By now, of course, we all know my 4-year-old son is a budding musician. (Update: he received a drum set as a Christmas gift, so drum solos are now part of daily life in our house. Payback will be sweet when his aunt and uncle have kids…but I digress.)
He’s been introduced to the Cleveland Orchestra through its Summer Series at Blossom Music Center, and last December he marveled at the beauty of Severance Hall during a PNC Musical Rainbows concert. He did so well sitting quietly for that show and showed such enthusiasm for learning about the orchestra and instruments that we decided to take things up a notch.
Last weekend, we attended “Scheherazade!,” the final performance in this season’s lineup of the American Greetings Family Concert Series. These shows, geared toward kids ages 7-12, are an hour long and feature exciting themes, visuals and guest artists. They also feature pre-concert activities — including the very popular Instrument Discovery tables — before the show. It’s a fun, hands-on way to introduce kids to a full orchestra experience.
You might be thinking, “Geared for ages 7-12 and you took a 4-year-old?” Yes, some thematic elements of the music and acting were a little over his head. But by sitting on my lap so I could quietly whisper an explanation of the actions on stage, my son understood the majority of what was going on and was enthralled event in the moments he didn’t.
According to a spokesperson for the Cleveland Orchestra, the age guidelines are not firm, they are merely suggestions. Family Concerts usually are recommended for kids starting at around age 6-7, but if your child can usually sit (relatively) quietly through a kids movie, then he or she would probably be fine during one of these performances.
While the music of Scheherazade! — which portrays a bossy sultan who is bewitched by the magical tales of his wife, Scheherazade — was fantastic and the puppetry and mime performance by the Enchantment Theatre Company were extremely well done, I have a feeling the experience of trying out orchestra instruments before the concert will have the most lasting memory for my son.
There he was, barely big enough to hold a trombone, blowing away while I worked the slide for him so he could hear how it changed the sound. Add to that a host of percussion instruments, plus a clarinet, flute, French horn, trumpet and violin (his favorite), and he was in tiny musician heaven. He’s already mentioned several times that he wants to learn how to play the violin.
Now is the perfect time to plan a Cleveland Orchestra outing for your family, as the 2018-19 season was recently announced, and includes several great options for families with children of all ages. During the orchestra’s 101st season, you can check out the Blossom Music Festival schedule, PNC Musical Rainbow concert schedule, and more.
Special concerts at Blossom that may be of interest to kids are: “The Little Mermaid” on Aug. 4, which will include a family fun day with many extra activities; and “Star Wars: A New Hope in Concert,” set for Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 & 2.
The Under 18s Free program from the Cleveland Orchestra’s Center for Future Audiences continues to develop young audiences by making attending concerts affordable for families. At Severance Hall, the program offers free tickets (one per regular-priced adult paid admission) to young people ages 7-17 to the American Greetings Family Concerts, PNC Musical Rainbows, and Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra concerts. At Blossom, this program offers free lawn tickets (two per regular-priced adult paid admission) to any Blossom Music Festival concert each summer.