Symposium Review – Classical Music for Children

A little less than a year and a half ago I read the most wonderful book about homeschooling (although all the principles could be equally applied to parenting in general), and one of the things I came away with was the concept of morning symposium.

In truth, an actual symposium, like the ones Socrates and his fellow lovers of wisdom would have held, would be more like a discussion and exploration of ideas. My oldest child right now is 10 and my youngest is 3. Although we do discuss deep things on occasion when the time is right, we’re not really rolling around in wisdom and maturity over here.

So our symposiums are a time to explore something else also deep, wise, and beautiful. We listen to classical music. Classical music in itself is the transfer of ideas from composer, musician, and director to the listener – so I don’t think this is so much of a stretch.

well, it may be kind of a stretch – but it’s been about a year and a half and we aren’t changing the name now.

And when I say we “listen” to classical music, often that actually means my kids are enjoying it so much that some of them are dancing, some are just bouncing off the walls, some are probably fighting with each other, some are coloring – I do encourage that one actually – and one might still be finishing breakfast in the other room.

My children may be a little more lively than I would like while I sit and ponder the beauty and majesty of Beethoven or Rachmaninoff, and I may have let them know that more than once in less-than-gentle words. BUT my children also LOVE classical music. They wont even consider listening to “that other stuff” on the radio. And boy does that make my heart sing! Have you listened to any of those lyrics lately? They are NOT appropriate for 10 to 3 year olds. (I don’t even think they are appropriate for me! And I am… older than 10.)

Symposium has morphed from listening to a piece (or two) for 20 minutes a day for 1 week to just 20 minutes a day for two weeks with one of those weeks focusing more on fine art with the music in the background. Soon after that I nixed the art appreciation part, because the kids really were just enjoying the music so much.  But the two week schedule stuck.

Here was my line up for winter semester 2017. Classical Music for Kids, list 1 I’m not offended if you skip all my long windedness and just scroll to the list.

Here was my line up for fall semester 2017. Classical Music for Kids, list 2

And here is my line up for this last semester, winter 2018! I hope you enjoy these pieces and that your kids enjoy them, too. I’m a little *cough cough* a lot opinionated about the value of classical music in our lives – so much that I wrote a strongly worded email to the local university when I heard they were going to shut down their classical radio station to consolidate all their programming (despite the fact that the classical station actually was a money maker for them!) Apparently a lot of people felt that way, and we must have all written strongly worded emails because the university reconsidered and we get to keep Classical 89! My kids literally cheered when they heard the news!

And I cheered because they cheered.

Classical music is one of the fasted and easiest ways to enhance and enrich your life. If you think you just don’t like it, or that your kids won’t like it, get them off the diet of popular music for a while and start feeding them a diet rich in symphonies, operas, concertos, chamber music – even movie soundtracks! If all you do is give them a little George Gershwin or Aaron Copland, you will start them on the path to something incredible. (Think about it. Rhapsody in Blue? Appalachian Spring? Listen to one of those songs every morning for a week and try to tell me you aren’t a happier and kinder person. I dare you.)

Ok, the line up already!

Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 “Pastorale.”  – I played the first and third movements. This is my happy place! It was like springtime during that dark and cold January.

Flying Dragons and Leaping Tigers by Hok-Man Yim Master of Chinese Percussion, Vol. 2 – We listened to this to help us celebrate Chinese New Year while we were learning about Ancient China. This one is so fun! My 3 year old was listening and then shouted, “The horses are running away!” See if you can guess what part we were at.

Wagner: Tristan und Isolde – Concert Version – Liebestod. – Valentine’s Day. Dripping with romance. I’m not sure the kids picked up on that part, though.

Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons – We listened to all of them. I actually am not a huge fan and when I hear that last one I always just think of engagement ring commercials. But it seemed appropriate to talk about seasons at this point because our weather decided to give us all four seasons in the same two week period. I’m not so much a lover of snow in March.

“Londonderry Air,” “Sheep on Green Pastures,” The Collaraine Jig,” and “Som Coiman.” All of these came from Santec Music Orchestra off an album called “Irish-Celtic Moods.” Can you guess? Saint Patricks’ Day. This is my other happy place – not Saint Patricks’ Day, but the music. My daughter danced and danced and danced! My boys pretended they were leprechauns causing mischief. Mostly their mischief involved getting in my dancing daughter’s way and ticking her off.

L’Arlesienne Symphony No. 2 Movements 1 through 4 – I had just heard pieces of this off the radio and thought it would be fun. When the time came to actually listen to it again for symposium, I couldn’t remember why I had picked it. But then the fourth movement came on and then I remembered! The kids kept humming this tune for weeks.

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Symphony No. 4 in A Major – I should NOT have picked this one. It is indeed a great piece. But it seriously transformed my children into out of control maniacs. I don’t think I have ever lost my temper so consistently – every morning from 9:00 am to 9:20. Yep, mom is mad again. “EVERYBODY STOP RUNNING AROUND LIKE MONKEYS! JUST SIT YOUR BUMS DOWN RIGHT NOW OR I’M TURNING THIS OFF AND I MEAN IT!”

Robert Schumann Symphony No 1 in B-flat Major, Opus 38 Movements 2-4 – This was another one that I chose after hearing section of it off the radio. It was really easy to get stuck in your head, in a good way of course.

Rimky-Korsakov‘s Sheherazade – Another piece to get your blood pumping and the kids moving. As in really, really moving and never sitting down. They came up with this weird game to play during the song called “wheat grinder.” Two kids spun around in circles and maneuvered around the room with their arms out – the grinders – while the third child had to run through the room dodging the blades – the little grain of wheat. That is so odd. I probably shouldn’t have admitted that. But it was funny to watch – and I can picture little grains of wheat running for their lives in this music if I try hard enough.

And that was it! I know! It was so short! Doing songs for two weeks straight instead of one really reduces the variety of music you get to listen to, but at the same time, I feel like we remember it better.

For the very last week of school I let a different child choose the music each day. I thought for sure someone would choose Ode to Joy (Beethoven’s 9th) because last year that was one of their absolute favorites. But the requests I got were Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” aka “Kill da Wabbit,” and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” and “Cuban Overture.” I probably could have guess all of those, too. The hard part is picking just one song out of all these masterpieces!

I really, really hope you take a minute to look up a few of those songs – either on YouTube or Amazon Music or something. They are so fun! And they are so complex! I just attended a Millennial Choir and Orchestra concert and one of the pieces performed was Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 2 movement 3. This clip here is NOT the performance I went to, but just look at those hands! It was incredible. I was pretty much exhausted at the end of that one piece. And the best of the concert was yet to come!

We can’t all get out and go see this music live. I wish we could because the experience of a live symphony compared to a recording is like eating a garden tomato verses a store bought tomato. I still enjoy tomatoes that I buy. Nothing beats adding a tomato and some lettuce to your sandwich. BUT when it is a garden tomato, although still the same fruit, the experience is so, so much better. Or maybe like looking at the wind blow through the trees outside your window, and then actually going outside and feeling and hearing it. The same wind, but completely different experience.

Yeah, Rachmaninoff is on our list for next semester already! But I want to know, what else should I put on there. Let me know your favorite classical music pieces in the comments – you can see from our previous lists – this is a pretty eclectic list.

(Although my kids really want to hear the Batman theme song for symposium. Although classic, I’m not sure I consider that classical.)