A night at the symphony may inspire images of men in coattails and ladies in satin gloves. The orchestra tunes, then the lights dim and a hush falls over the hall. The conductor taps her music stand, all is silent and then… a shriek from the balcony. Your toddler is testing his vocal range and your five-year-old is hurdling over the theater seats.
It’s going to be the longest performance of your life, if you last that long.
Now, take away the creaky theater seats and sit on the floor near the musicians. Roll on your belly, jump up and squeal. Imitate the oboe and wiggle your fingers like you’re playing the piano. This is how kids experience music at a Peanut Butter and Jam Session.
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Linton Chamber Music PB&J Sessions are a perfect introduction to classical music for kids. They’re designed for ages 2 to 6 but enjoyable for everyone. I took my son Dorian for a Saturday session at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Kenwood because, like all kids, he loves music. He bangs away on his keyboard, claps ecstatically at the end of Wheels on the Bus and does a kind of Night at the Roxbury head bob when a car drives by bumping heavy bass. This was his first classical performance.
Music educator Elizabeth Hickerson of Little Songbird Studio hosted the concert. She introduced the quintet; an oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn and piano player. They each played a sampling from a popular children’s song. Then the three woodwind players showed us their reeds, detached from their instruments. They blew through the wooden mouthpieces, eliciting the strangest sounds. The children laughed.
The musicians played several portions of Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds. The segments were just short enough to hold the attention of the young crowd. After the performance, everyone was invited to get up close to the instruments and meet the musicians. The piano was a big hit for many kids. Dorian climbed the piano stool and tapped the keys. I was fascinated with the bassoon and thought he would share my interest, but getting up close to oddly shaped instrument only made him cry. The musicians were friendly and ready to take any question from the aspiring young musicians. If that’s not sweet enough, the kids got a free cookie provided by Graeter’s after the concert!
PB&J Sessions open children up to more than just the sound of music. Hickerson encouraged kids to move with the music and explore emotion through sound. They danced, waved their arms and expressed the sound of the instruments with their bodies. It was almost a synesthetic experience.
A lot of the older kids were enthralled. I wasn’t so sure how much my son was taking in until we got home. Dorian handed me his sippy cup as he often does when he wants me to take off the lid. I offered him the cup but instead he took the lid, put it to his lips and blew. It made a funny sputtering sound almost like a kazoo. Then I remembered the musicians blowing through their reeds, making the children laugh. Perhaps it’s coincidence, or maybe I have aspiring young bassoonist!
There’s a full line-up of PB&J Sessions from fall to spring. This fall’s series is Powered by the Wind, winter brings A World of Music and every spring is Madcap Music-Making. Puppeteers perform a repertoire of fairy tales set to music. You can find the full schedule and information on Linton’s website. Don’t miss the free performance this Wednesday, October 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Child Focus Training Center (555 Batavia Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45244)!
Selena Reder is a mother, writer and part-time video producer living in Cincinnati, Ohio with her son Dorian and husband Tim. Dorian loves chasing Selena and Tim’s tailless cat, making messes for dad to clean up, squealing loud enough for the neighbors to hear and staring at strangers until it’s uncomfortable. Tim loves Dungeons and Dragons, Margaret Atwood and writing meticulous grocery lists.
Selena loves washing cloth diapers, binging on British TV (Top Gear, Only Fools and Horses, Doc Martin, etc) painting and knitting super fancy baby sweaters. She also loves working part-time with her video editor husband (special shout out to her parents and in-laws for being great babysitters!).
If Selena were stranded on a desert island with only one thing to do for the rest of her life, she would nurse her son in their favorite chair. It’s the best thing in the world right now.