I moved to Massachusetts in 1984. Since then, I have faithfully watched the Boston Pops perform every Fourth of July. Back then, John Williams was the conductor. He was the man who wrote the music for my favorite movies, “ET”, “Indiana Jones” and “Jaws”. I couldn’t believe he was conducting the orchestra I was watching. This was seeing all that I had been listening to for many years. I was hooked on ‘Pops Goes the Fourth’.
Here’s what matters: their music is universal, from opera to pop to country, and everything in between. Exposure! Children need to hear music and see music performed. They need to listen to different sounds; not just high and low, but sounds that make them feel and wonder. They need to see a variety of instruments, looking and listening to the sounds they make. They need to watch musicians play the instruments so they can make a connection with sound. They need to wonder what it would be like to blow a horn or prop up a cello, or pull a bow across strings. They need to imagine doing just that in order to make music.
A few years ago I watched Melinda Doolittle sing. One of the best parts of her performance was her saxophone player. Then, there was the Sons of Serendipity with their harp and cello. The sounds of those instruments took me to another place. I thought,
“What if someone asked me who the artists or composers are, or what the titles of the songs are, or how I explain music to children.”
Instinctively I knew the answer. Appreciating and understanding music comes from listening and looking, feeling and exploring. It includes both vocal and instruments. That’s what I do. Can a preschooler love Vivaldi or the cello? You bet! The Boston Pops concert does that every year. So do I. Rarely do we listen to ‘children’s songs’. We move, feeling the beat. We listen to classical music (often painting while listening), popular music, patriotic music. “How does that make you feel”, I ask. We learn about different instruments and their sounds. Best of all, guests come and play for us. And, I play the autoharp. In the words of Hans Christian Anderson, “Where words fail, music speaks.”
When I was a child I loved Mickey Mouse cartoons. I vividly remember the one with the orchestra and the wind blowing away all the musicians. I also loved Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. It was adulthood before I realized that classical music was the foundation for those cartoons and movies. Walt Disney did for children what the Boston Pops does for people; bringing a variety of music and instruments into an ‘every day life’. Genius!