Most parents know that children learn their ABC’s faster by singing rather than saying the letters. The added tune makes learning the ABC’s easier to learn and remember. Students who sing or play an instrument score up to 51 points higher on SATs than the national average. Children who grow up exposed to music have a great advantage in many ways over those who seldom hear music.
Music is good for you – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Music affects your mood, makes you feel happy, enchanted, inspired, wistful, excited, empowered, comforted and even heroic.
Many generations of parents probably balk at what their children are listening to and identify with, in terms of contemporary music they hear on radio, television, compact discs and live concerts.
As a teenager in the 1950’s I’m sure my own parents were not happy with the advent of rock n’ roll as exemplified by Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, among others. Fast forward to today – acid rock, heavy metal rock, etc. permeate the airways with ear-splitting decibel levels. Because of this hearing abuse, many physicians predict a generation of hard-of-hearing adults will emerge. Hearing organ damage is inevitable if children keep listening at the current levels. The musical value of today’s pop and rock music comes into serious question as to its inherent worth in ones aesthetic judgments concerning its benefits, merit and lasting values to society. Parents are cautioned to watch out for obscene or disturbing lyrics, according to a news article from the British Broadcasting Corporation.
In a study by Sarah Harris at the Institute of Education, University of London, Harris found that exposing children to classical music boosts their concentration and self discipline. It also improves their social and general listening skills and develops sharper minds that are less likely to suffer a mental decline.
These three very famous compositions are highly recommended for children.
Young Peoples Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten, England’s best known modern composer, introduces children to the instrument families: woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion. He first writes for the instrument families then for each one individually. This work is a delightful and fun piece designed for people unfamiliar with the orchestral instruments. Children will learn a lot from this work
Peter and the Wolf by Russian composer, Sergei Prokifiev, is a “symphonic tale for children,” according to Curt Sachs in his book, Our Musical Heritage. This musical story is told by a narrator. The woodwinds are associated with four characters in the story: the flute, personifies the bird; the oboe, the duck; the clarinet, the cat and the bassoon, the grandfather. The French horns describe the wolf and the strings portray Peter. The hunters are represented by rifle shots simulated on drums.
Carnival of the Animals, considered must listening for children was composed by French composer, Camille Saint-Saens. This work is in 14 sections. The inspiration for the piece might have been prompted by his students who asked him to write a musical joke for them. He regarded the writing of the work as a “piece of fun.” Ironically he did not allow the piece to be published or performed during his lifetime. The reason for this was he did not want this “fun piece” to distract from his work as a serious composer of substantive music. He wanted the work to be published posthumously however. People enjoyed it so much that it has become one of Saint-Saens most famous compositions. The instruments of the orchestra reproduce the sounds made by the various animals. The suite is scored for small orchestra and two pianos. This piece is “A tour through the animal kingdom in short bits,” states Ethan Mordden in his book, A Guide to Orchestral Music.
These are all very prominent and enjoyable works that can teach children a lot about music. Other musical selections children enjoy are: The William Tell Overture by G. Rossini (familiar as one of the themes of the radio and television show, The Lone Ranger) Children’s Corner Suite by C. Debussy; The Nutcracker by P. Tchaikovsky; Simple Symphony by B. Britten; Pier Gynt Suite by E. Grieg and Orpheus in the Underworld by J. Offenbach
Cartoons and Films
In 1940 the landmark Disney feature Fantasia dealt with classical music in an animated form for children. This movie exposed the audience, children and adults, to great works of popular classical music including The Nutcracker, The Rite of Spring, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria. The goal was to expose children to great music. Cartoons, during their early days and today, often play classical music as background for the action on the screen. Popular animated children films today expose the audience to excellent musical sound tracks.
Many dramatic feature and action films use classical music to help express the emotions the actors are feeling and expressing. Music in films helps make the story and the acting on the screen much more effective.
Why not expose your children to music of lasting value that they will learn to embrace and will lead to a new appreciation of music of worth? By introducing your children to music written for them you will be doing them an enormous service that will lead to a lifetime of musical enjoyment and personal fulfillment.
Make classical music a natural part of your children’s daily life but never force classical music on them and be careful not to ban other forms of music.
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