Symphony Orchestras Australia – Inspiring Kids Tots to Teens

Olivia Urbaniak

Thankfully lifelong education is at last no longer a cliché but a social reality and today it has enormous benefits to both an individual and to society as a whole. Every tone from the past raises an echo in us today and contemporarily musicologists, scientists, architects and designers are actively seeking to integrate sound and music as a design element into professional, community and personal development spaces.

They are at last recognising music as being essential to the human spirit, the creation of a strong sense of place and an important aspect of community life.

Humans are indeed a social species and the music of our culture particularly empowers and emboldens everyone through the art of practical engagement.

The truly best time for us to begin learning about music is from the moment we are born. Just as a child’s literacy needs to be encouraged by reading aloud to them, so does their musical ear need to be soothed, or stimulated by the sound of music.

Pleasant associations such as storytelling in words and soothing bedtime songs are a wonderful way to confirm and nurture the bonds between a parent and their child.

Listening to music based on the harmonic measurements found in nature, as well as in the architecture of the ancients is beneficial to us all.

Encountering music from an early age will also assist a child’s brain to develop good language skills as well as help them apply logic and reasoning to the continual challenges they will face throughout their life.

Music aids their creative development, helping our kids as they move from their toddler years into their teens and into life beyond.

It will aid their memory building as well as help expand their critical thinking, which can be so useful in solving everything from mathematics problems to just being able to work out what they need to pack into their own school bag each day to sustain their journey.

Musical training teaches children about performance outcomes, how to achieve excellence, how to strive for quality and to achieve a high standard, while realizing and understanding the value of sustained effort.

Importantly they learn that rewards come usually from hard work and study. Great orchestras all around the world today are setting out to inspire the musicality of kids of all ages with the sounds of beautiful and exciting music.

Just like their colleagues internationally, Symphony Orchestras all over Australia offer considered programs aimed at families.

They include specific programs of concerts aimed at giving kids from tiny tots to teenagers an appreciation of the past and present sounds of our world.

Studying music as a vital aspect of arts and culture, teaches children about giving and compassion and provides them with a glimpse into other cultures and the lifestyle they enjoy.

Kids from all cultures and backgrounds who learn how to evaluate and admire each other are also able to learn how to make decisions that lead to respect for their differences at an early age.

Such training develops compassion and empathy, rather than the modern common day me always first scenario, which has been proven long term to be destructive.

Far better that the child be given an equal opportunity to know just how to be constructive in everything they do in life.

Sharing our musical connections is beneficial, as we grow an appreciation for how cross cultural influences, music and otherwise, have helped shape our contemporary world. Cushion concerts, musical storytelling, music that explores new sounds and crosses and expands boundaries is good for the heart, the mind and the soul.

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) holds a bevvy of family shows, including a trio of ‘Classic Kids’ concerts each year. Children can sit next to the players and are encouraged to respond to the music through movement, actions and song and to perhaps even have a go at conducting!

Music that tells iconic tales; playing music from the movies or popular television series helps children know how the instruments of an orchestra can transform written notes on a page into the music we hear. The 2014 MSO Dr Who Symphonic Spectacular proved a huge success.

MSO Classic Kids concerts are nearly always booked out completely way ahead of their dates so booking is always essential. This year the first in the series will take place in May in the Iwaki Auditorium on Southbank at three different times on the same day.

The second series will be held in the Melbourne Town Hall, while the third will be back at the Iwaki and also feature the Australian Ballet Dance Education Ensemble.

Acclaimed conductor Benjamin Northey will conduct the first and the third concert of the series when best-selling children’s entertainer and movie star Jay Laga’aia, returns to the MSO. The program includes popular works written and performed by Jay.

Highly respected Conductor and Director of the Victorian Opera Richard Gill OAM will conduct the second. He points out ‘It is no longer anecdotal but a matter of scientifically proven fact that children who have enjoyed good, strong music teaching have advantages in all other areas of learning’.

Gill says ‘music can be a potent force for good in the life of a child, especially when it is taught properly and sequentially… and we ‘teach music because it acts in a unique way on the heart, mind, soul and spirit of the child, stimulating thought and imagination in very special ways’.

A known educator, Gill also makes the point a musical education has been proven to have a profound impact on all learning achievements in the life of a child, including developing their powers of concentration and perception and love of life long learning.

By critically engaging with developments in self-knowledge musicologists today can introduce a learning process that is acutely relevant to modern social challenges.

Especially when we know that ‘the brain is also social in the way it learns, and has evolved not merely to process information, but to facilitate social interaction, social learning, imitation, cultural assimilation, and empathy’[1]

Gill says music stimulates creative thinking. It helps children with imaginative problem solving and results in classrooms full of ‘engaged, interested minds’ with an increased capacity to ‘think, perceive, analyse and act upon ideas that would turn the educational decline in our country on its head’.

Through learning about music children can learn how to reject ideas that are outmoded and assumptions others may have made, by helping them to sort through the detritus of misinformation.

They will then be in a far better place to be able to come up with an answer that not only answers the question, but is also viewed in the context of the time and place in which it is to be applied.

Time is expressed through life and all art is the art of now.

This doesn’t mean necessarily that there is only one answer, but by learning to analyze the differences between them as they grow children will be better equipped to arrive at an outcome that suits the particular situation they find themselves in.

Exposure to music is a perfect way to develop a child’s means of self-expression and to help them develop their ability to realize what is it they want, what it is they feel, how to be in touch with their inner self and soul and to develop their own decision making skills and self-esteem, a vital and very important by-product.

In a trio, quartet, in a symphony or, singing in a choir children learn to understand that in order to achieve success they must set a goal and perform.

They learn about teamwork and what discipline means.

They must commit to learning the music, to attending the rehearsals, to practicing diligently and then, and only then, will they learn how to work together with their colleagues so they can all enjoy the fruits of their labour.

We are all products of the dying past and flourishing present, while we look forward to a promising future.

From within the womb to the first breath we take we know sounds long before we understand words. Add the sound of music to words and we can gain a response involving our emotions on every level.

Olivia Urbaniak

Conservatorium graduate pianist Olivia Urbaniak

Studying music empowers children to focus on the ‘doing’ rather than just observing so that they learn flexibility, how to communicate and co-operate with each other, their peers, their mentors and their masters.

In learning about disappointment first hand in the performance environment children learn how to cope, an important aspect of achieving a rich full and satisfying life at any age.

Most especially through music children will develop the skills that assist them as they strive to achieve their full potential. In a nutshell, music is and always should be, an integral part of their lifelong education. It is incomparable.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

Find out more…

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

West Australian Symphony Orchestra

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

Darwin Symphony Orchestra


[1] RSA Transforming Behaviour Change – Jonathan Rowson 2011

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