How can I get my child into classical music?
Want to introduce your child to the wonders of classical music, but don't want to overwhelm them? Here are some tips from Hannah Nepilova
Classical music can open a spectacular world for children. Here’s how to spark their interest and help them develop a lifelong love affair
How to introduce children to classical music
1. Take them to children's concerts
The last decade or so has seen a huge increase in the number of concerts catering to families with young children, among them the BBC's Relaxed Proms, Wigmore Hall's Chamber Tots, and Bach to Baby. With their informal attitude towards noise-making, plenty of changing facilities, and emphasis on audience participation, these concerts are a great introduction to the live experience of classical music.
2. Listen to music with stories attached
Everyone loves a good story, and there is plenty of classical music - from operas to tone-poems - that come with one ready-made. You can start by reading a classic fairy tale - say Hansel and Gretel - to your child, then following up with the corresponding piece of music, pointing out what is happening in the story as you go along.
3. Record your own musical stories
There are so many ways of doing this. I have been making recordings on YouTube for my own children, reading classic stories such as The Little Mermaid and The Wind in the Willows, and interweaving them with pieces of classical music that I've chosen to bring out the drama at various points in the plot. But you can also make up your own narratives from scratch, peppering them with appropriate pieces of classical music along the way. With the help of recording technology like GarageBand it's surprisingly easy to do, and - if you happen to own a TonieBox - you can even record your stories on Creative Tonies, as I've done, for your children to listen to at bedtime.
4. Turn listening into a game
An easy way to make classical music accessible to young children is to categorise it by theme: train music; animal music; insect music; music about fairies...the possibilities are endless. Ask them to describe the piece: is it happy or sad? Squeaky or growly? Floaty or marchy? Then get them to dance, jump, skip or run along to it, according to the music's demands. It costs nothing and is one of the best ways of encouraging children to really listen.
Hannah Nepilova is a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine. She has also written for The Financial Times, The Times, The Strad, Gramophone, Opera Now, Opera, the BBC Proms and the Philharmonia, and runs The Cusp, an online magazine exploring the boundaries between art forms. Born to Czech parents, she has a strong interest in Czech music and culture.