Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

How To Get and Keep Kids Interested In Concert Music – Part Six

Suggestion number two for getting and keeping our kids interested in music: dance, conduct, and even play along with the music.

A few preliminary observations.

We perceive music by listening to it. We listen with our ears. Based on such obvious truisms, it was seem that the act of perceiving music involves only one of our senses, that being the sense of hearing.

Of course, this is not at all true. In truth, listening to music – like making music – can (and I believe should) be a full-contact activity. I would suggest that the more physically engaged we are while listening to music, the more whole-bodied and intense the musical experience becomes.

For example.

Whenever possible, I follow along with a score while I listen to music. Of course this isn’t for everyone, because not everyone can read a score. But I would tell you that for me, the visual reinforcement of what I am hearing intensifies the experience and detail of my listening by an order of magnitude.

The same is true of a live performance, during which we WATCH the performers. Their actions and body language remind us that they are physically MAKING music, and our visual perception of that physicality intensifies profoundly our experience of the music as well.

(Yes, some of us will, during a live performance, close our eyes in order to CONCENTRATE on the music. However, I would assert that that level of concentration cannot be maintained for the span of an entire piece. Sooner or later we need to come up for visual air, to rejoin the performers and the audience/collective around us.)

For better or for worse, contemporary concert etiquette requires that we sit still during a concert. However, there is no such proscription against physically engaging with music in the privacy of our own homes, so here’s what I suggest.

One: dance to the music. I’m not talking about dancing a “minuet” while listening to a minuet; I’m talking about boogieing down any way we like to whatever music we’re hearing. But it’s more than just moving to a beat; kids will instinctively “interpret” the music they’re listening to by moving in different ways to different music. It’s wonderful to watch and even more fun to engage with.

Two. Invest in some percussion toys or simply buy some different sized tubs from Home Depot and encourage your kids to “play along” with recordings. Yes, I’m aware that this can drive an adult up a wall, which is why we should do it with them. Again, this makes us active, not passive participants in the musical process, and it’s more fun than you might think. As for “insulting” Bach or Mozart or Beethoven by doing this; my friends, they’re dead and beyond insult. Besides, do you really think playing along with a recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is more insulting than the disco arrangement of Beethoven’s Fifth that was featured in the movie Saturday Night Fever? I rest my case.

Three. Buy some cheap conductor’s batons on the internet (or just grab a few chopsticks) and conduct along with a conductor on a video or a recording. Really, it’s just another form of dance, and it is fun!

Not even serious dental issues should preclude us from smiling at the young dude below, whose “interpretation” of the fourth and final movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is one for the ages.


  1. Loved that!