Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Marvelous Simon Sinfonietta opening concert and now back to DC

Being married to the Maestro brings many treats. Wonderful soloists sit at the breakfast table overlooking the sea, talking about concerts and travels far and wide. The delight of sitting in on rehearsals which always feels as if the orchestra is playing a concert just for me. Once again hearing the parts of the music before it is put back together into the whole at the performance. When the first downbeat arrives, I again realize how special the Maestro's brand of music making is. Pure joy flows from him to the musicians and out into the audience.

Breakfast at Pie in the Sky under clear skies brings friends congratulating him on another great evening and thanking us for bringing this kind of music to a very special scientific and artistic community in Cape Cod, MA. If you do not know Falmouth/Woods Hole for its Oceanographic Institution (Titanic exploration), the Marine Biological Laboratory (53 Nobel prize winners), or Sea Education Association (the best-know semester-at-sea program in the country), perhaps you know it for its award-winning children's book illustrators (Molly Bang, Salley Mavor) or writers (Daniel Robb). It is a very special place and now we have added great classical music to the mix (

Monday, August 10, 2009

At what age should my child begin an instrument?

This is never a simple question with a simple answer. For a very musical child in a musical family, Suzuki violin might be right for a 3-year-old. For most children the age may be 5 or 6 may be more appropriate.

Exposure is very important. If you have friends whose children play, ask if you can their child would be willing to play for your child. (Many a child has taken up an instrument because an older friend or relative plays it.)

Your local symphony orchestra may have a "Petting Zoo" with instruments that children can try before a children's concert. If a child has never heard a clarinet, how would they know that they might fall in love with it.

If you do not have a piano, you might consider putting an electronic keyboard in the child's room. Those with musical samples where the keys go down as the music plays are particularly appealing to children, and you will often see them trying to pick out the tunes themselves or with the sample.

Consider leaving a trumpet mouthpiece around for your child to try to make a sound on. Some can do it easily; for others, it may take longer, but it may give them a sense of accomplishment.

Join a Kindermusik or parent-child music class where your child may have the opportunity to play mallet instruments and drums.

Remember: finding the right teacher is not always easy. For some lucky parents, they know a warm, friendly teacher who loves children and wants to share their own love of music. For others, it may take some searching.

How do you know it is the right teacher? It reminds me of my dog guru who, when we were ready to get a puppy, said, "Go visit the breeders. If you don't like them, you won't like their dogs." If you visit the teacher and don't like him/her, your child probably will not either.

Rule #1: Ask if you can come and meet the teacher to determine whether your child will be a good fit for the teacher.

Rule #2: Request a trial lesson. If your child comes home unhappy, things will probably not get better over time. (If they will not agree to this, I probably is not the right teacher.)

Rule #3: Remember that the first teacher does not have to be a world-class virtuoso; they have to love children.

Rule #4: The teacher must have a sense of humor.

Rule #5: The teacher must love children.

Rule #6: The teacher must love children.

Rule #7: The teacher must love children.

You want your child to love music. Perhaps they will be part of the audience when they grow up or perhaps they will play string quartets with fellow scientists on Thursday nights. Perhaps they will play in the college orchestra. Perhaps they will play in the town band when they are teenagers. Perhaps they will play simple carols for family Christmas parties when they are 9. And for a very, very few, perhaps they will discover that music is a passion and want to make it their vocation. But that is the rare exception. Most will simply have discovered world of sound that is filled with beauty and will reconnect with it throughout the rest of their lives.

There will be times when your children do not feel like practicing. Many years ago, the great violinist Izhak Perlman, was asked by a radio interviewer whether his children all played instruments. When he said yes, she blithely quipped, "Well, they must like to practice." To which Perlman said with a twinkle, "No one likes to practice!" Every day of practice is like working on a long-term project: little by little great progress is made. It is never smooth sledding the whole way. So,
Rule #8-100: You are there to be the cheerleader, the appreciative audience, the warm pillow when a performance goes poorly, the one who says, "You are doing a great job. Stick with it."

No adult ever regrets having stuck with an instrument, but countless parents over the years have said to me, "I wish my parents had not let me quit."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Annie Crawford is the winner of new iPod!

Of all of the many, many people who stopped by our booth at the Southeast Homeschooling Conference in Atlanta, GA last weekend and joined our raffle, ANNIE CRAWFORD was the WINNER. We have also sent her a signed copy of the final preview copy of The Tortoise and the Hare, our latest CD that is going to press TODAY... signed by the maestro himself.

Congratulations, Annie! Happy listening!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Glowing review from Mom

"My mother has been playing Peter and the Wolf all the way to North Carolina...and she says it's incredible!" - Atlanta Homeschool Mom

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Questions Begin

I would like to share some of the interesting questions that followed my talks at the Southeast Homeschool Conference in Atlanta last week.

QUESTION: Is it better for my child to study a little on a lot of different instruments or to focus on just one?

ANSWER: It may take more than one try on more than one instrument to find a good fit, namely one where the child likes to practice most of the time. (No one ever likes to practice all the time!). Once a child seems to have hit upon the right instrument, however, encourage him/herto stick with it. If you don't, you will deprive them of the satisfaction of becoming really good at something. The life lesson of working a little every day and gradually seeing the results as they pile up day after day, is a skill that will apply to everything in life from saving money to working on long college term papers. Encourage them when it is not going well, and cheer them on when it is.

NEXT: At what age should my child begin an instrument?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Many interesting people at the Southeast Homeschooling Conference. This woman's grandfather was the first conductor of the Atlanta Symphony. She loved the CDs.

This beautiful boy with his blue eyes was truly captivated as he listened to the orchestra and the piper. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is always as big hit as Stephen Simon's music draws you into the story from the first chord played by the Irish piper and the London Philharmonic.

Back from Atlanta Homeschool Conference

A beautiful morning greeted me as I finally opened my eyes. My 89-year-old mother appeared with rubber gloves in hand - they matched her green bathing suit - announcing that she was pulling out some poison ivy on our path on her way to the beach. The early morning family swim tradition continues and remains the best antidote for travel fatigue and the resetting of my mental gyroscope.

More conference lessons: read the entire list of speakers carefully, don't just check your own times and rooms. They scheduled me for a third lecture and never told me!

Everyone loves my Bose noise-canceling headphones. There is so much ambient noise in convention centers that you really cannot manage with anything else. And, after all, we are in the business of exquisite sound. The London Phil deserves a good headset!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Greetings from Southeastern Homeschooling Conference

It is a delight to be at a conference where so many parents are looking for creative, educational materials for their children. Perhaps because they are "going to school" with their children everyday, they are more critical in their choices, or at least more interested.

Every time I come to one of these shows/conferences/exhibits I learn something new. Yesterday's lesson was, "Don't count on music in the conference room unless you plan to sing!" While they had a projector to hook my computer into, the only sound came via the microphone. Fortunately, I always have lots to say, so we managed without music, and I simply invited everyone down to our booth to listen on my good Bose noise-canceling headphones. For today's lecture, I will bring my own speakers. :-)

Many people now saying, "I have heard about you," purchasing the entire series after listening, and eagerly awaiting The Tortoise and the Hare that comes out this month.

Pictures to follow. (Another lesson: bring the camera card reader!)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Beginning

I have been asked to start a blog to give parents a place to ask questions about how to introduce music into their children's lives. I hope it will also be a place where parents will share their own experiences.

I have written many articles for parenting publications over the years, e.g. what to do when your child does not want to practice, what is the right age to begin taking kids to concerts, what do you need to know when buying a piano, etc.. I have created highly successful symphony concerts for young people and their families and now am producing my dream CDs, enabling children everywhere to experience the wonderfulness of all those sold-out concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. I hope that this blog will enjoy the success of all my previous musical endeavors.

A short biography would tell you that I have a BA from Vassar College in music, where I specialized in composition. I worked at Carnegie Hall when only 9 people ran the entire institution. I returned to school for an MA in music and music education, and went on to teach middle school music. After discovering that music was considered the poor cousin to English and math - in retrospect, I should have been grateful that it was even offered in almost every school in the US - I decided on a career change.

This bio is getting long... years at Cornell, Columbia, and the University of Tokyo and three degrees later (ancient Chinese and modern Japanese history), I found myself with a conductor husband and a son who was extremely musical. We went to every concert for children in NYC and Washington, DC and I found them either silly or dull. Being married to a conductor, Stephen Simon, who was giving Friday and Saturday concerts at the Kennedy Center, I thought we had a mission.

At the time, I was on the boards of Carnegie Hall and New York City Opera, I had taught music, I had been to all of these children's concerts, and I was worried about whether there would be an audience for classical music in the next generation. Reflecting upon the questions of how audiences were formed, I had an idea.

Have to substitute teach an exercise class in Woods Hole, MA. To be continued...