Most parents realize there are benefits to listening to classical music. And if not, read my post here. But how do you foster a love of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart? There is no magic formula, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve. First of all, if you have never found anything in that genre that you love, start experimenting yourself. A love for music is more caught than taught. If you find a symphony, a concerto, an opera or a cantata that you enjoy, your enthusiasm can be contagious.
Second, the younger you start the better. In utero is ideal! When you are picking out an album to listen to in the car or while doing the dishes, rotate in a classical album or two. It will likely be several listening sessions before your kids start humming classical melodies. But when they do, you can be sure they are processing the complexities, form and balance of these compositions. And without lyrics to distract, this is easier for the brain. It will begin to foster an appreciation for what can be overwhelming to a brain used to a steady diet of simple pop music. And don’t be surprised if a distaste for three chord pop/rock top ten dance music is the end result.
Third, do not make it a chore or a school assignment to listen to classical music. If it does not work its way into the fabric of your life, it will not work. In the car, while doing dishes, while coloring, and in background during school or craft projects are all place where any music, but especially classical, has worked well in our family. Jazz and the blues works the same way. My co-op students have strong opinions on the Ella Fitzgerald versus Billie Holiday debate.
After you have introduced a few albums, have a name the composer contest. Prizes should be awarded for every correct identification, should be generous, and should be tasty. Then allow them to form their own favorites and help them explore those further. Build a music library and encourage your children to use it.
For toddlers and preschoolers we started with Maestro Classics, an excellent series with music, child friendly explanations and analysis and games. Here is what it looks like:
|My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music Audio CD & Activity Book|
Juanita, the Spanish Lobster and the Story of Swan Lake were my kid’s absolute favorites. Another fun series by Opal Wheeler introduces the life and childhood of a famous composer in a book, with music to accompany:
|Sebastian Bach, The Boy from Thuringia|
Later in the elementary school years we moved on to Cornerstone Curriculum’s packaged sets http://www.cornerstonecurriculum.com/Curriculum/Music/Music.htm. They consist of three or four composers to cover in a year. What we found most useful in the package were the CDs describing the lives of the composers such as, The Life of Mozart In Words and Music. Once we finished listening to the life of the composer we listened to the CD with his or her most popular compositions from the Greatest Hits series. We supplemented with the chapter from The Gift of Music describing the life and sometimes faith of each composer in more detail. The guidebook included in the curriculum was most useful for middle grade students. Each part can be purchased separately from different sources, but Cornerstone Curriculum has packaged it all so nicely I keep purchasing from them. MP3 options would be better purchased from a streaming service such as https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/story-mozart-in-words-music/id599787250. The series is extensive and very interesting.
For opera, start with musical theater and work backward in time. There is nothing like seeing these on stage with elaborate settings and costumes. Even high school musicals can be delightful for children and are always affordable. And oratorios cannot truly be appreciated without participation, if you and your children ever have that opportunity, even if it is just the Hallelujah chorus. Exposure is the key, the more they hear, the more they will develop an ear for and an appreciation of the music that has stood the test of time.
A few of our family favorites to listen to or start with are Toccata and Fugue in d minor by Joann Sebastian Bach, the “Surprise Symphony” Symphony No. 94 by Franz Joseph Haydn, the “Coffee Cantata” (in English) by Bach, the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg, Symphony No. 40. Allegro by Wolfgang A. Mozart, Symphony No. 5 and Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven, and The Moldau by B. Smetana.
What masterpiece first piqued your interest in classical music?
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