I wasn't sure at first that I had much to contribute to this thread,
but then the other day my 12 year old wanted to discuss whether Claudio
Monteverdi was considered more of a Renaissance or a Baroque composer,
and then I thought there might be a dog in this hunt for me after all...:-)
Yet there's really little I can offer beyond the wise words given out
so far, because I'm with those who believe that there's no Necessary or
even Sufficient Condition that will get young folks to "like" classical
music. [Even if one could define what "classical" music is.] Overt
actions aimed at getting kids to do such a thing is a little like trying
to alter one's lifestyle to prevent cancer--there are things one can do
with diet, exercise, smoking etc., but then all that does is alter the
probability at best. It doesn't guarantee the desired result. And
implied in that is such actions will likely affect one or a few young
people at a time--I have nothing to offer that could mass innoculate
populations of kids, resulting in sudden conversions to the wonders of
the Three Bs.
But when I think back upon the things that happened in our own family
with regard to my boys (now aged 15 and 12), it's sometimes difficult
to realize that when I joined this List in its inaugural year, they were
not yet aged 4 and 1. Now they play violin and piano, perform in youth
symphonic and school orchestras, do recitals, quartets, trios and other
gigs. And yes, they listen to classical music on their own, though not
CM exclusively. Thus, I'll pass along the following as items which may
help in the nurturing of young people toward good music, but which cannot
guarantee results. After all, these are human beings we're talking
about. In no particular order--
Having classical music be a ubiquitous part of the home setting. This
is a no-brainer for most of us on this List, but I think it does help
if it's seen as a NORMAL part of the environment at home, in the car
etc. Important: we didn't try to proselytize about CM either, or make
it out to be "better" than other musics--it was just there, we derived
pleasure from it, and that came to be part of the kids' background.
If they start playing an instrument themselves, or take up singing.
Perhaps just as important, taking the time to work with them so that
they have your support as they work over the rough patches of instrument
mastery. For us, learning the different violin fingerings beyond first
position was a bear, but once they got over it their sense of accomplishment
(and hence progress) took off afterwards.
If they are blessed with good music teachers as well, that can be a
galvanizing part of their education--ones who expose them to a variety
of styles, periods and the like. If these teachers are performers in
ensembles themselves, they can often have "connections" that help their
students know about concerts they can attend (see next).
Taking them to concerts, cognizant of the potential hazards, of course.
Starting with children's concerts, then slowly introducing them to more
Don't necessarily overwhelm them with Wagner's Ring or Bruckner symphonies
or other warhorses right away. Expose them to Baroque works, which often
have movements that are concise in length, but also have interesting
instrumental colors and combinations not found in later symphonic music.
(Renaissance music can work in this way as well--kids can get a lot of
mileage out of the sound of a crumhorn). And the improvisatory nature
of much early music performance can form a connection to young people
who might also be disposed to jazz.
Paying attention to peer groups. If the young people of interest are
in a school environment where pressure to conform is exceptionally heavy,
it may be that a change will allow them to be more amenable to other art
forms, not to mention ideas. If available, getting kids into a magnet
school where their peers are from diverse backgrounds, and where attention
is paid to the arts can be a big boon to building self confidence to
explore and take up what isn't always valued elsewhere.
Work on building their academic performance in all other subjects too.
Even if they don't take up CM as kids, if they have gained the intellectual
power and curiosity to learn many things and subjects, then maybe CM
will come up later in their lives.
Start all these things early if one can. And not just for the kids'
sake; if it becomes an early habit with the nurturing adults, then perhaps
the burden of doing these things will seem to lessen with time too.
Whatever path of arts appreciation they choose, let them go their own
way. Even if our boys decided not to pursue classical music with the
interest they now show, I'm not sure we'd have done things much differently.