As it is for a lot of families, music is a big deal in our house. B is a huge music lover and believes it’s important for children to hear great music from a young age — though how exactly to introduce them to music in an engaging way can sometimes be a more complex question.
Recently, I learned one simple (and ingenious) approach to this problem when I was invited to the home of a neighborhood mom for a casual, one-hour music concert for children (and their parents/caregivers). Stephanie Woo — a Montessori trained teacher and mom to twin two-year-old girls — noticed how her girls were fascinated by musicians in the subway (they were living in New York City at the time) and thought it would be fun if they could experience music like that in a more structured way — and so she began hosting regular live children’s concerts in her own home.
Stephanie tracked down musicians willing to come into her home and play for 45-60 minutes to an audience of little ones and their parents. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, so she kept the concerts going, bringing the idea here to Baltimore when she moved.
To compensate the musicians, Stephanie charges a small fee per child — usually $5 — so she doesn’t have to eat all the cost herself. And she invites parents and caregivers to bring snacks and drinks for their kids.
My girls and I have been to three concerts: A violinist came one afternoon, a French horn player the next time, and a guitarist most recently. Each musician played a few children’s songs — like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, This Old Man, and The Itsy Bitsy Spider – but they also played selections from their own musical repertoires: classical, bluegrass, celtic music, even (in the case of the guitarist) a little rock and some contemporary selections. Each musician introduced the instrument at the beginning, allowed the children to touch and examine it, and encouraged singing and dancing to the songs.
This is not a quiet, attentive audience — something impossible when you have babies, toddlers, and preschoolers doing their thing. It helps that Stephanie’s home is set up Montessori-style, so it’s an inviting place for children. But this is probably best described as a play-date with live music, rather than a concert; the point is not to force children to sit and appreciate music like adults but to expose them to the sights and sounds of live instruments, make music fun, and have them hear a variety of musical selections.
Sadly for those of us who’ve enjoyed these events, Stephanie and her family are packing up for Oregon next week. I’m hoping someone else in the neighborhood will pick up the baton; it’s certainly something I’d consider in the future, once we have more space… But I’m grateful to Stephanie for introducing me (and the girls!) to such a great idea. It’s a simple, creative way to help children learn to love good music — no matter how old they are.
Are you a music-lover? How have you brought music into your family life?
Images: Zoe Saint-Paul. The cutie in the hat and glasses is S enjoying a concert; our host, Stephanie, and one of her daughters is pictured above.