Friday, August 17, 2018

Music Appreciation for Little or no Money

Many folks living under the median believe that music education and appreciation for their children are simply beyond their grasp.  Not so!  I have raised four music-loving young men on an annual income which was well below 50K much of the time

So, how do you go about introducing future music lovers to the classics, jazz, rock, and more, while not spending and arm and a leg? 

My son, James on his 18th birthday with PSO conductor, George Stelluto

 There are many opportunities for your children to soak up some good vibrations!

 Take into consideration that student tickets are generally very reasonable.  By the time my sons were in high school they had figured out that for just a little more than the price of a movie, they and a group of their friends could attend the symphony! 

Schools and  Colleges

If you want to hear great performers at very little or no cost, check out your local schools, including two or four year colleges!  You can hear everything from great jazz to vocal performances!  

Here is an example:  My husband took our piano-loving son to hear this world famous Steinway pianist at a college in our town.  They paid just $5 each for entrance and even got to talk to him personally after the concert!  He, of course, encouraged my son to continue working hard on his piano lessons.  :-) 

Every college has an on-line schedule of performances along with prices.  I perused the schedule at Bradley University from last April and found 22 separate events!  Most were free! The highest admission price I found was $10.  Often students or children 12 and under were offered free admission.  Opportunities included an opera workshop, student voice recitals, student instrument recitals, a chorale festival, small group music ensembles, and band concerts.  Musical styles ranged from jazz to chamber music to liturgical music of the 13th century!  

Because schools are typically not in session in the summer, you won't find much on their calendar from June to August.  But, you'll find some absolute gems if you check their schedule each month. 

Municipal Bands

Nearly every hamlet has a band comprised of musicians from around the area.  When I was a kid on hot summer nights these talented groups had free weekly concerts at the little park in the center of town. Folks brought food, drinks, lawn chairs, and blankets.   I vividly remember dancing and running around the bandstand with all the other neighborhood children.  What fun!  

In our somewhat larger town we have a municipal band, but there is also a similar band in every small town surrounding us!  Do some research and take your pick of days and times!


Park Districts, Libraries, Fairs, and Festivals! 

Park Districts often have yearly events, which feature musical talent.  Our Nature Center has monthly concerts with music centered around a bluegrass genre.  Sometimes there is a small charge.  Other times, like during the annual Christmas lumiere walk, they are free. 

Our local library has family oriented concerts one Sunday afternoon a month.  Most groups are regionally known and some have even toured nationally.  In this situation, generally little ones who are a little squirmy are welcomed and even appreciated. 

During the summer and early autumn you can soak up local flavor and food while listening to really fun music!  It won't all be Nashville, but your kids will love just being in the great outdoors, while clapping their hands and stomping their feet.  

Peoria Symphony Orchestra free outdoor concert

 Even our local symphony orchestra gets in on the act!  Once a year, they host a free classical concert by the riverfront.  People bring along a picnic supper and feast while listening to Bach!  It is great fun!! 

Community Organizations

  Your children can maybe even flex some of their own musical muscles!  Many communities boast very fine instructors who want to invest in the lives of future musicians.  They often offer participation in ensembles or choirs.

Heritage Youth Ensemble
Heritage Ensemble concert

My son, Daniel, is in this photo, singing with the Heritage Youth Emsemble.  Conductor, Sharon Reed, is a well-seasoned professional.  There is no cost to the youth for being in the choir and there are two major performances yearly. 



In one piece the high school age young men of the youth ensemble were paired with the men of the adult Heritage Ensemble.  I loved seeing my son be with mentors, who were well-practiced musicians and also wonderful role models!  





My son in a local production of the Christmas opera, "Amal and the Night Visitors"


Churches, synagogues, and para-church organizations regularly offer free or low-cost musical experiences.  Although most concerts will feature religious music, some will showcase other genres.  Admission is generally free or reasonably priced. An offering may be taken.  As an added bonus: Local children are often offered free participation in the program. Instruction in singing, acting, or musical instruments is an added perk.  

Listen to Everything!!

We have always had very eclectic musical tastes.  We listen to everything:  classical, contemporary Christian, bluegrass, jazz, and classic rock.   One night it might be Peter, Paul, and Mary's protest songs  and the next night Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven.  Many years ago, one hot summer night we were once dancing wildly to some weird polka records that we had been given.  The windows were open and we heard our neighbors remark wryly as they strolled by, "You just never know what Hope and Larry are going to be listening to." 😄

My friend, Gayle, recently wrote to me, "This brought to mind how my parents would help me appreciate and enrich my musical awareness. They would play all types of music at home and in the car. This could be our local public radio station, or sorting through the cds/recordings at rummage sales. Live music is always preferred, but some of my most precious memories are my dad singing in the car with Robert Goulet "If Ever I Would Leave You". Then, we saw the show at the Muni in St Louis. What great memories."  

I love her perspective and she is absolutely correct!  Each genre of music that you play is like a hanger.  The original exposure gives children a "hook", a frame of reference if you will, on which to judge and evaluate each new piece.  When they encounter that style again, they match that new experience up to what they already know. Each new sound adds to their personal musical tapestry and allows it to grow richer and deeper.  

Be in the Know!  

I recommend you become very familiar with the websites of your local municipalities!  This can bring tremendous dividends when it comes to introducing your children to great music for free! Google things like "What to do in my area this weekend"  or "fairs and festivals in my area".  Once you find sites which are truly helpful, be sure to bookmark them and then write yourself a note right at the top of each month of your calendar to check the sites for fun events.  As soon as you see events that you like, fill them right in on your calendar for that month.  That way you won't miss a thing!  

Your turn!

What did I miss?  What are wonderful opportunities that you have found in your community?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section! 

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Do all to the glory of God, 


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