I listen to a lot of classical music with my two kids, and not because of the Mozart Effect. I have no expectations that my children’s IQ will shoot up by listening to classical music. Mostly, I listen to classical music because I love it. Like parents everywhere, I share my passions with my kids. Some parents introduce their children to a passion for Star Wars or soccer, I share my passion for J.S. Bach. I think it’s good for my kids to see me excited and happy, mostly so they can remember I am a human and not an automated pancake making robot.
My second reason for listening to classical music with my children is to inspire and motivate them as musicians. I expect my children to take music lessons and practice daily in their childhood. To make my job of enforcing practice a little easier, I am constantly looking for ways to deepen their love of music. They can’t love music if they don’t understand it, and they won’t understand it if they never hear it. I want classical music to be familiar and to be associated with love and affection at home.
You should absolutely listen to whatever genre of music you love with your kids, but if you want to try listening to classical music and are intimidated by starting, I have a few suggestions.
Don’t just listen to Capital C Classical music. Within classical music there are several different time periods and genres. There is Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern, and more. Most generic classical music albums, playlists, and radio stations I have heard lean heavily on Baroque and Classical, which is great! But if you complain that classical music is boring, I suggest turning off the “soft classical piano for bedtime” playlist and turn on some Romantic symphonic pieces.
Try listening to: Symphony No. 4, IV. Allegro energico e passionato by Johannes Brahms.
Move to the music. My kids are not quite ready to sit through a symphony concert or ballet. We turn on the music and invent different ways to move to the music. March, twirl, moonwalk, whatever feels good.
Try listening to: Suite from Romeo and Juliet, “Montagues and Capulets” by Sergei Prokofiev.
Ask lots of questions. Music is my primary technique to get my kids to talk to me in the car instead of screaming at me. We talk about what instruments we hear- strings, winds, brass, percussion. We talk a lot about what mood the music is creating. Is it sad or happy? Is it sad like crying buckets of tears or just glum? Do you think the music is describing someone? What do they look like? What color is the music? Is it fast or is it slow? Fast like walking, running, or sprinting? Listening for specific instruments is a great way to figure out what instrument your child would like to play or make them feel connected to the instrument they already play.
Try listening to: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35: 1. Moderato nobile by Erich Korngold.
Tell a story. All of those questions may lead to an exciting story written by the whole family. Learning about the story behind a ballet or symphonic suite may help your kids pay attention to the details in the music.
Try listening to: Scheherezade, Op. 35: The Festival of Baghdad.
Keep trying. It may take you a little while to find a composer or two that your family really loves. Because classical music is so varied, I really think there is something for everyone. Don’t limit yourself to Mozart and Beethoven (though I love Mozart and Beethoven.) Research living composers, composers that lived where you live, composers that look, act, or believe, like you or your kids. You don’t have to just listen to “old dead white guys.” You don’t just have to listen to symphonies or lullabies. Explore by listening to the “Composer Weekly” playlists on Spotify or researching who wrote the music in your favorite movie.
Try listening to: Negro Folksongs in Counterpoint by Florence Beatrice Price.
Music is an amazing catalyst for connection in my own young, small family. It doesn’t really matter how you listen, just that you enjoy it. I have great memories of Saturday morning chores rolling my eyes as my dad sang along with Earth, Wind, and Fire. (I hid this CD for more than five years as a teen. Sorry, dad.) Listening to any genre of music will help your kids develop rhythm and pitch understanding, so you don’t have to listen to anything you hate. Except your Suzuki recordings. As a Suzuki teacher I am legally obligated to tell you that you have to listen to those. 😉
What music does your family love? Have your kids introduced you to any music you wouldn’t have listened to on your own?