These resources and ideas come from an opera singer who's a mom of 5, so take note!
Being a professional singer means my five small children are no strangers to classical music. Four of my children could even be considered “professionals” since they’ve been on stage with me in many operatic performances (although they were hidden away in my belly at the time).
At home, my practice is often interrupted with “Mommy, that’s too loud! I’m trying to watch TV!” or “Why are you singing in Spanish?” (I’m not, it’s Italian) and my all time favorite, “Are you done yet?”
My husband is also a professional musician and my children go to a classical curriculum Catholic school where they have music almost every day of the week.
Yet, even still, fostering a love for classical music in our children has not been easy.
For parents without our many resources, it can seem almost impossible. But it’s not. In fact, there are some good resources out there. The following three suggestions will help you to build a foundation for a lifelong love of music for your child (and maybe even strengthen your own too)…
1. Try this funny musical CD for car rides
It seems like half of life is spent in the car these days. Make travel time fun and educational and pop in a CD called Beethoven’s Wig while you race around town.
Richard Perlmutter and the classically trained musicians who are featured on each Beethoven’s Wig CD have created quite possibly some of the funniest and most memorable lyrics to classical music’s greatest and most famous masterpieces including, “Please Don’t Play Your Violin at Night” (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Mozart), “Franz Liszt the Famous Pianist” (Hungarian Rhapsody #2, Liszt), and the title song, “Beethoven’s Wig” (5th Symphony, Beethoven).
In addition to being entertaining, many of the songs highlight educational facts about the composers, songs, instruments and/or musical genre. There are also bonus trivia questions and activities located in the liner booklet for children, parents and teachers. To date there are five CDs and each one is comprised of vocal renditions as well as the original interpretation of each piece. Perlmutter’s group even has a couple of videos on Youtube. A few of the videos are professionally animated while others are of live performances. Both are awesome.
2. Try these book/CD combos to help them get to know the instruments
Each and every composer and performer has their own distinctive way of interpreting a piece of music to help all listeners conjure up our own thoughts and feelings. But sometimes we all need a little help (not just children). Books such as Kindermusik’s Henry’s Parade, Lemony Snicket’s The Composer Is Dead, and Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf boast a companion CD to be played simultaneously while reading. Each of these books helps children accurately identify instruments and the sounds they make. The books and CDs are beautiful and interesting all by themselves. (A definite plus for those who find themselves a little less than completely organized.)
3. Try giving them the real thing!
Get involved! Church choir, children’s choir, group lessons and private lessons are the best way to get your child interested in music because it allows them to make a physical bond with the art.
As a private music teacher, I’ve found that the most common reason more children do not participate in creating music in a structured environment is because parents think “my child isn’t that talented or interested in music.” But often they really are. They just don’t know how to tell you. Cost and time commitment are also common hurdles for families. But most church choirs are free (some require a small fee to join that usually can be waived if necessary) and musicians of almost every level can join. Find your local (arch)diocesan music director and ask for names of private music instructors if you are looking for more individualized instruction to fit your child’s level and schedule. If you have multiple children or are looking for a less expensive option, search for group lessons and ask about scholarships.
Although most professional musicians agree on very little, the general rule of thumb is that piano and choir are the best options for beginners, but any instrument that appeals to your little one will work!
Happy music-making, maestros!