My Top Five ways to get your kids into Classical Music
Wish your kids loved classical music as much as you do?
As a youngster, I had some great opportunities that transformed me into the classical music lover I am today. I think that I was interested in classical music from a young age because I was able to interact and engage with it in a way that was fun.
There are several great movies that feature classical music in a way that is easy and fun for kids to understand. One of my all time favorite movies is August Rush, the story of an orphaned boy who becomes a genius composer as he searches for his parents.
Though I had been read the story of Peter and the Wolf many times as a child, I saw the 2006 stop-animation version of Peter and Wolf on PBS and it is a great retelling of the classic story, fit to all the nuances of Provokiev’s wonderful “soundtrack”.
Through musical scores like Pirates of the Caribbean or Harry Potter, children can connect melodies that they know to a symphonic orchestra sound. Movie scores can be more energetic than “old” classical music so it is great to play them as background or motivational music while cleaning or enduring long car-trips.
Instrument Petting Zoo
An instrument petting zoo is a great experience for kids and adults. In a lobby area, musicians with all different instruments set up stations so that kids can come touch and sometimes play the instruments. It is interesting to understand how the instruments work. After a performance of Peter and the Wolf, there was a petting zoo in the Thalian ballroom. I was pretty young, but my mom does remember that I played (honked, quacked…whatever) a note on the bassoon. It is interesting to revisit this memory because I am studying music composition and bassoon performance in college.
Finding an instrument petting zoo is a little difficult, because they don’t happen that often. You have to keep your eyes and ears open, for example the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science did a wonderful ‘Meet the Instruments’ series a few years ago.
Starting piano or violin lessons at a young age is a good way to let children understand that playing music is not only for grown-ups. Having good teachers means that children listen to them and will be more likely to practice so that they can make the teacher proud. A good teacher is not always a strict teacher, and parents shouldn’t expect their kids to suddenly become piano child prodigies either. Children look up to great teachers in awe of their abilities, but are able to connect with them as a kind, authoritative figure.
Go to concerts
While attending concerts may not be the coolest thing out there for kids to do, it can be just as fun as going to a movie on a rainy day. Though not all concerts are appealing for children, there are ways to make the average concert exciting. Attending youth symphony concerts might be more fun if you have a friend of neighbor that they can look up to and recognize. Finding fun and recognizable music always makes concerts more fun. I remember visiting my grandparents in Ohio and attending the New Years Eve Strauss celebration where along with the Blue Danube Waltz and Auld Lang Syne, the Dayton Philharmonic released balloons. At one of those midnight concerts, Neal Gittleman, an energetic conductor introduced the audience to “Pavarotti Loves Elephants” a rendition of La Donna e Mobile (http://www.rathergood.com/elephants). (Check the link it’s still hilarious 8 years later – you’ll be singing this all day!) Ballets like the nutcracker are also a great and entertaining holiday hit.
Whatever gets kids excited about music is worth it. Making a rubber-band guitar or banging on pots and pans is fun, and more entertaining than TV or the Internet. When I was younger, I got excited about the Peter, Paul and Mary CD we kept in our car and listened to almost everyday. My favorite musical was Cats, and after seeing it onstage my sister and I woke up to “Jellicle Cats” as our alarm.
Having public radio on in the background is also a great way to expose kids to great classical music. I remember being inspired by the kids my age on “From the Top”. “Classics for Kids” is a wonderful way for children and adults to learn more about composers, countries and musical eras. And yes, Always, Always listen to WHQR.