A child’s life will forever be enriched if we take just a few simple steps
Classical music was born in the halls of churches and monasteries. At its heart lies divine inspiration. It’s a gift given to humankind for devotion, enjoyment, and discipline. It’s one of those precious aspects of our culture that allows us to stay connected to our maker.
The composers of old knew this. Many of them, upon completing a work, dedicated them, in writing, “to the glory of God” or “to God alone be the glory.” They understood that such beauty couldn’t be an act of human beings alone.
In fact, if you think about it, there’s nothing on earth quite the same as classical music. It’s in a league of its own.
For these and other reasons, a lot of parents want to expose their children to it, with the goal of fostering a true appreciation for it.
But many don’t know where to start, especially in cases where their child may not be learning an instrument and where they themselves may not be that well versed.
There are a few simple things that anyone can do to nurture enjoyment of classical music in kids.
Early Exposure Is Best
Have classical music playing in your home, just in the background, to create a nice atmosphere. Consider telling your kids something simple about the music, such as the composer’s name, the orchestra’s name, or the country that the music is from. Or simply ask them how it makes them feel, or offer your own comments on it, such as, “Doesn’t this sound like birds chirping?” or the like. Don’t turn it into a high-pressure situation for your kid, of course. Otherwise, their associations with the genre may not be entirely positive. You’re just planting seeds.
There’s no need to spend any money to play the music. You might have a local classical station you like tuning into, but if not, there are a lot of great free resources for online streaming. Here are a couple of recommendations. Philadelphia’s WRTI radio website is a wonderful station, out of the home city of one of America’s top orchestras. And YourClassical.org is a website with not only excellent online streaming, but a great kids’ section.
Attend Kid-Friendly Concerts
OK, your kids may not be ready for a full-length symphony concert, and maybe you’re worried about having missed the “early exposure” window.
No problem—there are a lot of opportunities to address that. You’ll be surprised (depending, of course, on where you live) at how many concerts are available that are short, memorable, and engaging. And while videos are great, in-person experiences will leave a much deeper impression, of course.
Summer is an excellent time to find shorter concerts in your area, many of which may be free. A lot of towns and cities have concerts in the park that you can learn about just by looking up information online. These can be simple ones of, say, brass ensembles playing more crowd-pleasing tunes or of a full orchestra giving a family-friendly outdoor performance.
Do a search, and you’ll probably find some great options. There may even be something before your local July 4 fireworks display.
Even though I grew up being taken to many, many concerts, sometimes involving family as performers, and even in great halls, one of my favorite memories is of a casual one in a park.
It was next to a river with a small brass band playing in a gazebo. The intimate nature of the setting and the liveliness of the music—I believe performed by seniors—brought so much joy that I think it’s something I’ll carry with me forever.
Note that these concerts might not always be classical in nature. But exposure to people playing classical instruments—the ones you find in a symphony orchestra—is all a part of gradually leaving that impression on your child’s mind.
Folk concerts involving guitars or coffee-house-style concerts, while pleasant, won’t quite lay the same groundwork, in my experience.
Another source for these, beyond summertime or local park concerts, is cultural festivals such as Oktoberfest (OK, yes, you should watch out for any over-the-top drinking!), polka festivals, Ukrainian festivals, and so on. Often, you’ll find people playing classical instruments accompanying folk dance performed in traditional dress. This can be a great experience for kids on many levels.
Your local symphony orchestra likely has kid-oriented concerts to offer, so these are worthwhile to look into, too. And there’s the ever-more-popular genre of concerts involving live orchestras accompanying film. Online, there’s a very helpful description of what this sort of experience is like from the Houston Symphony Orchestra when it performed live to “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” in 2018.
Their website says it well: “If you have ever watched part of a movie on mute, you know that without music, scary scenes aren’t as scary, and happy endings aren’t as happy.”
In this sort of performance, the film appears on a large screen behind a full orchestra, which is generally on a stage as opposed to being in an orchestra pit, and the orchestra plays the complete movie score as the film is shown. Imagine how precise the timing of the music must be to make this work!
This sort of experience could help your child never experience a movie quite the same way again, by opening his or her ears with fresh appreciation.
Choose Kid-Oriented Tunes
There are several classical pieces that were written specifically for educating children on the genre. Still considered the gold standard for this purpose is Benjamin Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” which, while written in 1946, is based on a tune from 1695. You can easily find recordings of it online, and you might just find it being performed by an orchestra near you.
Keep It Light
Whatever the experience you choose for your child along these lines, be sure to keep it light and fun, especially when they’re at a younger age. Reserve the tiger mom attitude for getting your kid to practice a classical instrument, which is a different matter altogether.
But if practicing isn’t the current focus, then just remember that classical music is a divine gift, and allowing your child to experience it and have it penetrate their heart and being is a beautiful thing—something that may stay with them forever.
Angelica Reis loves nature, volunteer work, her family, and her faith. She is an English teacher with a background in classical music, and enjoys uncovering hidden gems, shining them up, and sharing them with readers. She makes her home in New York state.