Friday, February 27, 2015

My Favorite Music for Children

As a classical musician, I'm often asked what kind of music I play for my toddler. Do I play mostly classical music for her, in hopes that it will somehow make her smarter, or someday give her more sophisticated tastes? The answer is yes and no. I do play classical music for her, which I hope with help her learn to enjoy and appreciate art music, but I know that there's very little evidence that just listening to classical music makes children more intelligent (unlike playing music, which does improve brain function). Still, there's plenty of non-classical children's music that my little girl loves, and I think that's great. Here's some great music I'd recommend for parents to play for children.

1. Baby Beluga by Raffi

If you're like me, you might remember this iconic song from your childhood. It's charming and sweet, and my toddlers loves it! She actually points to the Baby Beluga CD to get me to play it, and she's learned to sing along to her favorite songs. It might not be classical, but it inspires her love of music and gets her singing. Many of Raffi's songs also have a good message about treating people (and animals!) with kindness, or appreciating the natural world. 

2. Violin Lullabies by Rachel Barton Pine

I found this CD at the library, and it's a great introduction to classical music for children. The melodies are beautiful and soothing, yet the Pine also includes some interesting modern music as well. It's great for naptime, and a good CD to put on while I'm reading to my daughter or while she's playing with duplos. Pine has a beautiful tone, and listening to it might help my daughter when she learns violin someday.

3. Laurie Berkner Lullabies

A friend recommended Laurie Berkner's music to me, and I found this CD at the library. Berkner has a sweet voice, and her songs are enjoyable even after listening to it over and over again. They're easy to sing along with, and many of them have imaginative or educational lyrics with a good message. My daughter enjoyed them!

4. Gregorian Chant and Renaissance Music

I love Medieval and Renaissance music. Gregorian chant, or music by composers like Hildegard of Bingen, Monteverdi, and Josquin des Pres is often as sublime and gorgeous as any more modern music. I think this music is great for children because it has a pure, soothing tone that's very calming. I also think that young children often like to hear the human voice above all, and this music focuses (sometimes exclusively) on the voice. The meditative quality of the music keeps me, a busy mother, relaxed and focused throughout the day as well. 

5. Joyful songs like Papageno's aria from The Magic Flute

Of course, classical music isn't always soothing--sometimes it's joyful, energetic, and whimsical, like child themselves. When my daughter was first born, I found myself playing The Magic Flute, especially Papageno's aria, and singing along to it (badly). The upbeat song just seemed to suit a happy baby. Now, I often play Irish folk tunes, Celtic music, or other fun, dance-like music for my daughter, and she loves it! Why not play the William Tell Overture while you're giving pony rides? 

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