PSO Principal Contrabassoon Jim Rodgers shows a young patron his bassoon before the February 2015 Fiddlesticks Family Series Concert, “Winter Dreams.”
“I like to hear the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra because you can hear all the instruments and it gives different emotions. Music could be happy or sad, and it’s fun to hear that with a very talented symphony orchestra.” – Fiddlesticks Family Series Patron
We also hope you continue to explore music with the children in your life after the concert ends, so I recently spoke with the PSO’s Senior Vice President of Education & Strategic Implementation, Suzanne Perrino, and asked if she could share some advice for engaging young children with music. Read on to hear her insights and discover eight tips for doing just that.
Remember that every child has musical aptitude from birth. Children are inherently musical. Very young children can internalize and respond to musical stimuli before they can speak or read. They can also produce sounds and music through a very important natural instrument—their voice. The voice is the ideal basis for early musical expression, so go ahead and invite children to sing out strong!
Introduce children to music as soon as possible, preferably before birth. The period between the ages of zero and three is critical for brain development and growth. Research tells us that musical experiences occurring in this window of time can cultivate general brain development, increase musical aptitude, and facilitate bonding. Everyone has the capacity to learn music from birth if their potential is properly nurtured, so engaging with music at a young age is essential to establishing the proper foundation for later development.
Engage in musical play activities. Early musical experiences should be informal in nature and occur within a supportive context. Musical play and conversation are critical to increasing musical aptitude, and young children can learn many skills and build relationships through play.
Present ideas and concepts in activities that come naturally to children. Singing, dancing, and vocalizing are enjoyable, natural interactive activities, and they strengthen relationships and encourage children to musically converse with each other and their parents. When the PSO provided programs at early childhood centers several years ago, musicians and educators let students have fun with vocal exploration, sound discovery, and multisensory movement activities. Learning occurred naturally, and children started requesting to listen to classical music in the car after sessions. They also began to identify the instruments they heard on the radio and in several instances even taught their parents something new. By creating excitement, the programs motivated children to go out of their way to learn more.
Don’t set stringent expectations for performance. Establish an environment where children feel free to be themselves and take risks. You’ll be amazed at the development that occurs when children learn through play and are not pushed to be perfect. Don’t set stringent expectations for your own performance, either, which brings us to the next tip.
Sing with your child. You may have been told that your natural singing voice is not good enough, but don’t let that stop you from singing, as children treasure their parents’ voices above all others. When you sing with your child, you create positive, engaging musical experiences that build confidence and self-expression, in addition to encouraging your child to experiment with his or her voice. When children reach the age of 2, many parents switch from singing to reading, but it is best to do both and continue fostering a shared love of music, as well as a willingness to be creative and take risks.
Create musically enriched environments. Offering children early exposure to high-quality musical stimuli will encourage and enhance their development. One way to use environmental music is to set up musical cues to provide reminders and structure. For instance, slow, soft, and simple classical music could signal a transition from an energetic activity to a quiet activity requiring focus, while upbeat music could facilitate the opposite transition. In general, we recommend that you engage your children with live music, but you can also use recorded music to effectively guide transitions.
Use community resources to provide the best possible musical models. While youshould never let the desire to provide the best possible models keep you from musically interacting with your children, it is important to hear excellent music out in the community by attending performances such as the Fiddlesticks Family Series. At these concerts, the PSO provides the best possible models in an experience appropriate for children aged three to eight. The musicians of the orchestra and guest artists perform great pieces featuring multiple meters, tonalities, languages, and cultures to create a musical language that is as diverse as possible. This lays the foundation required to make children more open to different musical experiences as they grow up.
We hope you find the tips useful and wish you happy exploring! And don’t forget to come see us and Fiddlesticks on Saturday!
Disclaimer: The information on this website is meant for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for the advice of a medical professional. The PSO is not responsible for outcomes resulting from the use the information on this website or linked websites. Although the PSO makes every reasonable effort to provide accurate and thorough information on this website, it cannot guarantee the completeness or timeliness of this information.