Children and classical music revisited

Last March I wrote Children and classical music, which featured Charlie Loh, a professional conductor’s five-year-old son conducting Rite of Spring. The proud father also mounted a video of Charlie conducting something else when he was only four. Charlie got off to a good start then, but made remarkable progress by the time he was five!

Lately, a video of a three-year-old, identified only as Jonathan, conducting the finale to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony has been making the rounds. There are 10 videos in all (as of today) of Jonathan either playing violin or conducting something. I see he showed interest in classical music and started conducting on his own at about eight months of age.

Jonathan is clearly not an ordinary three-year-old. I’m not sure how many children at that age have the attention span to listen to a four-and-a-half minute piece and come to know it as well as he clearly knows the Beethoven. But on the other hand, he and Charlie Loh enable us to make some generalizations about classical music:

  • Children love what becomes familiar. If they hear classical music growing up, they will love it.
  • Because young children know nothing of history, sociology, or class distinctions, the fact that they can love classical music proves that it is not elitist.
  • Children can learn to read music and sing from solfège at an early age. (No surprise there; solfège was first designed as an easy way to teach music to children.)
  • Young children learn new skills much faster and easier than teenagers or adults.
  • After a certain age, it takes longer for something to become familiar and comfortable, and learning it becomes less fun and more of a chore.
  • Therefore, the best time to introduce children to classical music, music reading (and for that matter, their first foreign language) is early in childhood.
  • Children, all children regardless of race or social class, deserve to be exposed to a wide variety of excellent things (classical music and any other good music, art, literature, etc.). They will choose which enthusiasms to carry into adulthood, when developing new enthusiasms for the arts might be more difficult.

What do you think?

Photo credit: AttributionSome rights reserved by dcaseyphoto

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