Noe Valley Voice April 2013

Store Trek

By Olivia Boler

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new stores and businesses in Noe Valley. This month, we feature Little Folkies, a family music studio now located in the former Heliotrope on Church Street.

Studio owner Irena Smith, on guitar, shows kids and families how they can sing, dance, and play in the rhythm section at Little Folkies on Church Street.    Photo by Beverly Tharp 

Little Folkies Studio

1515 Church Street at 27th Street

Some of the faces at Little Folkies Studio might be familiar. The owners of the children’s music studio are Irena and Joshua Smith, who ran Little Music Makers over on 30th Street, which closed at the end of 2011. After a year of teaching private lessons and classes in a space at MoBu Dance Studio, the couple launched Little Folkies in January with a slightly different business model and a brand new baby.

“Shiloh was born on January 18,” Irena Smith says, holding her infant son.

Instead of teaching classes as they’ve done in the past, the Smiths have hired three teachers whom they’ve trained to “embody the spirit of Little Folkies,” says Joshua Smith, a jazz saxophonist for the Scott Amendola Quartet.

Classes are for babies and children up to age 5, and are usually 40 minutes long. A class starts with everyone in a seated circle on a soft matted floor surrounded by walls painted buttery yellow, warm green, and soft blue. Glittery butterflies decorate the walls, as do musical instruments including a guitar, ukulele, and banjo. There’s a little bit of dancing, some play with shakers, drums, and xylophones, and a goodbye lullaby.

A guitar-playing teacher leads the class in songs that the Smiths wrote. Joshua Smith describes their style as “traditional folk songs for kids that’s like pared-down mountain music.” The daily repertoire draws inspiration from the 1940s and ’50s—Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger—and usually includes at least one or two songs from that era.

In the spring session, which starts the second week of April, Little Folkies will hold two classes for “big kids,” ages 3 to 6 years old. The studio also plans to offer a class for babies.

Through their other business, SF Music Lessons (, the Smiths are also offering group guitar and ukulele classes for adults. “Parents kept asking for adult classes, and the interest has been just great,” says Irena Smith. The classes meet at the Little Folkies Studio, 1515 Church St. Ukulele classes are Thursdays, 6 to 7 p.m., and guitar classes are Thursdays from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. An eight-week session is $270, or you can try one class for $40. Register on the Little Folkies website.

Need to host a birthday party? Little Folkies’ parties include a 45-minute music session led by a teacher. Families bring their own refreshments and decorations. For $350, partygoers get the space for three hours.

Little Folkies will hold a 10-week spring session, going for $200, plus a $15 administration fee. If you sign up online with the coupon code FOLKIE13 by April 13, the studio will waive the $15 fee. Once registered, parents can access online Little Folkies’ instrumental “musical clips” of class songs. “Instead of just giving parents a CD of the songs and having them listen, we want to encourage them to sing along with their children,” Joshua Smith says.

Little Folkies is open Tuesday through Saturday, with children’s classes both mornings and afternoons. Check the website for a complete schedule.