Thursday, November 8, 2007

My Three Year Old Digs Mozart

I had the most frustrating telephone conversation today.

I called our local philharmonic orchestra to get information on a special "Concert for Young People" scheduled for next Tuesday. I knew I was late in trying to get tickets, but I thought I'd give it a shot. They were sold out of both performances. Phooey.

But, that wasn't the frustrating part.

I was speaking to the lady in charge of the educational programs associated with the philharmonic. I thought that was lovely to be able to speak to her in person. She was very kind and seemed supportive of homeschoolers in general. She was busy suggesting other performances that might be good alternatives since we could not buy tickets for the performance we had wanted to attend when (whew, catching her breath) she stopped for a moment, realizing she didn't really have all of the information she needed. "I'm sorry," she said, "I don't know the ages of your children". "No problem," I replied. "They are six and a half and five."

Dead silence.

Suddenly, she took on a rather uppity tone of voice and changed her demeanor entirely, saying things like "Oh, well, the concert you were asking about is for children older than third grade anyway" and "Oh no, that concert isn't very accessible for young children".

Accessible? What exactly did she mean by "accessible"?

After she had gone on and on... and on, I finally got a chance to ask a question. I asked her to please explain what she meant when she said that a concert wasn't "accessible" for children under the age of 9. She fumbled around a bit for her words and then blurted out something about not enough explanation and not enough talking through the music. And, besides, many of the groups attending these concerts have received teacher's packets preparing them to hear the music and blah, blah, blah.

"So", I continued, "are you saying that there really insn't anything available for children younger than third grade?" Well, there was the production of Peter and The Wolf in January. "But, what about the philharmonic?" Well, not really. There are not any philharmonic performances that are made accessible for children that young.

There was that word again.

I tried to sound polite, but I was getting annoyed. Here was the woman in charge of the educational programs for the philharmonic and she's telling me that you have to be nine to have a worthwhile experience at the philharmonic and, even then, you need several worksheets and quite a lot of talking to get anything out of it.

I started to get a little bold (but still polite). I admit, I started to sound a little impassioned, too. "I am not a professional, but don't you think wonderful music can, to a large extent, stand on its own as wonderful music? Don't you believe that it IS wonderful music because of its innate ability to affect people, to move them and incite them? Even if a child has no idea what a 'movement' is or which instrument is the viola and which is the violin, don't you think that there is quite a lot to be gained by merely listening to a great piece played by a full orchestra right before your very eyes? Doesn't great music do much of the teaching all on it's own?"

Apparently, she didn't think so.

After a little more blah from her, I finally told her that, since our children did not yet fit into the "accessible" age range, we would continue to do what we have done up to this point. We would take the children along with us to performances we would like to attend. Yes, full length performances. Yes, they really could sit that long. Yes, they really would be thrilled. Yes, I believe they really would get quite a lot from just listening, because...

...I believe truly great music is "accessible" to anyone.