Your children’s musical tastes will no doubt change throughout their childhood. One week they may be humming the tune to their favorite cartoon, and the next they may be rocking out on an air guitar to lyrics you aren’t sure are really appropriate. Keeping up with their music preferences may not be possible as a parent, but instilling an appreciation of music as an art form is.
Classical music is loosely defined as conventional music that has been around for nearly three centuries. In more specific terms, it is “music written in the European tradition during a period lasting approximately from 1750 to 1830, when forms such as the symphony, concerto, and sonata were standardized.” This is music that has stood the test of time, recognizable from one generation to the next.
It seems that somewhere during childhood, kids arrive at the conclusion that classical music is old or boring – often because popular media portrays it that way. In truth, classical music can be enjoyable for the entire family, and for the course of a lifetime. It’s up to parents to introduce the music to their kids in everyday ways and help them see that though musical tastes change, an affinity for classical music is one that will never out of style.
So how can parents teach that lesson in a way that doesn’t feel so much like a chore? Take a look at these suggestions for introducing your kids to classical music and turning them into lifelong fans.
Don’t overplay it.
There should never be a prescribed amount of time that you must play classical music in your home or car. Turn it on and let it play until someone requests something different. You aren’t going to turn your kids into classical music lovers by forcing them to listen to it for long periods of time. Introduce it in small doses if you must and never insist on it. As your kids become well-versed in the songs you play, ask them which ones are their favorites and take requests. You don’t need to make a grand announcement every time you switch on a classical tune and you certainly don’t need to lecture every time you do. Just play it and let the music speak for itself.
Go to live performances.
Nearly every community has a presentation of The Nutcracker ballet during the holiday season. Your kids will not only be entertained by the action on stage, but will be absorbing the music of Tchaikovsky. It really helps to see action set to classical music, too, because it gives the tunes more of a storyline. If your local high school is having a classical orchestra night or there is another opportunity for classical listening in a live setting, take advantage of it. Most communities have ample opportunities throughout the year for free or inexpensive classical music events, so take advantage of them. Being able to both see and hear the music is a much more powerful experience for children (and you) and will leave a lasting impression.
Make it a history lesson.
Some of the most famous classical music movements have sordid (or at least interesting) histories. Find out the backstory on some of your own favorite classical music pieces and then share those with your kids. Was it written for a queen? During a time of war? Is there mystery surrounding the music or the composer? Tie the music in with what it means, in the context when it was written and first performed, as well as what it means today. You will likely learn more than you realized about some of your favorite pieces of classical music too.
Teach them a musical instrument.
What better way to appreciate classical music than to learn how to play the instruments used in classical music? If you know how to play an instrument or read music, start there. If not, enroll them in a local music lesson so they can start to enjoy the music that they create. Practicing and preparing for a recital and other performances is also a great way to build self-esteem and confidence that will translate to other areas of their lives. Additionally, when children understand the mechanics of playing a certain instrument, they can better appreciate the movements they hear within classical music pieces.
Incorporate classical music with other activities.
Set aside time each week when your family can sit down and do something together while listening to classical music. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time – just 15 or 20 minutes is enough. Take out coloring books or paints and create alongside each other, or even prepare a meal together while the music plays. By having this specific time set aside, everyone can unplug from whatever else is stressing them out and just enjoy the music and each other. The key is to make it a consistent time, but short and not overbearing.
When you approach classical music as something that your family “should” listen to, kids often resent it. Have your kids ever been overly enthused about eating their vegetables after you’ve insisted they are “good” for them? Probably not, and the same is true with listening to classical music. Don’t tell them why they should listen to it. Just turn it on and enjoy it yourself. If you can really lose yourself in the musical stories, your kids will want to emulate that. They will likely model your behavior long before they do something just because you tell them they should.
If you want your kids to truly appreciate and enjoy classical music, they need to see you loving it too. Even if they give you a hard time about playing classical music at first, keep at it. Enough exposure will have them tapping their own toes and humming along to their favorites. Before long you’ll be able to add listening to classical music to your list of activities that your family enjoys doing together.
How often do you listen to classical music in your house? What are some of your favorites?
Featured photo credit: dora dora 2/Philippe Put via flickr.com