Exploring Music's Complexities

The Importance of Introducing Classical Music to Children

Developing a Child’s Love for Classical Music


In the Novenber 19, 2012 issue of the New York edition of the New York Times, an email written by Mr. Les Dreyer was reprinted under the headline:  Invitation to a Dialogue:  Saving Classical Music.

Mr. Dreyer, a retired violinist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, expressed his concern that “An entire generation, aged between 10 and 30, seems radically disenfranchised from classical music.”  He commented on the fact that bus and train stations were piping canned classical music as a way of stopping young people from loitering.  He states “So toxic have the associations become, that this experiment actually works:  there is evidence that playing Beethoven and Mahler has reduced antisocial behavior on the transport network.”

While his concerns are valid, one has to admit that most, if not all, symphonic music performed by orchestras in America does not reflect our culture.  Most of what is played is far removed and represents a culture over a hundred years old.  In this youth oriented society the tendency is to devalue much that is “old.”   Yet, Classical music has much to offer, both as it exists and what it could become.  Just because Pop and rap music and jazz are a big part of our culture doesn’t mean Classical music should be ignored.

The object of this post is to provide suggestions as to how Classical music can be reintroduced to our young people.  As noted in a previous post, much has been written on the effects music has on a child’s brain. (1).  The many positive effects have been demonstrated by studies that indicate music can help develop fine motor skills as well as gross motor skills.  Vocal, speaking and listening skills are also improved  (2,3).  As more children become comfortable with this form of music they will help to create a bigger demand for these works.  To accomplish this composers and conductors need to work to create and perform sounds to which the young generation can relate.

If the Classical art form is to be kept alive, young children need to be exposed to and educated in Classical music whenever and wherever we are able to do so.  Young composers should be encouraged to create a sound to which their generation can relate. Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to wean youngsters away from songs with lyrics about drugs and excess that contain about 35 references to substance abuse for every hour of music they listen to (4).


Music educators have produced numerous articles on methods designed to make children familiar with the Classics.  Because it is like any other musical genre in that it can evoke joy, excitement, anger, tears, passion, and wonder it can be introduced in conjunction with other of child’s favorite activities.

Deborah Read has provided a list of compositions ranging from background cartoon music to slow soft music that comforts and sooths childrem to sleep (5).

The first of these is the Barber of Seville (Overture) by Giacchino Rossini (1820-1869).  She states the music is delightful, ranging from carefully though out melodies to frantic sequences.  It may come as a surprise if the child recognizes this music as the recognition probably comes from the Loony Tunes cartoon short The Rabbit of Seville (1950).

A Fifth of Beethoven, which was the #1 instrumental on the billboard charts in 1976, is a disco version of Beethoven’s 5th symphony (1770-1827).

Walt Disney’s version of The Waltz” from the Sleeping Beauty Ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is “Once Upon a Dream.”  Little ones will enjoy being carried around the room or doing the waltz.

Carmen (Overture) by Georges Bizet (1838-1875) was programmed into Sesame Street in the 1970s.  Including The Habanera, the “Flower Song”, and “Toreador.  The Toreador is a great marching song.

Children find the “Moonlight Sonata” by Ludwig von Beethoven (170-1827) a comforting piece, often putting then to sleep.

At http://www.naxos.com there is a comprehensive list of selections by Bach recommended for use with infants. (6)

Another vehicle for bringing Classical music to a child is through websites for children.  http://www.classicsforkids.com (7) provides a comprehensive list of Kids Websites.  Among those listed are: Dallas Symphony Orchestra Kids Website, San Francisco symphony Kids Website, and KUSC Creative Kids Central Website.  For older children San Francisco’s Keeping Score is less designed for entertainment and more geared towards learning and listening.

Reading to children with classical music that matches the emotions and actions of the book in the background is another effective way to introduce the classics.  Always play the same piece of music for each story, that way it becomes imbedded in your child’s sense memory.

A toddler exposed to classical music through animated films is another avenue.  One of my favorites is the animated film “Fantasia” from Walt Disney. Others are “Peter and the Wolf” and “What’s Opera, Doc?”  How can resist the thrilling Wagnerian soundtrack as Elmer Fudd chases Bugs Bunny.  May I suggest that the album below, available from http://www.wonderofsound.com,  is a good place to begin?

When You Wish


1.  Human Intelligence:  Historical influences current controversies, teaching resources.  RELNEL:Music and Infant Development.  Reference Desk Response No.458.  Effects of Music on Infant Development.  2/17/10.

2.  England, A.  Benefits of Music for Infants.  Feb.15, 008.angelenglandsuite101.com

3.  Rauscher, FH, Shar, GL, Wright, EL, Dennis, WR, Newcomb, RI.  (199710).  Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool chidren’s special-temporal reasoning.  Neurological Research.  19.2-8.

4.    http://www.thegurdian.com/technology 2016/mar/08/best-music-apps-for-kids

5.  http://suite101.com/article/classical-music-selections-for-children-a138563

6.  http://www.naxos.com

7.  http://www.classicsforkids.com

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