Classical Music for Kids

Learning about classical music starts early.  I danced to recordings of the L’Arlésienne Suite in my living room strategically chosen by musical parents.  But small people yesterday got to see and hear music performed live in an up close and personal way.

I’ve been attending Toronto Summer Music Festival daily since July 15, 2018.  It features world renowned professionals, including those who live in our own city and it is a joy for its quality and its reasonable concert ticket prices – as well as its many free events. The professionals work with and inspire emerging professionals in its instrumental and vocal training programs, who perform frequently during the day in concerts and master classes.

I have volunteered previously along with many other locals and have continued to do so for three free concerts targeted to a young audience. Yesterday’s concert was an example of how to engage very young participants by showing them how to distinguish between different instruments and the sounds they make.

There were four instruments to learn about – oboe, french horn, violin and piano.  The lively mistress of ceremonies encouraged each one to play a short selection.  Artistic director Jonathan Crowe took his turn.

After all had shown the basic sound of their instruments, we witnessed a competition – starting with a challenge for each musician to make a sound that would make us laugh:

Soon we moved on to a sound that would make us feel. It was remarkable how well very young children listened. We then had a vote and on the basis of the volume, the winner was – the piano! The pianist was still bragging – “I won, I won” – at at an informal concert later in the afternoon.

But the most surprising event was what could be done musically with a less familiar instrument – the saw. David Hetherington traded his cello in a later ensemble for this quite amazing rendition of Brahm’s lullaby. He noted that while this could be termed a Stradivarius saw, it could be purchased at Home Depot.

The conductor Benjamin Zander noted in his famous TED talk that the world simply hasn’t discovered yet who wonderful classical music is – and he demonstrated it admirably. The children in this audience have a head start. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more children had a similar one.