By Marianne Benjamin
From your baby's first lullaby to the unique and diverse tastes of the teen years, music is an important part of a child's life. But how do you start your child on a path to true appreciation of the breadth and depth of the music available to them? And why is music such a vital part of a child's life? Educators say that it's important to expose children to music at an early age and immerse them in its complexities as they get older. The sound of a loved one's voice is soothing to infants and many of a child's first words are learned through song. Music is a rich environment for both learning and entertainment.
The Importance of Music
Brought up in a world of iPODs, computers and video games, children are exposed at an earlier age to an ever-widening range of tunes. They are even able to create their own compositions using specially developed music software. Children have music at their fingertips and don't have to wait for a scheduled television show like they once did -- they can have a Lincoln Center performance available for viewing on the Internet at any time.
"Technology should help to enhance, but not replace the value of the live performance," Tanya Kantor, vocal music teacher at Scribner Road Elementary School. "Listening, moving, and singing help children acquire speech and language. There is a strong relationship between reading and rhythmic development. Involvement in music also helps students strengthen the writing process." In short, music is exercise for the brain. Studies show that children who are involved in music outperform their peers in testing. Music engages many areas throughout the brain, including those that are normally involved in other kinds of activities.
"Music offers a wide range of opportunities for children, and helps them develop critical thinking skills and improvisation techniques," adds Kantor. "A child's involvement in the music classroom promotes literacy, fosters teamwork and independence, and allows children to develop analytic tools in their response to and evaluation of concepts and skills."
Sharing music with your children – especially live performances – can be a way for all to learn and enjoy being together while having fun. This summer give your children a chance to experience the world of music, whether it be children's, classical, jazz, folk, rock, or rap.
"Classical music offers exposure and an appreciation for a facet of our culture whose value has survived for hundreds of years," says Karla Krogstead, director of the Bach Children's Chorus for more than 20 years. The Bach Children's Chorus, in residence at Nazareth College, is western New York's most respected children's classical music ensemble. The chorus appears regularly with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rochester Chamber Orchestra, and other area ensembles. The girls and boys in the group range in age from 8 to 16 and are well known in Rochester's arts community.
Krostead emphasizes that exposure to classical music offers experiences in languages other than English including Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, and German. lassical vocal music brought together the master poets and composers of the day and these poems offer the study of rhyme nd meter which apply to many of the Romance languages. Classical music can also be a tool to teach about other cultures. By exposing students and young listeners to songs that incorporate diverse stories, backgrounds, and themes, students gain an appreciation and understanding of cultures other than their own.
Zach Summers, 27, a former member of the Bach Children's Chorus is grateful for his early experiences in classical music. "Classical music helped me gain an incredible appreciation for all types of music," says Summers. "By being immersed in challenging and complex music in the Bach Children's Chorus, I not only learned about hard work, but gained a love of forms of music that, under other circumstances, I would have never heard."
Live performers of children's music like Rochester's Mick Kornrich use songs that are very popular throughout the generations like I've Been Working On The Railroad, Rock Around The Clock, and Itsy Bitsy Spider to engage children. "The familiarity of these tunes keeps audiences interested," says Kornrich. He uses props on some songs like a large rubber spider with Itsy Bitsy Spider and he puts on a train hat for I've Been Working on the Railroad.
"I have been known to be quite silly," says Kornich. "Bumping my nose on the microphone gets a good laugh and they always like the sound of a bumble bee made on the harmonica." Kornrich also uses different instruments which grab attention and exposes the children to a variety of sound. He plays guitar, banjo, ukulele, harmonica and sings which introduces young children to many different musical styles. He uses interactive ideas for them to participate with each song and feels that dancing and singing along offer the best opportunities to be engaged.
Where to Go
There are many varieties of music you can share with your child. Luckily our community is rich in musical resources, festivals and live entertainment. Here are just a few of the places you can experience live music with your children this summer.