+ By Patty Speakman Hamsher + Photos by Allison Zaucha
Multiple voices singing together is an art form all of its own. Part collage and part watercolor, the harmony created is often a masterpiece. When the performers are children, there is a purity in the harmony that is not only part masterpiece, but also part magic.
Naptown Sings! is a music studio in the Annapolis Arts District where children make that sort of magic together. “There isn’t anything else like Naptown Sings! around here. Annapolis has a vibrant music scene, and I thought it was time to offer just as rich a musical experience as already exists with adults,” says owner and musical director Sophia Hardesty.
The children sing in glee club style to popular songs they know from artists like Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, and Justin Timberlake. Group arrangements are performed in harmony and in unison, as solos, duets, trios, and whole-class ensembles.
Like so many great ideas, Naptown Sings! started as a “what if.” Hardesty, an elementary school music teacher by day, began teaching voice lessons at the Jeremy Ragsdale Voice Studio. Ragsdale liked her idea of bringing glee club classes to the area, so she got serious about her dream and began offering them.
The first year was a struggle, she explains, as she had one class of only four singers. By the next school year, word had spread, and her roster increased to thirty. A year later, Hardesty secured her own studio space at the corner of West Street and Spa Road.
The glee club classes are the main feature of Naptown Sings! This fall, the studio will offer five different classes to various age groups and ability levels. They are open to children ages 6 to 14 and no auditions are necessary. Hardesty grows a scholarship fund to help offset the cost for students that need assistance by selling donated artwork by C. J. Ward, the mother of a longtime Naptown Sings! student.
A lifelong lover of anything musical, Hardesty began piano lessons at age five and voice lessons at seven. She went on to study classical singing and earned a degree in vocal performance at the University of Maryland, College Park. After working at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for a few years, bringing in school groups, she found her way to a second bachelor’s degree and eventually a master’s degree in music education. She currently teaches in Prince George’s County.
As interest in Naptown Sings! grows, Hardesty’s ideas are no longer contained to the glee club vision that started it all. “This space gives me the opportunity to do so many different things,” she says. Beginning this fall, budding musicians—children and adults alike—can come to Naptown Sings! for private and group lessons in piano and guitar. It has also become an ideal spot for singing birthday parties. Hardesty’s vision includes songwriting and audition workshops for theatre programs in the area. The interest in such programs led to Hardesty procuring a second studio space. “Pretty much any idea that comes into my head, I’m going to make it happen,” she says.
And it appears that there is community support. Hardesty says she has forged a great relationship with the Annapolis Arts District. Naptown Sings! kids have been invited to perform at Eastport a Rockin’ and The Greene Turtle. They have taken part in monthly Juice Box Jams events and concerts for families and children in and around the Annapolis area.
Throughout the school year, each glee club class holds a concert at the end of its three-month session at Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge, which is a huge supporter of Hardesty and her singers. This past July, Naptown Sings! held a weeklong music camp there. More than 40 kids spent the week singing and learning the basics of piano, guitar, and world drumming.
Eleven-year-old Madelyn has been a part of Naptown Sings! since its inception. “I really liked the camp because it was very easy to follow and you get breaks but you also get to learn about an instrument you would like to learn about,” she says. “Ms. Sophia has taught me how to become a better singer with breathing, pronunciation, and sound when I sing.”
For Hardesty, the most rewarding part of it all is watching the kids become performers. Some come to the studio with no experience, but watching them confidently join in on the harmony is always a high note. █