by David A. Tyler
As a parent, you’ve heard it before: classical music is good for kids. You may like it as well, but you’ve never played an instrument in your life and have no idea where to start when it comes to exposing your children to the likes of Mozart or Chopin.
“You do not have to feel you need to be an expert before you share it with your child,” says Jessica Schmidt, director of education and community engagement at the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO).
Consider these five steps to get your kids interested:
1. Make music a part of your life. “Let the music be real in your house and in your life,” says Thomas Wilkins, the BSO’s youth and family conductor, “so it is real in your conversation, as opposed to ‘I’ve got to check this off my list of how to turn my kids into classical music lovers.’ It has to be as natural and genuine as possible.”
2. Show enthusiasm for all kinds of music, including classical. “As with anything, the parent or guardian should show excitement. That will rub off on the kids,” says Schmidt. When playing classical music at home, a parent can clap to the rhythm of the music, march around the room or dance.
3. Ask your children questions about the music they hear. “Did you like the music?”, “How did it make you feel?” and “Did it suggest any stories to you?”
4. Play different types of classical music. Experts recommend that parents start playing recordings of classical music just after their babies are born. “Even 6-month-old babies, when you sing to them – they start dancing to the beat,” notes pediatrician Lisa Wong, M.D., past president of and a violinist in Boston’s Longwood Symphony Orchestra.
Stories are an important way for kids to connect with classical music, especially opera. Opera combines “classical music, acting, dancing,” says Nathan Troup, stage director with the opera and vocal studies faculty at The Boston Conservatory. “I think, developmentally, it is so multilayered, and it cuts across so many disciplines,” that children really benefit from listening to it.
5. Open yourself up to learning alongside your children. Download or buy classical music recordings and talk about them together. Attend a concert together as a family.
Live Concerts for Families
• Boston Landmarks Orchestra – www.landmarksorchestra.org – plays free summer concerts at the Hatch Shell on Boston’s Charles River Esplanade.
• Longwood Symphony Orchestra – www.longwoodsymphony.org – plays two concerts annually at the Hatch Shell that are frequented by families.
• Boston Symphony Orchestra – www.bso.org – sponsors youth and family concerts annually, including performances on March 6-9, 2013.
• Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras – www.bysoweb.org – serving 400 young musicians from across New England, has concerts scheduled on Nov. 10, 2012, and on April 27, 2013.
• The Boston Conservatory – www.bostonconservatory.edu – puts on two operas annually for kids and their parents.
David A. Tyler is a freelance writer and father in Maine.