Most parents know the importance of play, even for the youngest baby. Mobiles hang from cribs, busy boxes adorn their sides, and soft and cuddly animals keep him or her company inside. Videos instruct parents on exercises that they can do with babies. But what about your baby’s ears? Most of that we seem to leave to happenstance, yet hearing may be one of the baby’s most acute senses from birth. Parent’s often look at Mozart and think, “He was playing from the age of three, and it seemed to happen miraculously; I guess he was just a genius.” But when one looks more closely, one realizes that Mozart was surrounded by music from the day he was born. His father was a musician who played the violin, composed himself, gave his daughter (and his son) violin and piano lessons, taught others, played chamber music with friends all day and every evening. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a genius, but he also had parents who filled his life with music because they were musicians. Today, you, as a parent, do not have to be a musician to give your child the benefits of a rich musical world in this time of recorded sound. (In the time of Mozart there was no recorded sound, only live music!) But it will take a little bit of work. Most babies hear their first music by way of a music box either inside a stuffed animal or on their dresser, and then, as toddlers, move to Raffi and Sharon, Lois and Bram, at which point their music experiences comes to a halt until their peers introduce them to rock or rap. There is more! Many parents discover (and rediscover) great children’s literature when their own children are young: this may be your opportunity to learn more about classical music! Classical music is like literature. You would be very surprised if someone had not read some Shakespeare; similarly, people who enjoy classical music would be very surprised if you had missed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, Ravel’s Bolero, etc. So part of what you are doing when listening to classical music with your child is simply exposing him or her to the different sounds of different composers whose great works he or she will, hopefully, come to know and love later in life. This is rather like showing a child many shapes of blocks or colors of blue, rather than just one; triangles and squares and colors are the building blocks of his or her visual world in later life. So, too, are symphonic sounds. Where do you begin? The problem is that a symphony is like a world of emotions. If you are putting your baby down for a nap, you will not want the fast, happy, uplifting finale to a symphony, though you might want the slow second movement. Similarly, if you are doing some exercises on the floor with a baby you would want something livelier. What this means, of course, is that you are going to have the pleasure of listening to a lot of music and deciding which movements you would like to listen to with your new baby. This is not as arduous a task as you might think for two reasons. The first is because repetition is very important. You might listen to one symphony for an entire month together, selecting the slow movement for naps, the first movement for getting dressed each morning, the final before dinner and the slow movement again before bed. (You will be amazed to find yourself humming melodies in the supermarket or at your office before long.) Remember, your child can live without music, just as he/she could live being colorblind or without speaking a foreign language. You, as a parent, are the only one who can see that he or she is not deprived of this wonderful part of life. You will spend years selecting the repertoire, purchasing the recordings, taking him or her to concerts. No school or music teacher can be hired to do this for you. If you are a reader, your child will be a reader. If you love music, your child will love music. Only you can give your child a set of ears!
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