Classical Tahoe

Music & Movement for Families: An Interview with Cellist and Musikgarten Teacher, Rita Whitaker Haun

Are you looking for an engaging and enriching activity for you and your child this summer in Lake Tahoe? If so, then Musikgarten may be the perfect fit for you! Classical Tahoe offers a special six-week Summer Music and Movement program for families with children birth to 5 years old. The program offers more than just a fun and easy way to introduce your child to music. Musikgarten provides dedicated time each week when you can bond with your child free from distractions and watch them grow into a confident, independent, and expressive young person.

We talked with Classical Tahoe’s Musikgarten teacher, Rita Whitaker Haun, a professional cellist with over 40 years of experience in music education, about this special program.

CT: What inspired you to start teaching Musikgarten?

Rita: At age 16 I realized I wanted to be a music educator. I went to college for music education and taught for 40 years in a combination of public schools, charter schools, private schools, and performed as a professional cellist.

When my son was born, I had taken a year off from teaching to be with him, and thought there had to be some music activity out there for babies. A friend from the Reno Philharmonic was teaching Musikgarten, and after visiting her class, I thought “this is perfect, this is so fun!” I took the training and have been teaching ever since. Music education for young children is what I’ve dedicated my life to.

CT: Can you tell us what sets Musikgarten apart from other early childhood music programs?

Rita: Musikgarten classes are so lovely. The music we listen to and use in classes is recorded by live musicians who are playing incredible arrangements of all the music. The music is so rich and lush with bassoons, strings, horns, and everything is created so purposefully. Families who have attended other early childhood music classes, come to Musikgarten and are surprised at the quality of the lessons and the attention that we’re able to give each family, and we all end up connecting on a deeper level.

Musikgarten is a program where you’re allowed to be yourself as a teacher, as a student and as a parent. I incorporate all of my training and experience, from Orff to Suzuki, into my style of a Musikgarten class. Even though ages birth to 5 are in the same class together, I structure the classes to include activities that are tailored for each age level. And I’m really fun and funny! I come from a large family and we were all fun and funny, so I try to bring that to my classes as well. It’s very joyful!

CT: What are the benefits of Music and Movement at an early age?

Rita: Musikgarten classes aren’t just about the music. They also stimulate child development in a variety of ways. Infants benefit from being held and they’re learning so much from the adult’s facial expression. For toddlers, it helps them exert independence from the adult figure. For 4-5 year olds, it helps develop conversation skills and builds self-esteem. Musikgarten helps all children develop spatial and body awareness.

Parents are encouraged to participate in the classes. They are the secure homebase for the child, and the child observes what the parent is doing. It’s important for parents to participate because children will mimic what they see. For example, if a child is beginning to roll, we’ll all get on the floor and roll around with a chant or song. Birth to 5 are crucial years to be rocking, bouncing, and moving with your children.

I’ve seen first-hand how this early exposure to music and movement stays with children as they grow older. When I taught public school music, I could tell which of my students had Musikgarten. They moved more easily, sang more easily, and everything seemed deeper and richer for them because of it.

CT: What can families expect going into a Musikgarten class this summer?

Rita: We focus on vocal exploration, singing, and speaking. I approach each class as a piece of art and beauty and think “what does the group need, what do certain children need?”.

There is also an element of community building with circle dancing and other nurturing activities that bring us together after how our community has fractured over the past 3 years. Musikgarten provides an opportunity to build relationships that aren’t centered on a screen.

Parents will also walk away from the program well equipped with ideas and inspiration on how to continue to explore music and movement with their children in their own homes. During the six-week program, each family will receive their own materials that they can bring to and from class. After the program is over, you may not have the scarf we use in class, but you likely have a dish towel. You don’t need the fancy instruments – you can turn the pan upside down on the kitchen floor and play it like a drum!

We also incorporate some of the Classical Tahoe repertoire during class that the Classical Tahoe Orchestra will perform during the Festival and at the Family Concert. 

Ready to sign up for Musikgarten classes this summer?

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to provide your child with a fun and enriching experience this summer with Musikgarten! Classes are free with registration. Registration is required. Class size is limited to 10 children, and there will be a waitlist. We ask that you commit to the entire six-week session to get the full experience of the classes.

Musikgarten Schedule & Registration 2023

Incline Village
Location: The Chateau at Incline Village
Time: Tuesdays at 10am.
Orientation on 6/20 and 6 classes: 6/27,  7/11, 7/18, 7/25, 8/1, 8/8. 

To register for Tuesday classes through IVGID, go online to (Scholarships through Classical Tahoe are available for the $55.00 materials fee.)

Kings Beach
Domus Room in Kings Beach
Time: Wednesdays at 10 am
Schedule: Orientation on 6/21 and 6 Classes: 6/28, 7/12, 7/19, 7/26, 8/2, 8/9

To register for Wednesday classes in Kings Beach, email

Fireplace Room
Time: Fridays at 10 am
Schedule: Orientation on 6/23 and 6 Classes: 6/30, 7/7, 7/14, 7/21, 7/28, 8/4

To register for Friday classes in Truckee, email

Tahoe Donner
The Kids Club
Time: Saturdays at 10 am
Orientation on 6/24 and 6 Classes: 7/8, 7/15, 7/22, 7/29, 8/5, 8/12

To register for Saturday classes through Tahoe Donner, go online to

For more information, visit us at or contact Rita at

Rita Whitaker Haun is a professional cellist with over 40 years of experience teaching public and private school music for ages birth to 70. 

Classical Tahoe presents Musikgarten in partnership with Sierra Community House, Tahoe Donner, Incline Village Parks Recreation & Wellness. Musikgarten is made possible by The Spirit Burns Fund.