From Elmo to Orchestra: Teaching our kids music appreciation & what that “really” looks like.


First the premise and then afterward we will look at the reality.

Children are born with the natural tendency to make noise. They like to bang pots, throw spoons, beat on drums, and blow on horns. It’s cute at first, but in time we teach them when it is and isn’t appropriate to make their special brand of music.

We might transition their banging to watching cute kids movies that they can sing along to. We might buy them play instruments and play music for them. In the beginning it’s easy to promote music, but can often get neglected as they grow older and meet their childhood friend the home computer.

Why is music important to our family?

A good variety of music can spark ideas and our imagination. Music gives us the freedom to express ourselves and helps to develop our personality. If music is shared together it provides a fun and relaxing outlet to do something creative together. If we expose our children to a variety of music we may spark their natural talent.

We often grow up listening to what our parents did. Luckily for me my father didn’t limit himself to one genre. If it was good music he liked it. Because of his music appreciation I grew up listening to everything from Isaac Hayes to Charlie Rich. Dad could sing and did so often and was always trying to get a sing a long going. Sing it Marc, he would say. Sing it.

What does it look like?

With the many responsibilities and activities families have today it is difficult to pick up a banjo every night and sing a few tunes with the family, but what about this?

What if we take the kids to a concert?
Read books about the history of music and artists.
Start a musical collection including: unusual string instruments, native drums, woodwind instruments, sheet music, music stands, or musical programs.
Play music while we cook and eat dinner.
Make or play a music video.
Take up playing an instrument.
Watch documentaries about music and artists on tv.
Visit a music store.

“Stifling or squashing a natural expression detracts from one’s personality” (Schaeffer, 1971)

I get home from my ten hour work day and drag myself into the kitchen and start cooking. We eat, clean up the kitchen, fold a load of laundry, and spend the rest of the night doing homework for my MBA. Days meld into weeks and before we know it another year goes by.

The kids are getting older and this whole music appreciation thing seems like a joke except I remember. I remember the joy I had playing my flute in band. It wasn’t just a high school thing. It was my musical talent.

I watch my adult children enjoy a variety of music and watch how it moves them to use their imagination. They attend concerts, watch video’s, and delve into the history of music. Perhaps one day music will spark a hidden talent, idea, or simply give them the freedom to express their personality.

Don’t underestimate the power of turning on a Pandora channel you have never listened to, watching a PBS music documentary, or singing in the car. A budding composer, song writer, or musician might be growing up in your home and need that spark to release their natural talent.

Marcy Pedersen


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