My daughter and I recently went to see and hear Stravinsky's Firebird performed by the National Arts Centre Orchestra here in Ottawa with accompanying theatrical performance by Enchantment Theater Company. She is now 6 years old so - not a preschooler anymore - but there were many younger ones there - even one expecting mother sat behind us to soak in the sounds of classical music! (It's never too early!) Now. It's important to note that this performance was part of a series designed with children in mind and that is enormously helpful when introducing your child to classical music performances - but not necessary.
If you are thinking of taking your little one to the symphony - here are a few ways to be sure you both can enjoy the experience.
1. Know the Story
Taking time to order a few books from your local library a week or so before to get acquainted with the story is a lot of fun. Many classical compositions take their origin in a legend or tale and if not - there are usually some picture books about the composer that are out there waiting to be read! No time for all that? Check out cute little sites like Seed Learning to get everyone up to speed!
2. Listen to the Music
Duh. I guess this one is a no-brainer, hey? It's always fun to see the look of recognition come over your child's face when they have been listening to the piece before they arrive at the concert. Take out some markers and let your little one colour while listening to the music.
3. Go time! Tips for during the performance:
Arrive early! When we got there we found many little pre-performance activities had been planned for the kids. We went to the washroom, got cozy in our chairs and got all our sillies out including the delight of being so light that our chairs folded us up like little tacos. (Ok. My chair was fine .. I'm sure it was just a defect). While we waited we talked about the times that are best to clap, how to sit properly in the chair and what we would order to drink and munch on at the intermission.
4. Take Advantage of the After-Effect
The concert's over and it was wonderful and you both enjoyed yourselves! So. What now? Well.. the fun has just begun! Now you can explore other performances and videos online like this original interpretation of Firebird by Disney in Fantasia 2000!
5. More for Mommy
As an adult, who has now attended the Firebird, you may wish to learn more about Stravinsky's artistry. I sure did! Take a peek at this wonderful video called "Discovering Stravinsky's Firebird: The Story and the Music"
We have been listening to composer Erik Satie in our house recently and discovering that he was actually a pretty cool and quirky guy! In fact, he was probably a little bit like my preschooler and maybe your's too! Here are three ways your preschooler and Erik Satie are probably alike:
1. Satie's room was a big mess!
Satie didn't have people come into his space a lot mostly because it was a huge mess! When people finally did go inside, they found enormous piles of stuff everywhere. Mostly an outrageous number of umbrellas (I guess he liked puddles like your preschooler too) and two grand pianos stacked on top of each other! And you thought your preschooler's room was hard to clean...
Why Classical Music in the Summer?
Yesterday morning we went to the park and got so hot, run down and covered with sand and sweat that we were all short tempered by the time we panted into the front door at 11:30. Collapsing on the couch with ice cold waters, I immediately turned on the fan AND the classical music station. Within a short time, we were all much cooler physically and emotionally.
Classical music has long served to calm and bring moments of peace into the lives of adults - as well as to the children in their care - who may be experiencing emotions of frustration, anger, or sadness occasionally throughout the busy day.
Here are 3 Beautiful Classical Pieces written especially for the Summer months that will help you and your little musician to cool off. So open the window wide, lay out on the grass and watch the clouds pass while listening to these lovely little pieces together!
1. Summer Skies (Leroy Anderson)
2. Summer Music (Samuel Barber)
3. Summer Evening (Frederick Delius)
Deep breath. Wasn't that grand? Now you should be rested and ready to run through that sprinkler with the best of them!
My child is a dreamer: One of those wonderful people who's imagination consistently transports them to another place and time. Her stories are rich and detailed and she is often seen gazing out windows and doodling on paper. As a "go, go, go" kind of person, I will admit that her distracted behaviour often drives me a little nuts. However, one day a few years back, I read a beautiful article that made me realize that even though her lack of focus and attention can be troublesome when we are trying to get ready to go somewhere or accomplish a particular task, her dreaming is a kind of gift. She is a "noticer" - someone who sees the little details and appreciates them. A stop and smell the flowers kinda kid. And who the heck am I to take that away from her? Nonetheless, there are times when she needs to be able to gather her thoughts and simply focus. Music is a wonderful way to develop focus in your little musician! Here are three musical games we play together at home to develop concentration in a fun way!
1. Dance and Freeze
Throw on music that really gets you moving. Jukebox oldies work brilliantly for this game in our house. Encourage your little musicians to dance as expressively as they can! Meanwhile, keep your finger poised over the "mute" button and discretely turn off the music periodically throughout the song. When the music stops - everyone has to freeze! Laugh. Repeat.
2. Find the Phone
Choose a song on your phone (if you don't have a cell phone - a music box works just as well). Have your little one close their eyes while you hide the phone in the next room. Now your little musician must focus her ears to find the phone! (Such a great activity for auditory learners).
3. When you Hear the Instrument, Play Along!
Choose a noise maker and some music to play that includes multiple kinds of instruments. Instruct your little one to play along when she hears a particular kind of instrument (e.g. drums). Now stop when the instrument is finished playing. This one is great to do with jazz music where different instruments get lots of solo time. An alternative to this game is to play along when you hear a particular word. Songs with lots of repetition are awesome for this (e.g. "All you Need is Love" by The Beatles. Play your instrument every time you hear the word "love" ).
The ability to focus and pay attention is so important for little ones to develop and, let's face it, it can be tough to get your child to listen at the best of times. Games like these are excellent ways to make the idea of listening fun. Artsy Startsy's ROAM curriculum is chock full of these kinds of games. We'd love for you to join us on our musical adventures! Take a peek at our sample week.
There is so much joy to be had in simply having beautiful music accompany us throughout our day. For this reason, we often have classical music streaming in the background at our house. However, Artsy Startsy also uses classical music in two very targeted and distinct ways. The first is to soothe the mind and the second is to enliven the spirit.
Fidgety Preschooler? Try Classical Music to Enliven the Spirit
Recently I posted on how to use classical music to encourage quiet time (soothe the mind) but did you know that classical can also be used to "enliven the spirit" when kids seem bored, aimless, or fidgety? I've discovered that when my kids are acting completely insane - arms flailing, jumping off the back of the couch, and arguing about nothings - they either need to just check out completely OR they need to get out some excess energy stored up deep in their guts! Figuring out which solution is best is usually more a case of getting a vibe for the situation and context than having any sense of certainty.
Often, I start by putting on soft classical (like Chopin) because it is my preference and usually the energy in the room needs to just come down a few notches but when that fails to bring order to the chaos - I go the exact opposite direction. Wagner is great for getting kids moving and marching in a way that expends pent up energies! Indeed, there are so many wonderful, energetic pieces to get kids moving.
Being Inspired by a Classical Piece's Title
I normally just like to encourage my Little Musicians to move the way the music makes them feel but if the title of the piece is particularly evocative - as in the case of the Britten's The Grasshopper - then I will often encourage them to move in ways that fit with the way the animal, fairy tale, or person the piece is named after might move.
The Water Goblin!
So! This week we decided to try moving to an early piece by Dvorjak called the Water Goblin! How do you think a Water Goblin would move? We imagined him swimming, diving and splashing through the water. By adding scarves we got a feeling for the ripples and flowing of the water. Next, one of us pretended to be the water using the scarves while the other was the goblin jumping in and out of the waves. Such a great way to get the sillies out!
When my little one transitioned away from her nice big nap in the afternoon, I was sincerely devastated. I needed that time to get myself together. I simply couldn't be "on" the whole day long. I'll be honest - I lamented the loss of this nap for a long time but then I discovered "quiet time."
Why Quiet Time?
There is a reason many Europeans have a siesta at mid-day and it's not only to do with the heat. European culture understands that it is impossible to truly enjoy our time together in the afternoon and evenings without a moment of rest and reflection right after lunch. After a busy morning, we need a break from each other and even from ourselves.
Preschoolers are especially in need of this time since their little minds are learning at a break neck speed. Not only are they reaching new linguistic and cognitive milestones, preschoolers are learning about social norms and balancing the emotions associated with the development of new relationships and their growing sense of independence. It's exhausting!
And - while this may not be news to you - you need quiet time too! And I don't just mean checking out on pinterest for half an hour. I mean an honest to goodness moment of peace and relaxation before you start to rev up for the afternoon and evening.
From Quiet Time to Quality Quiet Time!
So here's an idea! Instead of throwing on the collective screens around your home to get a moment of peace - why not spend some quality time together - quietly listening to music? "Together" can mean cuddled on the couch but it can also mean just being in proximity to one another journaling, working on a puzzle, or simply being.
Music offers an excellent opportunity to calm both of you down as morning transitions to afternoon. In fact, a recent article indicates that in the digital age, young kids need classical music more than ever. The author claims that, "Much like reading aloud to a child, calm classical compositions engage a child in a form of entertainment that’s low-stimulus and substantive."
But - from experience - I need to tell you that not just any classical music will do! Throw on the William Tell Overture and I can assure you that the mood will be anything but calm and quiet in your home. (Stay tuned for more on using classical music to enliven the spirit in an upcoming post). However, you don't have to throw on a lullaby either. Sometimes a piece that simply transports you to another world is quite enough to bring about a moment of peace.
So! To transport you to another world, here is Ravel's Mother Goose Suite (Ma mere l'Oye). It includes five children's pieces inspired by the following five fairy tales.
You might even consider having a couple of the corresponding fairy tale picture books at hand while you listen! Another nice quiet activity is to watch the video and take note of the different instruments being played but my favourite is simply sitting down and letting yourself drift into the world of Mother Goose or "Ma mere l'Oye." Happy ROAMing!
I love me some musicals at Halloween. Right now my husband, who, incidentally, writes a horror movie blog, is rolling his eyes somewhere in this house. And I know, I know, it's not really a spooky kinda thing to like at this time of year but I do! So. There. Now that you must accept that fact, I have to apologize since technically, my first pick, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, is not a musical. Ok! BUT the entire soundtrack of this film (like it's sister Christmas film) is just chock full of beautiful "flutey" jazz music. This is must-see viewing (and listening) in my house at this time of year.
Next up! Meet me in St. Louis! Tap. Tap. "Um... Rebecca.. this is an old Christmas movie..." Nuh Uh! It isn't neither! It's a movie of all seasons! In fact, the entire trolley ride of a film carries you through a series of seasonal vignettes - Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring ending with the launch of the "World's Fair!" Here is a sneak peek at the Halloween scene where Tootie is encouraged to "kill" the Brokoffs by throwing flour on them.
Last but not least - the classic Ichabod Crane, Sleepy Hollow tale by Disney narrated / sung by Bing Crosby. Why oh why did Disney stop airing this beautiful film on public television annually? I adore Ichabod! There is nothing funnier than the scene where Ichabod and his horse realize that the headless horseman and Ichabod have accidentally traded horses as they race through the woods at night!
Well that's it for me folks! I'm off to watch this... (also not a musical but a Halloween classic all the same!) Have you seen it? Arsenic and Old Lace. Happy Halloween everybody!
Here's a question for you: "Would Mozart have been Mozart without his big sister?" Most of us know that Mozart was a child prodigy composing early works at the age of five but would he have been so prodigious if it had not been for the example of his big sister? Mozart's father was himself a minor composer who was a violinist and who trained his daughter Marianne in the harpsichord and piano.
Due to this training, Marianne was a very accomplished musician and one can imagine Mozart looking up to her and paying close attention to her at the keyboard. We know that younger siblings often benefit from the simple advantage of observation in the early years - particularly in the realm of music.
“No musicians develop their art in a vacuum,” according to Stevan Jackson, a musical sociologist and anthropologist at Radford University in Radford, Virginia. “Musicians learn by watching other musicians, by being an apprentice, formally or informally.” Being in a musical family with a musical sibling, in particular, can heighten one’s musical interest, expertise and musical drive, Jackson says. (Smithsonian Magazine)
I often wonder if my Little Musicians influence each others' learning? I certainly see how the arrival of her little brother has taught my daughter to develop her patience and gentleness. She has definitely made him her student in many important realms including pulling faces, sidewalk colouring, book reading, and noise making!
A friend of mine once lamented that she had been looking very forward to teaching her second child about colours, numbers, and letters only to discover that her eldest had beat her to the punch! In fact, her youngest rattled off her letters like an old pro before it even dawned on my friend to begin to share the alphabet with her.
Personally, I love seeing how receptive Vince is to Althea's guidance even in those moments where he is being instructed to play the recorder in tempo with her banging out notes on the piano like a maniac. There is a sweet joy in watching music bring together your little ones. Now. Where the heck did I put those ear plugs?
Ah well... while I go and seek those out - take a listen to this little ditty supposedly composed by Mozart when he was 9 years old. You will note that it is a composition for 4 hands at the harpsichord. Hmmm. I wonder just how much of a hand Marianne Mozart had in its creation and performance...
I'm passionate about classical music and it's this passion that I hope to share with my Little Musicians. Even if they end up not being huge classical music fans they will know what it is to feel a strong, maybe even unearthly, connection with music.
I will admit it. I was a serious romantic on my recent honeymoon to Germany. Of course, one is expected to be romantic on a honeymoon but I mean romantic in the lake poets kind of way. I loved the sublime scenery of castles in the alps and I was entirely overcome with emotion (the hairs on my arms actually stood upright) when we visited the room where Wagner played for King Ludwig II.
I guess I didn't actually expect Wagner's ghost to walk in and start playing his old piano but the silence seemed discordant and I expected to hear notes from "Fantasie" at any moment fill the room. My guy seemed to have only a kind of grudging appreciation of the magnitude of what we were experiencing. He was bemused by my sense of wonder at being in this space. This space where the king would have listened to Wagner composing new works and banging out pieces. Did the king dance half naked around the dressing room? Did he gaze out the window and imagine building another fairy tale castle in the distant hills (the soon to be constructed Neuschwanstein)? Did he whisper sweet nothings into Wagner's ear?
It was all I could do not to shake the other visitors who were striding around the room looking at all the wrong gilded and glitzy things and completely ignoring the piano keys that once rang out with the music of a most incredible composer. Do you hear it? Listen...
If and when they travel to new places, I hope my Little Musicians will take moments to appreciate the musical culture that wordlessly tells so much about the people who live there. I hope they will listen for music in spaces that are now herding through tourists but that were once filled with song, life and ... yes... even a little bit of romance.
Did you watch Fantasia as a child? It was probably one of my first forays into the world of classical music. I'm sure it was for many children! What's so much fun to watch over again is the way Disney depicts each musical instrument bringing to mind different visuals - the little violin bows as dancing pieces of light in the clouds, the oboe as rolling hills, and the sun breaking through from the heavens as the orchestra comes to a crescendo.
There is definitely a connectivity between music and the fine arts and preschoolers love the opportunity to express how a piece makes them "see" in colour and design. Bach's "Tocata and Fugue" is a perfect piece to kick this off and colouring, painting or even sculpting to classical music each week is a great way to introduce your Little Musician to new composers while encouraging their creative expression. Here is my beast a couple of years back drawing to the William Tell overture. Still makes me laugh...
Why do I believe in harping with your kids? Because it is entirely healing and calming for everyone. Er… what?? Let me explain. I’ve discovered there are two methods of trying to attain calm in this household. The first is what I like to call:
The “Serenity Now!” Method: This is the one where I “harp” at everyone, telling them to calm down a million times until I am absolutely a completely disheveled mess. The only thing I’ve learned from this method is that telling someone to calm down is like telling someone “not to take offense but…” You immediately end up eliciting the exact response you are trying to avoid and you end up looking and sounding like this:
The second method, and the one which I strongly recommend, helps everyone come out the other side with their dignity and a sense of true peace. It is called:
The Classical Music Method: This week we started to discover harp compositions since the harp is our instrument for the week as we delve deeper into the ROAM curriculum’s spring semester! Just having these pieces playing in the background while we went about our regular routines had an enormously calming effect on everyone. I swear! Try it!
Dancing is big in this house. Almost every night there is some form or other of dancing as a family. Jukebox oldies never fail to get the kids (and daddy – who is normally a metal-head) moving. Usually we all sleep better when we’ve gotten the “shakies” out. And then, when we rise, we play classical music and a version of dancing often happens as we listen to the pieces. I suppose it’s more “movement to music” than anything else and, depending on the piece, it can be quite an event! I’ll just say this: delicate objects get put well out of swinging, leaping, and twirling range.
Last week, Britten’s “The Grasshopper” came on and it offered the perfect opportunity to ask Althea, “How does this make you feel like moving?” Guess what? Jumping was part of the answer. Once she knew the title of the piece we really got into it. We pretended to be grasshoppers hopping through the meadow and running away from birds and cats who were anxious to end our little dance.