Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Age is the Best to Start Studying Music?

The easy answer is that it is never too soon to begin introducing your child to music. You begin by singing to them and then with them. You listen to music when you are playing together. You put on music when you are making dinner. I love the story of the great American opera star, Beverly Sills, who said that every morning before her mother put on the coffee, she put on the opera records. When she went for her first voice lesson at the age of 7 she knew 40 arias!

If you are wondering what the right age is to start studying an instrument, like so many things, it depends. If you yourself are interested in studying the violin with your child and your child is interested, you can begin Suzuki violin lessons when they are as young as 3 years old. However, you must be willing to go to the lessons and practice with your child. This can be a lot of fun, but it is a commitment. Three is young, and four is often a better age to begin Suzuki. The six-year-old may be ready for piano lessons. The fourth grader may be ready to study a band instrument. Two things are vital: (1) your child needs to see and hear other children playing instruments, and (2) you have to find a teacher who is truly child-friendly.

If you decide that the time is right - meaning your child wants to do this - remember that the first instrument may not be the right fit (Rent the instrument!) and take some time looking for the right teacher. Remember, if you don't like the teacher, your child probably will not either.

All studies show that studying music helps brain development and improves many other learning skills, and it is fun as well.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My grandchild is coming to visit...

"My five-year-old grandson will be visiting us next week and we'd love to take to some educational and fun music events - what types of events would you suggest and where might I find them?"

As it is summer time, my first suggestion is to see if there are any outdoor concerts in your area. This time of year is a perfect time to introduce your child or grandchild to classical music or band music or really any kind of live music because there are outdoor concerts. Whether you are fortunate enough to be in the Berkshires in Massachusetts with Tanglewood nearby or Ravinia outside of Chicago or a small town in Maine that has a band shell, you have the wonderful opportunity to enjoy music in an informal setting where a bit of squirming is acceptable. It is very difficult for many children to sit still, but out on a lawn where they can lie on a blanket and look at the stars or even play scrabble as they listen, will give them memories that will last for a lifetime.
Our summer community has had folksinging for children of all ages Tuesday evening for 40 years. Many parents who remember coming as children are now bringing their children. You do not need to know the songs to come; you just come and sing along and suddenly children know all the words. Ask around to see if one of these exists in your community.
Make it a project to teach your grandchildren at least one song that you learned as a child. My father taught my sons the Irish song "Nobody knows the trouble that was there, nobody know I do declare." It was a song that his grandfather taught him and I am certain that it is the song that they will teach their children - that will be a 5th generation song.
Be sure to ask your grandchildren to teach you a song they have learned in school this year.
Finally, put music on that you like as you are baking cookies or finger-painting. Part of getting to know you better is learning what music you as a grandparent likes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Hampton Court

Tonight we have been invited to a private dinner party at Hampton Court where Handel's Water Music will be performed on period instruments by musicians of the English Concert. Having just released My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music on Maestro Classics label, this should be quite exciting. For those of you who have not heard this new CD, Handel composed his Water Music for King George I's river cruise from London to Hampton Court, where the king had dinner and then returned to London with Handel's musical barge continuing to play.
More details tomorrow...

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Exciting discoveries.

As I am thinking about creating the Composers series for Maestro Classics CDs for kids, Mozart who is sitting in our files, comes to mind as the logical next CD after My Name is Handel.

Salzburg was, of course, the city of Mozart's birth. I visited the house where he was born and lived the first years of his life and also the house the family moved to as Leopold Mozart became more prosperous. I was delighted to discover, by chance, the grave of both Mozart's father's and his wife's graves in a cemetery on the other side of the river.

One surprising was that Leopold Mozart was the Suzuki of his time, in that he wrote a major new approach to violin teaching and music teaching in general. You can purchase it online.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Record Shops Still Exist in Europe!

People are still buying CDs in Europe, big time! I also have just begun to see articles that talk about the difference in sound quality between a CD and even an MP4. There is a HUGE difference in the amount of sonic information that is on a CD. If you like to listen to good music on your stereo, you should probably purchase the CD, even if you download it to your iPod for travel.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Greetings from Vienna, the City of Music

Maestro Classics in Wien
Vienna Street Musicians & Why to Wait to Take Your Kids to Some Concerts - perhaps just enjoy the street musicians (see video at bottom)

We went to a glorious performance of a Bruckner Mass with the Vienna Boychoir (Wiener Sängerknaben) at the Hofburg Imperial Palace chapel with members of the Vienna State Opera orchestra and chorus. The music raining down from the top rear balcony where none of the choristers or musicians could be seen truly gave the feeling that the music was coming from heaven. At a time when video cams are being used everywhere, it was a delicious experience to just take it all in with your ears.

I had to feel a little sorry for the group of Japanese school children who sat through and hour and a half of music in a language they did not understand accompanied by a mass spoken and sung totally in German. Once again I wondered if they would be turned off for life, having had an experience that was age-inappropriate.

TAKE AWAY. Be careful not to expect your children to enjoy everything that you do. There is a right time for everything and a performance where there is no escape if you discover that it is too long for your child will not engender a love of music.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ahhh...the mysteries of Facebook...

I have spent the last two evenings working with Facebook, trying to decipher how to create "Like" pages and understand how they are different from your home page or wall. With husband and music director Stephen Simon, now not only the music director for Maestro Classics CDs for kids, but also the music director for the Simon Sinfonietta in Falmouth, MA on Cape Cod and of L'Orchestre des Portes Rouges, the new orchestra at Church of the Resurrection at 119 East 74th St., in New York City -the man who is still resisting email - the task of bringing him into the 21st century seems to have fallen to me. Ruth Bleakley who works for us at Maestro Classics doing our social networking made it all seem so easy... but she is only 25, which explains a lot. HOWEVER, not to be daunted, I now have two new Facebook pages up on the web so that all those people who hip classical music-loving people who are on Facebook all the time will have an easy place to find info and each other. They can even LIKE us - a verb that has taken on a totally new meaning. Try it!

Monday, June 6, 2011

"LIKE" Simon Sinfonietta on Facebook

Big Favor: would you click on Simon Sinfonietta facebook wall and "like" this wonderful orchestra?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Simon Sinfonietta's Marimba Soloist

Pius Cheung, marimba

Pius Cheung, the Chinese/Canadian marimba virtuoso, stayed with us in Cape Cod for his performance with the Simon Sinfonietta under the baton of Maestro Stephen Simon, husband and music director of Simon Sinfonietta, L'Orchestre des Portes Rouge, and Maestro Classics. Pius brought Eriko Daimo, the Japanese marimbist. They both adored Woods Hole (who doesn't???) and Eriko delighted in our restored Japanese tea house. My sister Gretchen Warren, champion rose grower and floral designer, has been studying ikebana seriously for several years and when she and Eriko visited the tea house, Eriko said it was like a trip to Japan. Her mother is a master ikebana teacher in Japan.

Pius played the Creston Concerto for Marimba masterfully. It is an incredibly challenging work for both the marimba and the orchestra, but the audience marveled at the technical prowess and beauty of his playing. There was a standing ovation the moment the last notes were played.

Friday, June 3, 2011

My husband likes classical music, but...

Last week when I was at the Florida Home School Conference in Orlando, FL at the beautiful Gaylord Palms resort, I had the pleasure of talking to hundreds of parents. One of the most interesting comments came from a mother who said, "My husband likes classical music, but I have always said to him, 'Would you just go into your study and listen to it?' But now that I have been listening to your Maestro Classics CDs, I am getting to understand and really am beginning to like some classical music."

In truth, this mother and daughter were at the Arlington, TX Homeschool Bookfair

I think that all parents who either homeschool or simply sit with their children as they do homework are always amazed at how much they themselves are learning. I remember once saying to my son, who was not particularly interested in Sub-Saharan African history, "I am going to stop complaining; I am getting an excellent education for your very expensive tuition." And over the years I have noted time and again as I was reading the newspaper, that understood an article because I had learned something while studying with one of my sons for a test.

This mother and daughter with our new yellow bags were at Arlington, TX Homeschool Bookfair

Everything that you do musically with your child will enrich your world. Whether you are sitting with your child as she practices the piano or just take the time to listen to a new piece that she has mastered, your own musical knowledge will increase.

When I first began to create concerts for families at the Kennedy Center, I stipulated that there would be no group sales. I wanted a parent, grandparent or family friend who loved classical music to bring a child to the concert hall to share their love of music. Consequently, it was necessary to create programs that challenged the intellects of adults as well as children. There was always parallel learning going on as well as high quality professional music-making on the stage. These concerts with the Washington Chamber Symphony were so successful that there were waiting lists for years!

It was in this spirit that we created the Maestro Classics CD series for kids, but really for families. I always know when a parent comes to our booth at shows and puts on the headset and listens - and the smile spreads across his or her face as they are transported to another place - I know that that they will listen with their children and spread the joy of music.

TAKE-AWAY: Listen to CDs with your kids. Don't just put them on the iPod and give them a headset. You will have lots to talk about with the Maestro Classics CDs. And, someday when they are teenagers, you will continue to talk about their music with them.