What do kids make of classical music? New video evidence says it’s so cool….

What do kids make of classical music? New video evidence says it’s so cool….


norman lebrecht

October 06, 2013

We’ve had a cute new video in from Keane Southard, a composer who’s on a Fulbright fellowship researching El Sistema-type projects in Brazil.

Here’s one that went viral in Sa Paolo. Keane has added English subtitles.

child, classical music


  • Well done….. This is the way classical music should be saved from erosion.

  • Lauren says:

    This is an encouraging sign. Children respond to great art when it is offered to them. Much of what we enjoy is linked to what we are exposed to on a regular basis. Classical arts should be taught in every school, everywhere.

    • wardropper says:

      It’s because you’re right that classical arts are not taught everywhere.

      Great art encourages independent thought.

      Governments everywhere fear that more than anything else, which is why TV all over the world is the same.

      It’s so sad, but the media undermine our human greatness every single day when they justify the worst “music” in the world by saying “But that’s what people want”…

      They don’t want to think about the fact that people only want the best which is available, and the media see to it that the best is actually NEVER available…

      • Lauren says:

        I agree. The mainstream media seems to have an agenda of fear-mongering and the implementation of mediocrity across the board from the arts to intellectual pursuits. Narrow and dulled, the masses are easier to control (look at what passes for “food” these days!). When humans aspire to the heights of arts, culture, science (with compassion) and open political systems, the oligarchy falls. Classical arts are often, wrongly, seen as conservative and elitist. This is wrong. It is a chronicle of the best of all of us. I discovered classical music in public school back when it was a required part of humanities education in U.S. public schools (long ago and far away). I needed up playing in rock and jazz bands and pursuing modern art but I always come back to the classics in all endeavours to measure my efforts against. As modern culture decays, it is the refuge for the thinking women and men to cling to when the world grows heartless and cold. The best thing we can do for children is to preserve and teach the classical arts of all cultures in hopes that societies round the world will find ways forward to a New Enlightenment.

        • Karen Sandness says:

          I’m old enough to have noticed a definite dumbing down of the media available to children, despite the various PBS offerings. It sounds incredible when we look at today’s situation, but Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts were shown on Sunday afternoons…on CBS. Now the media moguls create so-called children’s radio stations that feature mostly Top 40 or Top 40-style music.

          We underestimate children’s ability to appreciate the arts. A Facebook friend shared an op-ed from a British newspaper in which the mother of a cathedral choir boy told how her son–now “graduating” into puberty– had not only received a superb vocal and instrumental education but had also acquired a genuine love for many of the choral works he sang.

          Children learn to appreciate what they are exposed to. As a graduate student, I had a roommate who was a lecturer at the university’s art museum. She told me that she enjoyed the way elementary school children–even and sometimes especially those from poor neighborhoods– responded to the art with excitement about both the visual and emotional aspects of the works. Teenagers, on the other hand, had picked up on society’s attitude that fine art is “boring.” (One of my pet peeves as a college professor was having students claim that something they knew nothing about, whether it was non-commercial music, art, dance, live theater, or classic film, was “boring.” It’s a sign of intellectual laziness, and our popular attitudes encourage intellectual laziness.)

          I once saw an interview with the founder of El Sistema. He was asked why he didn’t base his program on Venezuelan pop music, and his reply was, “That’s the music their parents listen to while they’re getting drunk.” His purpose was to take children outside of their immediate surroundings and give them something to strive for.

          In this country, we seem to push sports as the cure-all for whatever ails children and youth. Yet it seems to me that all the non-exercise benefits of sports, including teamwork, camaraderie, self-discipline, and a sense of accomplishment, also arise from participation in the performing arts. That’s not all: after a sports match, half the players and half the audience go home dejected and angry. After a successful concert or theatrical or dance production, everyone goes home happy and perhaps emotionally enriched.

  • Ineke Vosman says:

    Love it! Children speak from their heart and when you just talk about classical music they’re touched by the music, but when they experience it everything changes!

  • Marjorie says:

    That was so cute.

    But — why does Venezuela have “el sistema” and we don’t?

  • whattt says:

    nicely editted by conservatory peeps

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Looks very cute.

    If, however, kids experience classical music (not to the exclusion of other musics) from their infancy in a synergy of listening and singing, playing, dancing, nobody will later need to explain to them it’s cool.

  • A friend of mine works with very young children as a music teacher and she tells me this kind of response is completely typical. Children respond to music, full stop – it doesn’t matter what kind. What would be nice is for every child to have that up-close experience of a live symphony orchestra! A lot of music services do concerts in schools but they don’t all get to play Mahler 4!

  • Craig Berg says:

    Poor street children from my neighborhood in Bangalore, India, listened to classical Indian (Carnatic) music with rapt attention during the four years I lived there. The video I made showing them listening has had over 150,000 views on Youtube. It is titled “The Real Slumdog Kids: Harmony for The Homeless – Ragas For Ragamuffins”. You can view it on my blog: http://cb108.blogspot.com.

  • Craig B says:

    The children in Bangalore loved listening to classical Indian music on my headphones. It focusses their attention inward, where their bliss resides. Once, a marching band was playing in the street and the kids ignored it, instead pleading with me to let them listen to my headphones….

  • Jamila Sahar says:

    Wonderful inspiring post! Many thanks for sharing

  • I love all of your comments! I am a classically trained, professional musician, and I can confidently say that classical music and other forms of music have not only inspired me but have also literally brought healing to my life during difficult times. It is now quite literally my job to develop a music school from almost ground level. I have taught children for 25 years and have seen and heard first hand the positive affects it has had in their lives, on many levels. Your posts are inspiring and fuel my own passion to keep this amazing genre not only alive and well, but thriving and relevant for today’s world. Those of us who posted on this sight can ALL do our part in saving classical music “from erosion.” I encourage you all to keep the message alive!

  • princetrumpet says:

    Why, Norman Lebrecht… you old softie.

    Thanks… it confirms what I’ve been saying for decades.