The Value-added of Live Music Experiences

Greetings Extension Division friends, family & faculty!  Earlier this spring, Devi Borton of Music Together posted a wonderful article to Music Together’s blog From Our Experts.  We re-post this with Devi’s permission (thank you, Devi!).  Thought this would be of interest to many in our community.  Enjoy!

The Value-added of Live Music Experiences

Who doesn’t love a parade? The pomp and circumstance of the music passing by is a thrill to witness at any age! In fact, live music events of all kinds are delightful. And the benefits for children extend beyond the entertainment value—attending also supports music-learning. “There is no doubt that going to live concerts is an important part of experiencing music and, therefore, of music development,” says Ken Guilmartin, Music Together Founder/Artistic Director.

Performers don’t have to be professionals to make an impact, either. Music Together CEO Susan Darrow remembers taking her son David to a local high school jazz band concert when he was six. “He was completely transfixed,” she recalls. “On the way home, he told me that his ‘mission in life’ was to make the jazz band when he got to high school. That event had a lasting, profound effect on him . . . and, P.S., he did make the jazz band!”

You might not have thought about taking your child to a high school or middle school concert, but what a great idea! Older kids can be inspiring musical role models for younger children; they certainly had an impact on Susan’s six-year-old. Though there were surely some mistakes in that concert, David was riveted by things beyond the performers’ technical proficiency, such as their focus, passion, and teamwork.

It’s also likely that David was so inspired because he was already familiar with music—singing and playing with music was part of everyday life in his family. Similarly, your Music Together experience is uniquely nurturing your child’s music development. Along with your musical role-modeling, regular music-making opportunities help your son or daughter “tune in” to music much as they tune in to language. Their awareness, attention, and engagement with music is becoming heightened, and they can more easily connect with new music encounters, like the marching band at a parade or performers at a concert.

Even though the acoustic experience at a concert is quite different than it is in class, you may notice that your child has a longer attention span at a performance than you’d expected. That’s because, as Ken says, children who have taken Music Together “are better able to follow the musical events as they unfold.” Their in-class and at-home experiences with active music-making are helping them to become better listeners. And since they are already used to using all of their senses to actively experience music, they are better able to relate to the music and performers, even in a brand new setting. In fact, some Music Together parents, themselves engrossed in a show, reported both dismay and delight to discover that their four-year-old had suddenly appeared on stage, ready to play along! It’s quite a different experience for young children who have listened only to recorded music.

The next time you and your child go to see live music, you can enhance the learning by providing some active support for their musical responses, just as you or your child’s teacher might do during class or when playing musically at home. If you notice your child is moving or sounding in response to the music, give them a mirror by doing it back. You can also gently tap the beat on their back or show them the beat in your own body. It’s that simple. Most importantly, enjoy the concert yourself, knowing that you are sharing a special musical moment with your child. And notice how your child continues to process the concert experience through their play and their conversations with you, sometimes for weeks afterwards!

Although performances are not a replacement for the kind of cumulative music-learning children get in Music Together, live music experiences are an important addition to their music education. Your experience with Music Together has already taught you to think outside the “children’s music” box. You now know that all kinds of music are good for children, including the music you love. You may be surprised at the diversity of places to find concerts appropriate for young children, including some that aren’t always advertised to families.

Check out our suggestions below for inspiration. You’ll be bringing even more music fun into your family’s life!

Music Together’s Family-Friendly Live Music Guide
It’s easy to find a variety of family-friendly, inexpensive (or even free) concerts to add to your calendar; you just need to know where to look. Your child will likely respond to the music just as they do in Music Together class, so choose a venue that supports children being children (i.e., not a formal concert environment where the audience is expected to sit still and listen silently).

  • Outdoor concert series: These community events may feature bands playing jazz, classical, rock, folk, country, zydeco, bluegrass, world, funk, and more!
  • Music festivals: The joyful, party atmosphere of these events (which often includes food trucks, crafts, and sometimes kids’ activities) make them perfect for family outings. Check out Music Festival Junkies to find a local music festival in your area or, if you like to travel, broaden your search!
  • Parades: Check your local community calendar for upcoming parades. They’re often held on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. Watch out for parades celebrating different cultures and local holidays, too.
  • Children’s museums: Look for concerts that are included in the price of admission.
  • Elementary, middle, and high schools: Check your school district calendar for band, orchestra, and choral concerts or half-time shows at sporting events (another chance to see the marching band!).
  • Libraries: Children’s programming often includes performances by local musicians. In fact, this year, one of the themes many U.S. libraries have adopted is called “Read to the Rhythm!”
  • Kids’ bands: Look for children’s music series at local performing arts venues, which may feature groups ranging from local children’s performers to celebrities!
  • Special family concerts: Sometimes groups that typically perform for adult audiences (opera, symphony orchestras, etc.) hold children’s concerts; and performing arts centers sometimes have “Family Days.”
  • Farmers’ markets: Many farmers’ markets feature acoustic musicians. People often stop to watch for a short time and then move on, creating a valuable opportunity for families to control the duration of the music experience.
  • Restaurants: Some casual dining venues offer nightly or weekly live music, all for the price of your meal.
  • Malls or shopping centers: Look for performances held in the mall, which are almost always free and may feature children in grades K–12.

—Devi Borton, M.A., is a Certified Music Together Teacher Trainer and Center Director of FAM JAM! Music Together in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


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