Skip to comments.Five Ways to Introduce Concert Music to Children
Posted on 04/12/2012 5:49:18 PM PDT by Borges
The standard repertoire of Concert Music is music written primarily by dead Euro-males between roughly 1650 and 1900, music typically heard in the rather formal environs of a concert hall. Yes, this music is often referred to as classical music, which is as useless a phrase as real imitation margarine! When we call something classic, we are identifying it with the ideals and restraint of ancient Greek art, which immediately rules out the great bulk of concert music, which as- often-as-not is filled with schmerz und schmutz, sturm und drang, angst and exaltation. Even if we use the word classic in its loosest permutation to indicate something exemplary whos to say that the phrase classical music shouldnt apply equally to Classic Jazz, Classic Rock and even, painful though it may be to contemplate, Classic Death Metal/Grindcore. So: a pox on the phrase classical music. Concert music it is.
And why should we want to introduce our children to concert music? Because it constitutes some of the greatest art our species has ever cooked up, musical art that informs, edifies, educates, entertains, inspires, and ultimately packs a toy shops worth of joy that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
1. It is a truism that children will read if they are read to and if they see their parents read. It is incumbent upon parents to set an example by listening to concert music at home and in the car (the latter might require some negotiation, but it is my experience that it CAN BE DONE). Dont be afraid of playing the same piece over and over again; familiarity breeds affection.
(Having said all this, I would suggest that parents do not play their children just one type of music to the exclusion of all others. The distinctions we have created between concert music and rock n roll, and jazz and so forth are on the whole meaningless to children. They tend to just like music all music which is how it should be.)
2. Invest in some decent percussion toys and encourage your kids to play along with recordings and videos. Yes, Im aware that this can drive an adult up a wall, which is why we should do it with them. This makes us active, not passive participants in the musical process, and its more fun than you might think. As for insulting Bach or Mozart or Beethoven by doing this; my friends, theyre dead and beyond insult. Besides, do you really think playing along with a recording is more insulting than the disco arrangement of Beethovens Fifth Symphony that was featured in the movie Saturday Night Fever? I rest my case.
3. Rent/buy/download and play cool movies like Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Disneys Peter and the Wolf and Fantasia 2000. Each episode of Disney Juniors Little Einsteins series focuses on a different piece of concert music and teaches all sorts of musical terminology as well. My three year-old son and five year-old daughter love them.
4. Go to local orchestral concerts TOGETHER, in particular childrens/family concerts. Outdoor festival concerts are even better, because the kids can run around and move to the music. Try to listen to the pieces on the program before hand. Music literacy is akin to written literacy, and a little (even a tiny!) bit of preparation pays off big time in terms of intensifying the experience.
5. Get a piano. It doesnt have to be an 811¾ Steinway D (list price around 130k); a little spinet will do. Put it in a place where the kids can bang on it without making the rest of the family crazy. When its time for piano lessons (at age 6 or 7; no need to rush) the piano will thus be an old friend and not a new torture device. And speaking of lessons: no one is ever too old to take piano lessons. Mom or dad (or grandma or grandpa, whomever) should think about taking lessons and practicing together with the kids. It is seriously a bonding experience like no other.
(For our information: a piano is made out of wood, medal, leather and felt. It breathes. It is real. Its mechanism physically follows the will of the players body. An electric keyboard is made out of plastic and circuitry. It is not real. It does not breath. It has no place in your house or apartment. But it makes so many different sounds! So does a cat in a microwave: does sonic variety justify popping little Boots into the micro? But we dont have room for a piano. Yes you do. But my child can practice on a keyboard wearing earphones, so we dont have to listen. Oh, thats a GREAT message to send your child: go practice, but dont make us listen to you. But pianos have to be tuned. So?)
Recording starter kit. Here are some great works wonderfully performed to start out with.
Johann Sebastian Bach, Brandenburg Concertos; Trevor Pinnock conducting, on Archiv
Wolfgang Mozart, Symphonies Nos. 39, 40, & 41; Neville Marriner conducting, on EMI
Ludwig (my friends call me Louis) van Beethoven, Nine Symphonies; John Eliot Gardiner conducting, on Archiv
Camille Saint-Saens, Carnival of the Animals; Charles Dutoit conducting, on London
Sergei Prokofiev, Peter and the Wolf; Carlo Rossi conducting, narrated by Boris Karloff, Vanguard
Clasic Warner Brothers cartoons are scored with tons of classical music...
1812 Overture with cannon
“The standard repertoire of Concert Music is music written primarily by dead Euro-males between roughly 1650 and 1900.”
Wrong. It was written by extraordinary musical geniuses. This gramscian “race, classic, and gender” rubbish is tedious.
The American Classical Orchestra in NYC caters to kids. It’s a neat organization, and good client of mine.
I think film soundtracks got me interested in orchestral music. Plus some of the Rock from the 70s like Rick Wakeman and Emerson, Lake amd Palmer.
Put on the 1812 Overture when the baby comes home! BLAST it like my Dad did!
btw, classical was the ONLY music in my home growing up. Well, at least until Dad came home from work!
Didn’t see your post before mine. Wow, are we siblings?
When I was three, my favorites were “Poet and Peasant” and “Light Calvary overture.” I used to march around the living room and make up my own words.
Thank You, Daddy!
Remington Steele got me to watch old movies. I know slightly OT....
Ours was “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (Peer Gynt) , “Nutcracker” and “Grand Canyon Suite”. We would BEG for Dad to play those!
Oh, and we danced too! Good times.
btw, my 24 yr old daughter texted me last night wanting to know which version of “Romeo and Juliet” I played for her when she was growing up. (Prokofiev)
The old Popeye cartoons were great, too. They introduced me to Von Suppe’s Poet and Peasant Overture.
Oh I LOVED Peer Gynt! And I loved SCARY music like “Danse Macabre”, “Night on Bald Mountain”, and “Symphonie Fantastique”!
I didn’t get into Mozart till recently, as a pianist. bac then, I liked it Bombastic, Loud, and in a minor key. (I was a weird little kid! hahaha!)
7) Is the oboe player at 4:49 Zooey Deschanel? PDQ Bach - Beethoven Symphony No. 5
While the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony receives all the glory (trite notoriety?), may I suggest the second through fourth movements? The entire symphony should be listened to as a whole, if possible. If not, listen to the parts-break it down for young listeners-describe the theme that runs through the entire symphony, listen for the way distinct instruments are introduced, each falling back on the central theme; describe the goosebumps when the transition from third to fourth movements occurs.
Clasic Warner Brothers cartoons are scored with tons of classical music...
that’s how i got into it too and leanard bernstein’s chidrens concert. there is a traveling show that plays with symphonies that shows the cartoon on the big screens in the concert hull while the symphony plays the music.
classical is still the background music of choice along with movie scores and we have a great classical music station kvod 88.1 in denver.
My niece developed an interest after watching the Fantasia disc I bought for her 6th birthday. Simple exposure is usually enough; the music itself does the rest.
My parents got me started with a little 78RPM player and a couple of John Philip Sousa march records - well, it was during WWII when such music was acceptable. Next my first grade teacher enchanted me with “Morning” from Peer Gynt, so much so that eventually my mother made a special trip with me into Philly to visit the record department of the old Gimbels Department Store to buy a 2 record 78 album of the Suite. About that time the fantastic new 33 1/3 RPM technology was arriving, and with it full recordings of “Scheherazade”, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, “Rhapsody in Blue”, and “Ein Heldenleben” (the theme of the old “Big Story” program) - and on and on...fast, loud, melodious, and dramatic did it every time.......
Now we have these “message” type cartoons and they suck. It used to be Cartoon Network would run the old Warner Bros, cartoons, but then they started butchering them for PC considerations such “violence”, “stereotyping”, and other liberal nonsense.
One of the things that drove the libs nuts was the characters were always getting shot or blown up or falling off cliffs and such. These morons actually believed kids could not understand the difference between cartoon fantasy characters and acting out in real life. Good grief! How stupid is this? At 8 years old I knew cartoon characters weren't REAL.
I recall an album of light favorites by Morton Gould (who I was later to learn was a heavy hitter in concert music) and an album of songs by Ernesto Lecuona by the great pianist Jose Iturbi.
But the family collection of classical music accelerated with our first LP radio-phonograph console in 1953, a Philco. Big sis started collecting such classics as Efrem Kurtz' reading of Khachaturian's Gayne suite (including Sabre Dance), Pennario/Slatkin's Rhapsody in Blue, and some cheap Euro imports of light classics, including one of Porgy and Bess.
[Later, after building our first kit-based true hi-fi system, I cannibalized the Philco's cabinet and speaker as a second speaker for that (mono) system. I also cannibalized the chassis of the Motorola to use as a small PA system for our club in Jr High School.]
Dad had some favorites too. I remember in particular a piece from Ippolitov-Ivanov's In the Steppes of Central Asia, titled Procession of the Sardar.
The family title of Chief Classical Music Collector eventually fell upon my shoulders. I went on to sell hi-fi/stereo equipment, broadcast concert music, and record some too.
Family members knew that a nice classical recording was an easy present choice for me! I am especially fond of an LP my brother gave me one Christmas: Cliburn/Reiner's performance of Beethoven's 4th Concerto.
Last night I watched a full BBC Proms concert from 2008 on Youtube. It was Bernard Haitink with the Chicago Symphony at Royal Albert Hall, featuring Mahler's 6th.
At a crucial point in the final movement, the final section is introduced most unusually, almost shockingly.
In the percussion battery sits an octagonal wooden object, like an oversized ottoman, with a round wooden disk on top. Then there's this, well, sledgehammer. At the crucial moment, this diminutive Asian percussionette winds up that hammer and gives one homeric whack on that wooden ottoman. And she had to anticipate the right instant by probably 1.71828 beats in order to start the hammer swing on time.
It reminded me of nothing more than that epic commercial of 1984 introducing the Macintosh.
Great post. The second movement is sublime. I also like Gould’s version of Liszt transcription of that movement. I listen to—and play—that much more than the other movements. The orchestral version is probably the only one for children, however (to remain on topic).
I had a full percussion kit made up of mom’s pots and pans! Ha Ha Ha! I have since moved up from Farberware to Zildjin! :-)
I also teach music at a pre-school.
Yes YES to all your childhood loves!
Never got into Mozart. I keep trying but it just doesn’t “do it” for me! What would you suggest?
Get yourself a conductor stick! Been know to “conduct” a piece FULL BLAST standing on my patio table at sunset! Just doin’ my part to educate the neighbors :)
I didn’t appreciate Mozart UNTIL I started to actually PLAY his music on the Piano.
BUT, in deference to my Bombastic and Loud preferences, I STILL Prefer Verdi’s Requiem Mass to Mozart’s Ha Ha Ha!