Sunday, September 23, 2012

El Sistema: Changing Lives Through Music

Music: The Antidote to Violence

Every time I am flooded with images of violence on the nightly news, I return to this video on El Sistema, the orchestra created in the slums of Venezuela.
  Music is a force for peace.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Homeschool Buyers Co-op GREAT DEAL!

For the first time ever, we are offering an incredible deal through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. I was so impressed with Brett Walker and his program that I agreed to make this very special offer to his members. Anyone can join for free and then enjoy the amazing discounts that he offers to homeschool parents as they are looking for high quality educational materials for their families.

Maestro Classics Is Moving to Manhattan!

Historic Highfield, Falmouth, MA

After 4 wonderful years on the top floor of this beautiful historic restored "Summer Cottage," Maestro Classics is moving to New York City. Annie Dean, Director of Operations for 4 years, has moved on and we are now interviewing for her replacement 250 miles to the south.

I am looking forward to having my summers back for sailing, swimming, and outdoor dinners overlooking the sea with the Maestro - working before others are up and after they go to bed. This will be dream time for new directions for Maestro Classics.

1745 Broadway, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10019
This is Maestro Classics' new home in New York City! The No. 10 bus takes me past Lincoln Center and drops me at the office half a block from Carnegie Hall, the place of my first job after I graduated from Vassar. I have a view of Central Park - a sliver of trees to keep track of the seasons - and a great cafeteria. A great place to begin the next chapter of Maestro Classics' life, right in Random House's new building.

Talk about lucky!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Simon Music Library, Maestro Classics Office & Storeroom of CDs
are heading south!

"Early Music Lessons Have Longtime Benefits"

New York Times article on the positive effects of early music lessons

“To learn to read, you need to have good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds, make sound-to-meaning connections,” said Professor Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. “Each one of these things really seems to be strengthened with active engagement in playing a musical instrument.”

Studying an instrument seems to have long-lasting benefits. From learning to read  to learning foreign languages, studying music as a child seems to have profound effects on the brain!

I recently heard that the No. 1 major for students being accepted into med school is Music! Who would have guessed! Except that my personal physician has practiced a couple of hours every evening for years.... and is very accomplished. Condi Rice is an excellent pianist. And on and on.

Read the entire article.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Great Music Quote!

Just watch your children's faces as they listen to Maestro Classics' Peter and the Wolf!

I think of this quote every time a Homeschool Parent puts on the headphones at a conference and I watch as every muscle in his/her face relaxes.

Read the quote again and I bet you will notice that you are smiling!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Scholastic Parent Magazine: Best CDs/DVDs of 2011

No.2 CD by Scholastic is a Fabulous Honor!

Conductor Stephen Simon is a Handel specialist who has won Grammy nominations for his Handel recordings, so it should have been no surprise that My Name is Handel has continued to be one of our best-selling CDs. But, when I was interviewing someone for a new position and mentioned Scholastic, on Google the first thing that popped up on my Mac was this! 

I just had to share before I headed off to the office.....

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Power of Music: Another Beethoven Ninth - Ode to Joy

Beautiful! This is a perfect example of the power of music! Look at all the faces! This "flash mob" in Spain was planned*, but the spontaneity and joy on everyone in the square is amazing. 

What emotion fills you when you listen/watch this 5-minute video?

*On the 130th anniversary of the founding of Banco Sabadell we wanted to pay homage to our city by means of the campaign "Som Sabadell" (We are Sabadell) . This is the flashmob that we arranged as a final culmination with the participation of 100 people from the Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l'Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

10,000 Sing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony...Really!

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is perhaps that most popular piece of western music in Japan. This simulcast had choruses throughout Japan all singing simultaneously! Perhaps not the most stunning performance, but surely a truly memorable performing experience for all involved. (They are singing in German not Japanese!)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Ultimate One-Man Band - Amazing!

Amazing feat! And amazing hands as well! This could be a demonstration of multi-tasking, extreme coordination, perseverance, and/or sense of humor. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Music and Reading - No. 2

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary had a little lamb
Whose fleece as white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go!

It followed her to school one day,
which was against the rules.
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.

            Teach your child a song, for example  “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” When they are able to sing the whole song, write out the words on a large piece of paper or cardboard.  Now, sing it very slowly and point to each word as you sing.

           There are many great activities you can use based on this song. There is a cute video with words that you might want to show your child after you have taught him/her the words slowly.

Full version:
Written by Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey's Lady's Book (1830s) | Copyright Unknown

Mary had a little lamb,
Little lamb, little lamb,
Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went,
Mary went, Mary went,
Everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go
It followed her to school one day
School one day, school one day
It followed her to school one day
Which was against the rules.
It made the children laugh and play,
Laugh and play, laugh and play,
It made the children laugh and play
To see a lamb at school
And so the teacher turned it out,
Turned it out, turned it out,
And so the teacher turned it out,
But still it lingered near
And waited patiently about,
Patiently about, patiently about,
And waited patiently about
Till Mary did appear
"Why does the lamb love Mary so?"
Love Mary so? Love Mary so?
"Why does the lamb love Mary so?"
The eager children cry
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know."
Loves the lamb, you know, loves the lamb, you know
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know."
The teacher did reply


Now, try the same exercise with “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”

Old MacDonald lyrics

Old Macdonald had a farm ee-eye, ee-eye-oh.
And on that farm he had a duck ee-eye,ee-eye-oh.
With a quack, quack here and a quack, quack there.
Here a quack, there a quack, everywhere a quack, quack.
Old MacDonald had a farm, ee-eye,ee-eye-oh.
Old MacDonald had a farm ee-eye,ee-eye-oh.
And on that farm he had a cow ee-eye,ee-eye-oh.
With a moo, moo here and a moo, moo there.
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo, moo.
Quack, quack here and a quack, quack there.
Here a quack, there a quack, everywhere a quack, quack.
Old MacDonald had a farm ee-eye,ee-eye-oh.
Old MacDonald had a farm ee-eye,ee-eye-oh.
And on that farm he had a dog ee-eye,ee-eye-oh.
With a woof, woof here and a woof, woof there.
Here a woof, there a woof, everywhere a woof, woof.
Moo, moo here and a moo, moo there.
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo, moo.
Quack, quack here and a quack, quack there.
Here a quack, there a quack, everywhere a quack, quack.
Old MacDonald had a farm ee-eye,ee-eye-oh.
Old MacDonald had a farm ee-eye, ee-eye oh.
And on that farm he had a pig ee-eye, ee-eye oh.
With an oink, oink here and an oink, oink there.
Here an oink, there an oink, everywhere an oink, oink.
A woof, woof here and a woof, woof there.
Here a woof, there a woof, everywhere a woof, woof.
Moo, moo here and a moo, moo there.
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo, moo.
Quack, quack here and a quack, quack there.
Here a quack, there a quack, everywhere a quack, quack.
Old MacDonald had a farm ee-eye,ee-eye-oh.

             Kids will have great fun making the barnyard animal sounds. Then you can have them try to write their sounds. They can also  try spelling words that rhyme with these sounds. For example, “peep”  rhymes with “jeep,” “sleep,” “creep,” etc.

            Then try writing out the song with some missing words. Have the children sing the song and when they come to the missing word, have them fill it in. Most of all, have fun!

Maestro Classics…because classical music makes kids smarter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Audio Processing and Music

           Chris was a delightful, cheerful baby, but when he began to talk, his words were unintelligible. At first, his parents thought that this was just  prolonged baby babble, but in time it was clear that they needed to discuss with their pediatrician. The doctor sent Chris to a specialist for testing. To his parents’ dismay, they were told that Christ had audio processing problems. His prescription? Everything that they said to him should be sung!

            Chris’ household began to sound like an opera. “Good Morning, Chris. How are you today?” they began, making up tunes as they went. Soon Chris began to sing back to them. The words were coming out right!

            Until Chris was about 6, everything word in their home was sung, not spoken. By the time he was ready for first grade, Chris was speaking.

            Music travels to a different part of the brain than speech. Clearly, without music Chris would not be the successful college senior that he is today.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Music and Reading - Response to a Mom

1. At the very beginning, you teach a child the Alphabet Song. It is sung to the "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" song.)  Most adults who learned it at the age of 3 or 4 still sing it.

2. Anything that you can put to music will be more easily remembered. My son "Sebastian" needed to know how to spell his rather long name for Pre-School. I made up a song "S-E-B, A-S-T, I-A-N spells Sebastian." He learned is within a couple of days. 23 years later... he can still sing it.
With Marigold, his golden retriever...who loves popovers!

3. Take the "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" book out of your local library or purchase at a local bookstore or on Amazon, and either at your library or on Amazon get Maestro Classics musical setting of this story and read with your child and have him/her follow along as you read it and listen together.


more to follow.....

Monday, June 18, 2012

10 Easy Ways to Teach Your Child About Music

Here are My Favorite Ten Ways to Teach Your Child About Music

1. Sing every song that you know

2. Put music players in your car, kitchen, and child’s bedroom

3. Find a parent-child music class

4. Find a teacher and study an instrument

5. Join a musical group

6. Teach your child to dance

7. Read about composers

8. Learn to sight sing

9. Add composers to your history timeline

10. Listen, listen, listen widely

Saturday, May 26, 2012


            Handel House is located on Brook Street in the heart of the very fashionable Mayfair section in central London. This lovely house - Handel’s home for nearly 30 years – was as fashionable then as it is today.  If you have a very rich great aunt taking you out in London, you should suggest visiting Handel House first and then going to high tea at Claridge’s,
one of London’s great old hotels, where you can sip tea, eat very small cucumber sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam for about $75 each!

            Actually, getting into Handel House is an adventure in itself as you must go down an alley, make a left turn through a small stone arch, take the cobblestone foot path and enter the museum’s main entrance from the back.  The ground floor is such valuable retail space that the museum lets it out and has restored all the rooms above. They have musical instruments, paintings, period furniture, and occasionally hold concerts there. 

They also have a very nice gift shop where “My Name Is Handel: The Story of Water Music” by Maestro Classics is now sold.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Second Edit - Middlesex outside of London

Leaving London after 2nd Editing Session - flags for the Queen's Jubilee, June 3, 2012 - 60 years on the throne!

The process for each Maestro Classics' CD has many, many steps. From the initial choice of a work to the creation of its narration and/or musical score to the final CD that arrives nicely shrink-wrapped there are countless steps. The Carnival of the Animals by Saint Saens is the next CD.

The recordings with the two fabulous American pianists, Wendy Chen and Donna Kwong, were made in London in March. We eagerly awaited the "First Edit" CDs from the  English engineers which finally arrived and then we set out to London to do "the Second Edit" where we made slight changes here and there.

 Now, back in NYC I am planning the recording session to record the Ogden Nash verses, About the Composer, and About the Music tracks for the CD in early June.

The music is FANTASTIC! Really brilliant playing. Can't wait for Yadu to hear it next week in Baltimore!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Importance of Music in Young Children's Lives - Talking at Midwest Homeschool Conference in Cincinnati, OH

Two boys listening to Casey at the Bat - they came back to hear it 3 times!

     I began my talk with a series of musical clips demonstrating how music can change your emotions, bring back memories, and expand your child's world. 

     Think about how quiet the world would be without music! 

     The Midwest Homeschool Conference in Cincinnati was GREAT! Hundreds of families were discovering Maestro Classics for the first time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

10 Easy Ways to Bring Music Into Your Child’s Life

Make music an integral part of every day!

Ask yourself each day if your child has sung, played, or listened to some music; if not, sing a lullaby or play a CD softly as you say "Good Night." 

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Sing to your child (your singing ability does NOT matter.)

2. Listen to any kind of music while playing with baby

3. Put a CD player in the kitchen or in the child’s room – and use it

4. Buy a music box. One of the best presents you can give a new baby is something that plays a classical melody – Brahms’ “Lullaby,” Strauss’ “Blue Danube,” or Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nacht Musik” are favorites.

5. Schedule a daily listening hour or even 10 minutes – each day. Play music, sing, put on a dancing puppet show around the crib, and as your child grows, dance with him or her around the room as you enjoy your favorite music.

6. As your child grows, buy simple percussion instruments at a music store and bang along to the music. Pots and pans are great rhythm makers too!

7. Watch videos with great music, such as The Nutcracker ballet and the French film The Red Balloon.

8. Listen to a wide range of music that you enjoy (CDs in the Maestro Classics Stories in Music™ series, the Classical Kids series, and child-oriented recordings by Raffi and Tom Chapin are great choices.)

9. Find age appropriate live music and take your child to family concerts at least twice a year.

10. Keep your child’s favorite CDs in the car and listen actively as you drive

Ask yourself if you are smiling more lately!


Monday, May 14, 2012 interview

Grandparents have a very special ability to share great music with their grandchildren.

Susan Adcox asked these questions for Here is the way Maestro Stephen Simon and I answered them:

Do grandparents have a special role to play in fostering a love of music in their grandchildren? If so, what is that special role and why are grandparents especially suited for it?

The great luxury that many grandparents have is time. Unlike a painting where you can look at it for two minutes and then move on, music travels through time. It is linear. You cannot take in a piece of music without actually taking the time to sit and listen to it. One of the beauties of classical music is that it forces you to slow down and listen, and that is something that almost all of our grandchildren need.

Are you still concerned about what Bonnie referred to in her interview with Samantha Brody as "the graying of the American audience"? If so, other than turning to Maestro Classics, how can we combat that?

Nothing pleases me more than to see young people in my audiences. Sometimes they come because a friend is in the orchestra; sometimes they come because they have heard a particular work on the program and would like to hear it live. We are all getting older, but perhaps it is important to just think about taking a young person to a concert occasionally rather than worrying about the average age of the rest of the audience.

A few other ideas are:
Find family concerts at your local symphony orchestra and take your grandchildren. It is a great grandparent activity and makes it special.

Offer to pay for music lessons if a child is interested.

Go to all of their music recitals and school concerts – this is great encouragement.

If you listen to classical music in the car or at home, don’t turn it off when the grandchildren arrive just because you fear they may not be interested. Grandparents are wrapped in memories of delicious treats, favorite stories, house smells – if you leave the music on, every time they hear classical music, they will think of you.

Do you think that the modern tendency to multi-task along with the presence of multiple stimuli at all times works against the enjoyment of music? (My perfect way to enjoy music is to totally block out everything else, but it occurs to me that that may not be the way that future generations enjoy it.)

Some people can only work with music on; some can do nothing except listen when music is playing. On the one hand, I think that it has something to do with the way your brain is wired. On the other hand, some music is very simple and does not demand undivided attention, and other music is so complex that many young people do not understand what they are listening to, so music can be a bit like a foreign language that you do not understand but like the sound of. One of the reasons that we have the conductor talk about the music on each of the Maestro Classics CDs is to help people understand what to listen for in the music with its patterns, structure, and complexities and thereby encourage active listening.

Another concern of mine is that in a culture where such a diversity of music is available at the click of a mouse, we're not going to have a shared musical culture in the future. What's your take on that?

Composers have always pulled from different musical styles. Brahms’ was inspired by Hungarian folk music in his “Hungarian Dances” and Tchaikovsky included the Polish dance form, the polonaise, in his ballets. When the world was smaller, and all music was live, composers borrowed from neighboring countries. As travel and recorded music have expanded our listening possibilities, the influences have become broader.

Just as museums have “Old Master” collections, they also have paintings by Picasso and David Hockney and exhibits of Japanese screens. Are they all part of a shared culture? If they are worth, seeing, perhaps it is not important. We view music in a similar way, you can enjoy many different genres. We espouse this on our Maestro Classics CDs where each has wonderful orchestral music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, but also a track with music in a different musical genre (jazz, Dixieland, Russian folk, heavy metal, etc.).

Many, many grandparents have discovered Maestro Classics CDs for their grandchildren through our ads in the New Yorker magazine and then discover how much they enjoy them too.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Article at iHomeschool Network

For the next 10 days, this great homeschool blog, Homeschool Learners, is devoting itself to the importance of music in children's lives. They asked me to write an article which will appear sometime during that period. In the meantime, here is an introduction. Actually, the best part is the painting in the background!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Television Interview for Simon Sinfonietta

Mark Miller, clarinetist, Stephen Simon, conductor, Bonnie Ward Simon, interviewer

Click on the link to view interview. Falmouth Public Television Station - Simon, Simon, & Miller Interview

When not recording in London, traveling to homeschool shows, working on the three new releases, and marketing the current CDs, this is what I do. BTW, it was a great concert!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Introducing children to the world of sound 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 precedes the first encounter with Rembrandt; similarly, years of listening to music must precede the appreciation of the great works of classical music.
Listening to Bach before he could walk!

It is never too early to start!

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.  Every baby's room should have either a small sound system, a "boom box" or an iPod 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 audio book library.  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.

Click Peter and the Wolf to listen!
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.  (There are many other versions available, but you may enjoy a youtube video of an ABT rehearsal for their new production.) Most three- year-olds are still not developmentally 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, and (3) then 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 parent or the child.  Be grateful that we live in the age of excellent recorded sound and video, that 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 numerous times at home; if they are going to The Nutcracker, you should have watched the video several times with them, 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.

The three-to-five-year-old can begin applied music lessons on instruments that come in sizes (violins and cellos), 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 method is only for the parent with time, commitment and patience.

The ages of six to twelve are wonderful years for you to attend live performances with your child.  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 (start with Peter and the Wolf), and the Classical Kids Series (Mr. Bach Comes to Call). Continue to have music in the car and listen to classic rock like The Beatles and Queen, classic folk like Woody Guthrie, and music of their choice as well.  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 intellectually be aware of music's place in our cultural history?
Do I want my child to play an instrument and enjoy performing?
Do I want my child to attend concerts and discover the joys of music appreciation?

Ideally, the child and the parent can have some experience in all three.  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.

At Maestro Classics we hope that after listening to our CDs you will (1) have learned enough to like classical music, perhaps for the first time, (2) have discovered that great music can make you feel happy as well as sad, and change your day, and (3) have started you on your path of musical discovery.


Do I like classical music?

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?

Would I, as a parent, like to learn more about classical music?

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 YOUR CHILD'S SAKE.)

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

Is my child enjoying his or her music lessons?  (Whether he or she is doing as well as others his or her age is irrelevant.)

Should my child study an instrument at school and play in the band or orchestra?

Written by Bonnie Ward Simon, BA, MusEd, MA, MPhil, is the former Executive Director of the Washington Chamber Symphony and co-founder of the symphony's highly successful Concerts for Young People and Family Concert Series performed at the Kennedy Center. She is currently the executive producer of Maestro Classics.