Recordings, books, and sheet music for kids or childish adults
I always seem to have kids on my mind on Thursdays, probably because we have our children's classes in the morning and the store is full of three- year-olds with ukuleles. And then today we received an adorable story book about a sad low brass instrument named Tubby the Tuba. Plus, our percussion teacher usually brings her baby in for a visit before she teaches the kid's classes. All these kids get me thinking about how to...program? brainwash?...er, inspire kids to love music.
Here's a few of my favorites items for kids.
1. Classical Kids CDs
My first pick is a bit of a sentimental one. As the child of a classical violinist, I was brainwashed from an early age to love classical music. These cds (tapes when I listened to them!) were a crucial part of that brainwashing and a crucial part of my getting to sleep as a small child. These recordings use a wide variety of pieces and biographical details to weave a child-focused story about a composer's life. There's currently a CD about Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi as well as a Celtic/Renaissance story called Song of the Unicorn. Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery was my favorite - the story, about a little girl in Vivaldi's child orchestra at La Pieta, is spooky and touching, and the music is excellent. I'll confess. I've actually got that one on my iPod to this day.
2. Baby Loves Jazz
I love a good pun. This series of books is full of 'em, my favorite of which is Duck Ellington. The stories are simple and charming rhymes with brightly-colored illustrations, and the books teach kids about numbers, animals, and jazz. Every book comes with a cd using real jazz tunes, and jazz-inspired sing-alongs.
3. Bartok - Mikrokosmos: Book 1
Ages:6-Pretty much infinity
This one's a little different from my other kid's picks - it's a method series that Hungarian composer Bela Bartok wrote to teach his son how to play the piano. Mikrokosmos is a series of 6 books, each filled with short, interesting pieces that work on a specific aspect of piano technique. The songs are uniformly excellent - even the very simplest tunes hold up to Bartok's standard of rhythmically and harmonically interesting music. The influence of Hungarian folk music is also strong - many of the pieces are based on folk tunes or incorporate rhythms typically found in the music of Bartok's countrymen. Which all makes for fun learning for kids and interesting listening for parents.
4. Schott's Get to Know Classical Masterpieces Series
Ages: as soon as they can sit still and listen - pretty much infinity
This is the musical equivalent of story time for kids. If you play piano passably well, you can sit your children down and play these simple yet rich arrangements of "kid-friendly" classical works. Though they were designed to entertain children, but I've spent several pleasant mornings entertaining myself by playing through Pier Gynt, Scheherezade, or Water Music. The books are beautifully illustrated with Quentin Blake-esque watercolors, and have very readable explanations of the plot or background of the pieces. There's about 15 books in the series from Bizet to Vivaldi.
5. LaMa House Publishing Opera Books
Ages: as soon as they can sit still and listen - 12
Another of my early introductions to music was through opera. Specifically, The Magic Flute. (I actually went as the Queen of the Night for Halloween in third grade. It was awesome.) With its fanciful costumes, and story involving bird-men, sorcerers, magical queens and a prince and a princess, this opera is the perfect way to introduce children to a supposedly difficult art form. These books tell the story for a variety of classic operas in four different languages and with beautiful pictures. Each book is illustrated in a style that corresponds to the opera's setting and subject matter, so the books all have very different feels. But they are all gorgeous. Though they don't come with cds, the publisher's website has audio files that you can access to follow along with the books.