When my eldest was born there was a a popular craze marketing classical music for babies and children. These products boasted hyperbolic claims that ultimately lead to their decline in popularity, but at the same time it meant that the idea of classical music for the very young was on my mind.
If you happen to be a musician, this will already be a matter of daily life, but what if you are not? As music-loving people my spouse and I listen to a very wide range of music at home, but in terms of actually playing music neither of us are beyond basic theory and a few memorized songs. However, if you were to meet my kids (a fairly good chance as they are not the shy types) you would begin to notice a few things:
- They do not complain when they hear classical music.
- They will gasp or exclaim at exciting movements.
- They will often insert Classical music excerpts into their imaginary play, such as when the bad guy enters, “dun dun dun dunnnn”.
- They usually know the name of the instrument(s) being played by an orchestra.
- They recognize and are able to pronounce names like Bach and Beethoven.
Though these might seem like small details, they are all part of developing an appreciation for Classical music. To appreciate Classical music is to not only find enjoyment from it, but also to further one’s enjoyment by understanding it. Teaching young people to appreciate something means handing them a key to unlock doors that they may or may not enter, but they would not have had access to otherwise.
For those who love Classical music, the only way to ensure that it will survive is to help young people access it. Some of them will also fall in love with Classical music too, and though they may not become professional musicians, their patronage will allow professional Classical musicians to exist.
Here are some tips on helping the young people in your life develop an appreciation for Classical music:
- Find some ‘Treasury of Classics’ albums as they contain familiar pieces that children will be most likely to encounter.
- Read books written about orchestras and other ensembles. They will teach children about the instrument families and how each one functions.
- Listen to audio books such as “Beethoven Lives Upstairs” which tell children about the stories behind the music.
- Search for videos made by famous opera houses and orchestras specifically for kids.
- Play ‘name that instrument’ to encourage sound recognition.
- Dance along! Encourage children to move spontaneously to music.
- Pretend-play being an orchestra with your child as conductor.
- Instigate a marching band around the house… or block!
- Learn about local resources such as the Stirling M.I.L.L (Musical Instrument Lending Library).
- Stay in touch with QSCM for future family-friendly events!
Remember that it will take repeated exposures for this learning to happen. Unlike a skill that requires daily practice, appreciation is something that develops more organically. One common approach is known as “strewing” – or purposely leaving materials available for children to encounter without adult direction. Once discovered, our response to their questions and interests regarding the material can lead to deeper investigations.
Another approach is to pick an activity that pairs well with listening time, such as driving in the car, to play classical music. You don’t have to introduce it with any fanfare (that’s the trumpet’s job!) just make it “normal” to be played in the background.
Trust that the music is interesting enough to generate conversation and, like any new language, eventually the child will want to join in too.