Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Studio Visit: Baby Got Bach

Several families and their 3 year old children, attended a Sunday morning concert designed to introduce very young children to classical music. It was called "Baby Got Bach." It was held at Le Poisson Rouge, a nightclub for contemporary arts on Bleeker Street. The concert was organized by Orli Shaham, a talented pianist who believes children can learn about classical music at a very young age. Her idea is to introduce kids to music and musical instruments with professional musicians as guides.

It was easy to find Le Poisson Rouge with the crowd of children, babies in strollers and families milling around the entrance. Babies in strollers??? A concert of classical music?? I wondered what could possibly draw such a crowd of very young concert goers and their families?

We went inside, into a darkened bar area lit with funky colored lights here and there. Musicians sat at several activity "stations," a French Horn player, a Violinist, an Accordian player. They talked to the children about their instruments. The French Horn player demonstrated explosive lip sounds to show the kids how you blow into the horn. She pressed the "keys" to change the tone.

The Violinist across the room, played tunes like "Twinkle Twinkle." The children helped her hold the "bow" and "pluck" the strings. 

At a drawing station, the children used markers to add color to Kazoos, (KAZOOS?). Then, the kids tooted music notes written on little music "flashcards." They learned that you toot a note for each musical note, and are silent at the "Rest."

The Accordion player invited kids to TOUCH the keyboard and make up tunes.

Several musicians began a "jam session." The kids were given tambourines and maracas to provide the "percussion." The effect was raucous and fun!!

Soon it was time for the concert. We entered a large darkish room with a brightly lit stage and took our seats. Orli stepped up to the microphone and greeted the audience. She explained that she is a pianist and proceeded to play a Bach "Invention" on the piano. Wonderful.

Orli asked the audience to call each musician to the stage by applauding. First, we applauded for the French Horn player, who brought along a long garden hose with a funnel shape at the end. She explained that it was like the curled brass tubing of the French Horn, and demonstrated how it amplified the sound.

We applauded for the Violinist to come out. Orli explained that the musicians were going to play a Brahms Trio together. It was a "music" story about animals. They demonstrated the musical sounds of each animal and then played the beautiful Brahms Trio.

The next piece had been specially composed for Orli and Baby Got Bach. It was called "The Sneaky March," and had lots of different marching tempos. The children were invited to move around the room in time to the music.

The final composition was a "drawing-to-music," piece. The kids were asked to take out their "passport books" (given earlier) and draw what they were feeling while the music was playing. Several people passed around crayons. The music began. The kids listened to the sweeping sounds, and then made lines on the page as if they were playing a musical instrument. Beautiful.

This concert was unlike the ones we were used to; there was lots of interaction. The kids were invited to participate and move around. They enjoyed playing music and marching to the "Sneaky March." Not only had the concert given them a brilliant introduction to tempo and classical music, it had engaged them in a delightful way. A great beginning.

Was the concert good for kids? Well, they would have liked the performance to go on and on. That's what we call a great success.

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