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.
|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.
|Click Peter and the Wolf to listen!|
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.
Questions to ask the professional:
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.