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The Musical Child

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Dd4.5 really loves music.  She likes singing and dancing.  She makes up songs all the time (tune and lyrics) and sings them to me.  She enjoys performing.  I also have a really cheap barely functional keyboard she likes to play with.  A couple of weeks ago, I took her to a classical string quartet concert (free tickets).  She was enraptured.  She actually paid attention while my Ds 6.5 wanted to ask questions about the instruments, the stage, the lighting etc.  He stared at everything else while she stared at the performers and listened quietly.  Then she wanted to know how they made the "beautiful" music.


What else can I do to encourage her musical tendencies?  I am tone deaf and I have no musical abilities.  I am also pretty graceless, so performance arts was never my thing.   I also live in a place without too many options for our particular family.  I can put her in piano lessons but I think she is too young for that (maybe I am wrong?)  The lessons here are pretty regimented and require hard work.  No fun experimental classes for kids.  


Any ideas what we could do at home?  Am I missing some online resources or shows or whatever else to give to her to explore these things further?  Do you guys do anything specific to encourage interest in music?  

post #2 of 4

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I'm a violinist who was raised in a musical home by a mom who was raised in a musical home, and I'm the mom of a professional classical musician. As a violin teacher I've helped nurture along a bunch of unschooled musical kids -- my own and others'.


A hundred years ago it was much tougher to raise musical kids. Only the lucky children born into musical families would consistently hear music that was on-key and otherwise of reasonable quality. Other children might have a few capricious experiences that might give them a model for what good music is at a moment when their brains were receptive to picking up basic pitch and harmony, but many heard no music, or only the tuneless humming of a tone-deaf parent. These days stereo listening devices costs just a few bucks, are standard in cars, and the highest quality musical performances of the best choirs, string quartets, pianists and orchestras are available to all for the price of a 99-cent iTunes download. This is all available to the children of parents who don't sing, who don't play musical instruments. You don't need to worry about your lack of musical ability: you can nurture your children's musical ability just fine.


Four is not too young for instrumental lessons for some kids, if the teacher is trained in a pedagogical system suited to that age group. If you have a piano teacher down the street who teaches in a traditional manner and normally takes kids at age 7 or 8, four will be too young for that teacher and that approach. If you have a Suzuki or Music for Young Children or Orff teacher who has years of training and experience working with preschoolers, it can be a lovely age to begin. However, there's little harm in waiting. I would investigate options in your area, keep your ear to the ground, see if you can attend performances by the students of teachers in your area. Start feeling out the possibilities. Don't discount travelling a bit for a really good teacher of young children.


Most important in the meantime, find beautiful recorded music for your kids to hear. Find simple ways for your dd to listen: a CD player in her bedroom? a hand-me-down iPod shuffle and an inexpensive dock in the play room? A bunch of classical mix CDs in the car? Let her steep herself in that which she finds beautiful. Talk to her about what she finds appealing. Consider using music as a bedtime ritual ... twenty minutes of a particular playlist as she drifts off to sleep.


For classical recordings, I would start out with music by guys like Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart and Haydn: from the high Baroque and Classical eras. This stuff tends to be based on familiar, predictable harmonies. While the compositions can have incredibly complex layering of musical ideas, the basic sound is highly accessible and it quickly becomes a real "comfort food" for the listener. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, or the Cello Suite in G, Vivaldi's "The Seasons," Mozart's Piano Concertos, any of Haydn's innumerable symphonies or string quartets. 


My kids also loved music interwoven with story. Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" and Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" are both lovely and often on the same album. The animals evoked by Saint-Saëns' "Carnival of the Animals" is another great pick for kids. I have an immense distaste for the Disney empire, but even I think the Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 DVDs are amazing: classical music by a wide variety of composers combined with some pretty awesome interpretive animation. And the Classical Kids series of CDs tells stories of great composer, interwoven with their music in memorable ways -- sort of historical fiction for musical kids. I'd suggest starting with "Beethoven Lives Upstairs." There are six or seven others that are almost as good. 


Have a broad tolerance for musical experimentation, whether rhythmic, vocal or instrumental. Play rhythmic copy-cat games with your kids. Read lots of rhymes (poetic meter is all about rhythm!), learn and play 2-person schoolyard hand-clapping games, chants, songs, dances. If you figure it'll be a year or two before you launch into instrumental instruction, you could consider purchasing a pentatonic or diatonic lap harp. (Check Waldorf stores for pentatonic harps; many boutique toy stores carry the Music Maker or Melody Harp which are a nice diatonic harps for kids.)


Watch PBS listings for classical performances. Popcorn, a darkened living room and a Boston Pops concert on PBS can be a pretty memorable evening for a 4-year-old. 


Hope that helps!


post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post


Hope that helps!



LOL.  It was way way way more than I expected!  So many great suggestions and an insight into something that felt pretty overwhelming to me since I have zero experience with learning/playing music or performance art of any sort.  So, thank you very much :)  I now feel maybe I can do a half decent job just by implementing some of your simpler suggestions right away and go from there. Would you say some of this is within the natural abilities of some people?  Some members of my family can play the piano or some other instruments without ever having to take lessons which I find astounding.  I suspect she is a bit more like them than me in this particular regard.  

post #4 of 4

All children are born musical but that innate musicality can drop away from one year on if it is not encouraged  (Prof. Sandra Trehub U.of Toronto).  Somehow, your daughter has kept her musicality well and truly alive which makes me think she is going to keep that interest for the whole of her life.  


You can nourish her at home with listening, singing, playing simple instruments and all forms of movement and dancing.  


If your local music teachers expect a disciplined approach to daily practice, she may be tough enough by five but you could wait until she is used to the discipline of daily schoolwork.  Seven won't be too late but don't leave it longer than ten - that's when they decide they can't do things.  Having said that, I've watched my husband teach himself guitar in his 60s so all things are possible if the will is strong.  


So search for music activities for the musical child - you might end up finding mine, I've been working with under fives for almost ten years and in a group of twenty children I can always see one or two faces held in complete attention, just like you describe with your child at the concert.  Good luck raising your young musician.

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