Children and classical music

My parents–my father especially–love classical music. When I was growing up, Dad always had a record on whenever he had a chance to relax. It wasn’t always classical music. He had lots of Broadway musicals and big band jazz in his collection, too. I’ve always figured that’s why I grew up loving that music, although I never shared his enthusiasm for opera.

I have a much younger sister, and I can remember her first record player. Her record collection mostly consisted of the horrible songs intended for children. I can hear some of the horrible, sloppy performances of them even as I write, because she’d play the same song half a dozen times in a row.

She also grew up hearing everything Dad played. It didn’t take her long to outgrow the cheap kiddie music, but she still loves the popular music of the big band / Tin Pan Alley era. I understand some children think they’ve outgrown the music of their parents’ generation by the time they’re teenagers, but since none of us did, I can’t relate.

I thought of that when I came across a video of a five-year-old conducting to a recording of The Rite of Spring. He has obviously listened to that piece a lot, because his gestures match the music pretty well for such a complicated piece. Just as obvious, he has seen conductors well enough to imitate them. I was not surprised to learn that his father, Lawrence Loh, is the Resident Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, among other accomplishments.

Little Charlie probably likes all kinds of things that make his dad cringe. The Rite of Spring makes my dad cringe; many people still find twentieth-century “classical” music an acquired taste, but children don’t know that. If they grow up with it, chances are they’ll like it. Charlie will outgrow his current tastes for a lot of things, but will always enjoy The Rite of Spring, among other classical masterpieces.

The classical music of the eighteenth century, surely the most listener-friendly music ever written, appealed to all levels of society. It appealed to people who wanted an artistic experience and to those who only wanted entertainment. It was contemporary and familiar.

Ever since then, it has been something old. For some reason, people have found it easier to love old paintings, old statues, old buildings, even old literature than old music. Children, however, don’t know what’s old. They know what they like. Whatever they like as children that is good, they will keep liking it as they grow into adulthood. Every child deserves the right to hear good music often.

And now, here’s Charlie Loh, with an appearance by his little sister at the end.


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