A.
To pass time between auditions and pay the rent, James began substitute teaching. It seemed like a natural choice based on his love for children and his years of being a summer camp counselor in his teens. After getting his credential and working briefly in the L.A. Unified School District, he began long term and short term subbing at some of L.A.’s private elementary schools, including PS#1, CEE, and Wildwood, often as the only male teacher in the toddler programs.
Play has given James the opportunity to finally put his college degree and past job experiences to use. James is very proud of what he and Anne have accomplished with Play and looks forward to its newest incarnation. One of his favorite perks of the business is getting to occasionally pick up and hold a happy customer.