Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Music for Children

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 […]

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

Suggestion number one for how to get and keep our kids interested in music: play a variety of music at home and in the car. As if you really needed me to tell you that. If we leave musical selection entirely up to the kids, it’ll be Raffi and Miley Cyrus until they are ten, and then whatever music they choose to blast through the privacy of their ear buds until they leave home at 18 (if they ever leave at all). It is incumbent upon us as adults to see that a variety of music is shared, both at home and in the car (yes, this will require some serious negotiation, but it can be done). I believe that variety is the key; that whatever we insist on playing, it represent a variety of concert, world, folk, jazz, and rock music. Along with listening to a VARIETY of music TOGETHER, there are two further standout issues here. One has to do with variety without subjectivity and the other has to do with setting a parental example. Avoiding subjectivity. If we – as adults – can avoid being subjective about the music we choose to play, our kids will stand […]

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

I am just naïve enough to believe that almost all music is accessible – on some level or another – to almost all people. Obviously I’ve hedged, because some musical genres – Extreme Gangsta Rap and White Power Rock/Nazi Punk, for example – are best avoided by most feeling human beings. But to the point: the great bulk of our planet’s music – from Blues and Jazz to Zydeco and Blue Grass to North Indian Raga, Indonesian Gamelan, West African drumming, and Bhutanese mountain trumpeting (to name but a very few) – is of enduring beauty and quality and has something real and powerful to offer every one of us. The evidence of the immediate appeal of most music to most people is the reaction of children to music. It is my experience that until children become overtly self-conscious about themselves and begin to subjectively discriminate between things (somewhere between ages 6 and 9), there are no more musical creatures on the planet. They will sing without inhibition at the drop of a hat and will dance to pretty much anything with a joy and abandon that the rest of us can only marvel at. They do not know “good […]

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

It has always seemed to me that there are two essentially different kinds of music. The first is what we might call “generational music”: the contemporary music we hear and sing and play while we’re growing up – music that represents our childhood; our innocence; our coming of age; our sexual awakening; our friends and our first loves and first heartbreaks. For me, that music – the music that can still transport me back to places otherwise forgotten – includes Peter, Paul, and Mary; the Beatles; Jimi Hendrix; Simon and Garfunkel; Led Zeppelin; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Chicago; and Blood, Sweat and Tears. What this means is that every generation of younguns will have its own music. Our job as parents/adults is not to denigrate our children’s music (which can only prove to our kids that we are the doddering old fools they already believe us to be) but rather, to SUPPLEMENT their listening with the other kind of music, meaning EVERYTHING ELSE. By “everything else” I really do mean “everything else.” Tomorrow, let’s talk turkey about what constitutes “everything else”.

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

In my previous entry I promised to hold forth on a subject of concern to many (if not most) of the visitors to this page, and that is how to get (and keep) our kids interested in concert music. Rather than dive right into the subject, I have been seized by the need to set the stage, to offer an “overture” in preparation of what (I hope) will be an extended discussion. Bear with me; we have as much time to discuss this stuff as we want. It has become something of a national pastime in the United States to bemoan the state of music education in the public schools. I regret, in particular, the demise of band and choral programs, programs that didn’t just teach kids how to play instruments and sing but, much more important, how to contribute (musically) to a larger community, the whole a thousand times greater than the sum of its parts. Having said that, I do not miss – not for a moment – the sorts of “music appreciation” classes I was subjected to as a child. If my experience in the public schools of Willingboro, New Jersey in the 1960’s is in any […]

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

My six year-old daughter Lillian is going to start piano lessons next week. Lily has been asking for lessons for a couple of years, but I am not a believer in starting kids too young, and to my mind four years old was way too young. (To my mind, no matter how good the teacher, a lesson is a lesson, and lessons demand responsibility, discipline, and practice. The vast majority of us will be responsibility-free exactly once in our lives: from birth through the age of six. Let kids be kids, I say. Responsibility, discipline, and practice – like gray hair, bad eyesight, and lousy knees – will all come in time, whether we want them or not.) Frankly, six is even a bit on the young side for me, but given, one, Lily’s ongoing interest in the piano (she “plays” all the time); two, we have two nice grands in the house (one of them a Steinway D); three, she hears the pianos being played all the time; and four, I’ve found her the right teacher (or so I think), well, I guess it’s time to start her up. For the first year or two I’m not going to […]

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