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26 Sep 2016

When is my child ready for classical music?

No child is too young to go to a classical music concert, according to music education expert Linda Lorenza. But – how much they enjoy it will depend on their learning style.

"Children tend to respond to learning in three main ways: aurally, visually or kinaesthetically," says Lorenza, Director of Learning and Engagement at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. "Once you're aware of what your child's learning style is then you can work out when it's time to take them to a concert. If your baby hears a sound and turns to it immediately or your child moves before they learn to speak, they will probably love going to a classical music concert."

But that's not to say that children will enjoy a Mahler marathon. Choosing a concert in a format that is right for your child will ensure they have a good time. Having trained as an opera singer and taught music for more than 20 years, Lorenza says children aged five to seven enjoy shorter activities and lots of variety.

"If your children are in that younger age group take them to something that is shorter or that has lots of little pieces and the opportunity to dance or move around in their chair," she says. "It's also good if there's a combination of sound and story or pictures."

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra's Family Concerts are designed for ages 5-12 years and offer the next step for younger children who have outgrown the Babies Proms concerts that are designed for children aged two to five years at the Sydney Opera House. An 'Activity Zone' in which children can play music games and learn about instruments runs for 30 minutes before and after each Family Concert. At just under one hour, the performances are an exuberant combination of music and storytelling, and often feature a popular narrator who drives the story and interacts with the audience. Comedian Frank Woodley stepped in to the role of narrator earlier this year to help children solve a musical murder mystery, while trumpeter James Morrison presented a fun program of popular jazz standards.

Older children may also enjoy seeing performances by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellows – the young musicians who are undertaking the orchestra's year-long apprenticeship program - or attending the film concerts in which the Orchestra performs live while the movie is projected on a big screen above.

"Live performance is very different to going to a movie, gallery or museum because it involves a whole team of people working together on stage to make this music come to life," Lorenza says. "The thing I see with children coming to these concerts is their wonder. It's an extension of the wonder they experience at their first major sporting event but with an orchestra there's this extra layer that the musicians are creating with this beautiful music."

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra's Family Concert series has three brilliant concerts for 5-12 year olds to share with their families. All concerts at the Sydney Opera House.