“Giving Classical Music a Chance,” Ensign, Oct. 1997, 68
“I love rock ‘n’ roll,” my son Devon said when he was young. Then he pretended to strum a guitar and, using a soda can for a microphone, sang along with the radio. I was dismayed by his strong musical preference because Devon was only three years old.
As a music teacher, I’ve seen children transfixed by a Puccini opera, thrilled by a Bach gavotte, and spellbound by a Mozart symphony. Music’s power is indisputable. But how might we as parents encourage our children to develop an interest in—or to at least become acquainted with—classical music? The best method is to expose them to it at a young age.
Children who listen to classical music at home will begin to associate the safe, cozy, good feelings of home life with good music. Begin your introduction with composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Grieg, or Beethoven. As you listen to this music with your children, ask what feelings the music evokes for them. Does it make them feel happy? sad? powerful? peaceful?
Next, teach children about musical elements. Can they hear the melody? Is there harmony? Can they identify individual instruments? Young children are particularly eager listeners when you guide them in this way.
Another way to interest children in classical music is to participate in creative musical games. Give children markers and big sheets of paper, and ask them to draw along with the music—to “map” the music. They can draw whatever the music suggests—anything from long, broad marks for sweeping phrases to dots for staccato passages.
Listening to music and making up a story to go along with it is another engaging musical activity. After you have the story in mind, turn on the music and have the children act out their drama. A good choice for this activity is Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals.
Bold works such as Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture invite marching and clapping to the rhythm. Have children make instruments and play along with the symphony. Oatmeal boxes make great drums, bean-filled cans make good shakers, and paper towel tubes can become woodwinds and brass instruments.
Following these simple suggestions can take the mystique out of classical music and enrich our children’s lives as they grow to love good music.—Lisa Ray Turner, Littleton, Colorado