Introducing Children to Classical Music

Introducing children to classical music is a challenging and complex task. The aural world is as varied and rich as the world of sight, and yet, the same parents who consider the reading of Shakespeare and Dickens and the viewing of Michelangelo and Rembrandt integral parts of an educated mind will suddenly hesitate when asked about the importance of listening to a Beethoven symphony. Years of reading precede the reading of Shakespeare, years of drawing and painting precede the first encounter with Rembrandt; similarly, years of listening to music must precede the appreciation of the great works of classical music.

The parents of a newborn can begin building a child's musical vocabulary with the purchase of his or her first music box

Brahms' "Lullaby," excerpts from Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," and Flotow's "The Last Rose of Summer" are all available. More extensive selections exist, both in European gift shops and on recordings of antique music boxes. In addition, every baby's room should have either a small sound system with speakers for listening to music. Music is soothing for nap time, cheerful for waking up time, excellent for rolling around and exercising.

From the ages of one to three, your child should be actively singing

No car should be without music; every child should have his or her own small player. Begin collecting a music and audiobook library together. Always listen to them together the first time; this sends an important message to your child, namely, that you are also interested in listening. Find a parent/child music group. You will learn songs that you and your child can share and take with you everywhere.

By the age of three, your child may be ready to listen to several other kinds of music

Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with a book of pictures is appropriate. The American Ballet Theater's video of The Nutcracker is excellent for both girls and boys. Most three-year olds are still not socially ready to sit quietly in a concert hall. The concert hall experience demands a three-stage process, namely, that the child be able to:

  1. Store up all that he or she has heard,

  2.  Recall it after the performance 

  3.  Be able to discuss it out of its time frame.

Taking a three year old to a concert is possible, but if the child is forced to behave in a situation-appropriate, rather than age-appropriate manner, it will not be an enjoyable experience for either the parents or the child. Be grateful that we live in the age of excellent recorded sound and video, which can prepare your child for the grand moment, and that many orchestras have family concerts.

All children should be prepared for their first concert hall experience. If they are to attend Peter and the Wolf, they should have listened to it at least twenty-five times at home first; if the are going to The Nutcracker, you should have watched the video several times together, stopping, explaining the story, talking about the dances, etc. If you are taking a child to a holiday sing-along concert, be certain the he or she knows the words to the first verse of at least half the songs listed on the program. Good preparation eliminates the need for disturbing and inadequate explanations during performances and allows the performance to be an exhilarating, magical experience of something coming to life.

Three-to-five-year-olds can begin applied music lessons.

Start on instruments that come in smaller sizes (violins, cellos, classical guitar), or the piano where fixed pitches can be found. Young children should wait until they are physically large enough to play other instruments. The Suzuki method is highly recommended for all instruction at this age, but this is only for the parent with time, commitment and patience.

The ages of six to twelve are wonderful years for your child to attend live performances with you

The best young people's programming is entertaining and educational for both the parent and the child; even the musicians learn something at a fine concert for young people. The age to start is not fixed and depends on the child's level of interest, previous exposure, school-imparted listening skills, etc. If your child is not ready to sit quietly and listen for twenty to thirty-five minutes, wait until the next year to take him or her.

At this age, continue your listening at home and in the car with stories in music, such as the Maestro Classics series and the Classical Kids Series. Continue to have music in the car and listen to classic rock like The Beatles and Queen, other favorites from your teenage years, plus music of their choice. On stressful days, a good rule is that adults and children each have veto power on what to play.

In the final analysis, one must ask:
 

  • ​Do I want my child to develop an appreciation for music and attend concerts?

Hopefully, a classical music lover can be involved in all three aspects. We know that the best way to ensure that our children will be readers is to read ourselves. Unless we, as parents, have a genuine interest in classical music, our children will probably fail to go beyond a very rudimentary introduction to this art form. The good news, however, is that while some parents have musical backgrounds, most do not, and if this is the case, you and your child can begin to enjoy and learn about classical music together.

Questions to ask yourself:
 

  • Do I like classical music?  

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  • Do I think that my child should like classical music because it (a) is socially correct, (b) will give him or her a lifetime of enjoyment, (c) will be a civilizing force on his or her personality, (d) is something that I have never learned to like but feel that I should?

 

 

  • Do I think that learning about a Beethoven symphony is as important as learning how to play baseball well or understanding a play by Shakespeare?

 

  • Is this something that I would like to share with my child?

 

  • Is there time in my life to practice an instrument with my child every day?​


 

Questions to ask the professional:
 

  • What concerts are right for my child at this age? (The age requirement for concerts relates, not to how musically gifted or interested the child is, but rather to his or her emotional and abstract conceptual development. Obey the guidelines for your sake, for the sake of the professionals running successful programs, and for you child's sake.)  

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  • What music will my child enjoy after Raffi and Mr. Beethoven Lives Upstairs?

 

  • Is my child enjoying his or her music lessons? (Not, is he or she doing as well as others his or her age?)

 

Bonnie Ward Simon, BA, MA, M.Ed, M.Phil.,

President of Maestro Classics

Maestro Classics, classical music for kids

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​© MAESTRO CLASSICS. DIV OF SIMON & SIMON, LLC, 2020