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Classically Cool

The Florida Orchestra kicked off its season in October, gifting parents with the perfect concert option for their children. It’s no secret that classical music has benefits that go beyond entertainment, and perhaps the best way to introduce young ears to the medium is with a live concert.

“A live orchestra experience is so powerful,” says Michael Francis, the new—and, at 39—youthful, Florida Orchestra Music Director. “Once you see it and hear it, you will never forget it.”

With Francis’ dynamic style that integrates pop-up concerts and school interactions with traditional orchestra work, now may be a better time than any to introduce a young child to live classical music. The orchestra even offers free Classical Kids tickets for ages 5 through 18 for Tampa Bay Times Masterworks concerts.

Here are five ways to make classical music cool for your child:

Start with the familiar: Kids will be more open to a concert if they recognize the music. A good example: Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” (Oct. 23-25), which pops up in commercials, TV shows, movies and even the elevator. Your kids have heard it somewhere. Here’s a chance to hear it as it should be – performed with power and passion, live on stage. And if that’s not cool enough, check out photos of violinist and leader Lara St. John with an iguana perched on her head at larastjohn.com. She also has a blog, and there’s video of her playing “The Four Seasons” on YouTube. (The program also includes Bach’s “Violin Concerto No. 2” and Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.”)

Make the most of those piano lessons: If getting little Johnny to practice the piano is a struggle, inspire him with great pianists. Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3,” one of the most revered and feared piano works of all. Another powerhouse standard is Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 4”. For something a little jazzier, try Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major”.

‘Just like me:’ Music composed by a bunch of white guys who have been dead for 100 years gains new life when performed by young musicians, especially those not much older than your kids. Violinist Simone Porter, who will perform Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto” later this season, is just 18 years old; she made her debut with a professional orchestra at age 10. Another young violinist to watch is Tianwa Yang, who is in her 20s. She will perform Brahms’ “Violin Concerto”, widely thought to be the inspiration for “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” in the musical “Evita” (listen to the third movement).

DIY percussion: For those kids who just aren’t buying into a traditional concert, surprise them with programs like Mozart & More. Mozart, who is pretty kid-friendly with his upbeat melodies, is the meat of the concert, but the dessert is John Cage’s “Third Construction.” The 12-minute modern percussion piece showcases a long list of instruments that don’t really seem like instruments: tin cans of different sizes (think coffee cans), a conch shell, cowbells and even something called a quijadas—a jawbone of a donkey. What kid wouldn’t love that?

Let them try it for themselves: For young kids in pre-school through second grade, Florida Orchestra Family Concerts could be the perfect introduction to both the music and the instruments. First up is “Alice in Wonderland,” in which a string quartet follows Alice down the rabbit hole to a wild world of songs, rhymes and music. The daytime concerts combine a chamber ensemble with an interactive story, art activities and the Instrument Petting Zoo, where kids can try out instruments from violins to trombones, all for only $5. Concerts are Oct. 31 at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, Nov. 7 at HCC-Ybor Performing Arts Center and Nov. 21 at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. See floridaorchestra.org for details.

If you go

The Florida Orchestra runs through May, typically with concerts on Fridays at the Straz Center in Tampa, Saturdays at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and Sundays at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Tickets for the Tampa Bay Times Masterworks and Raymond James Pops concerts are $15, $30 and $45. Buy online at floridaorchestra.org or at 727.892.3337 or 1.800.662.7286.

Free Classical Kids tickets: Kids ages 5 through 18 get into Tampa Bay Times Masterworks concerts free with an adult ticket purchase. Available through The Florida Orchestra Ticket Center.

Pre-concert Conversations: Come 1 hour before curtain time to hear musical guests share inside stories behind the music and the composers for Masterworks concerts.

Follow the orchestra online on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube for behind-the-scenes tidbits, photos and videos.

 

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