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Classical Music for the Very Young at Canton's "SymphonyLand"

families in symphonyland
VIVIAN GOODMAN
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WKSU
Families come to SymphonyLand from all over Northeast Ohio.

A very young audience will get a classical music treat next week in Canton.

Kindergarteners and first graders are invited to the Canton Symphony’s 44th annual Kinder Concert.  

In this week’s State of the Arts, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman reports it will be the culmination of a series of performances for the very young called "SymphonyLand."

For nearly 80 years, the Canton Symphony has been introducing audiences to serious music. Sometimes in a playful way.

That’s what’s happening this morning at the Zimmerman Symphony Center.

“Go ahead and push that button down. OK? So I’m going to blow.”

In a hands-on way, letting little fingers touch their instrument keys, bassoonist Renee Anthony Dee, 

children press down keys
Credit VIVIAN GOODMAN / WKSU
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WKSU
Children are invited to press down the keys while the musicians play.

clarinetist AlixReinhardt and flutist Julie Johnson Sarver are introducing young families to the woodwinds, their family of instruments. 

“So the way I play the flute is I blow my air across this hole right here. And that’s what the flute sounds like.”

An attentive audience
Sarver says the kids are a great audience. 

“Starting at this young age they’re such little sponges. They just soak it all up, and they just are so interested and so curious about every little thing.”  

A brass trio of Canton Symphony musicians also plays in SymphonyLand, a concert series for children ages 3 to 6. 

But today it’s a trio from the orchestra’s woodwind section.

“Our instruments are made out of wood. Why do you think we use the word ‘wind’ in our name? Any guesses? Well, I’ll give you a hint. It’s because we use our wind, or our air to blow through the instrument to make a sound like this.”

Priced affordably
SymphonyLand concert tickets are just $5, and clarinetist Reinhardt notes that families come from all over the region. 

“That’s one of the reasons this is so great that we get to reach some kids who may not have any exposure, may not have any chance to come hear the symphony. They get to see us up close and personal. And they get to play our instruments. We let them touch a key.” 

Little eyes widen when Renee Dee lifts up her 4-foot-tall instrument. 

“Can you all say bassoon? Let’s say it one more time so you really remember it. Bassoon. So let’s see what the bassoon can do.”

Language arts, too

storybook
Credit VIVIAN GOODMAN / WKSU
/
WKSU
The musicians also read to the children from a storybook.

Story-telling is another part of the fun. While illustrations show on a big screen, the children follow the trail of the “Elusive Moose.” 

I’ve spied beaver families and marmots and moles. I’ve met geese and goslings. I’ve crept very near. Well, let’s look back at some of these pages and see if we’ve seen our elusive moose yet. Oh, maybe he’s being elusive.”   

Children sit quietly on their parents' laps on the floor of the Zimmerman Center’s Foundation Hall. Some clutch cozy blankets or cuddle stuffed animals. 

Kate and Matthew Kavoris of Akron brought the whole family. Five-year-old Louisa and 3-year-old Doretha are big music fans.

“Beatles, Wicked, and Cat Empire and Ben Folds,” are their favorites they say.

The girls hear classical music at home, too. “Mama sings,” says Kavoris. “I sing some Mozart at home sometimes.

“Sometimes,” says Louisa, “she sings Ben Folds.”

Grandma, Jane Salew of Wadsworth, comes along, too, to all the SymphonyLand concerts.

Early exposure works
KateKavoris is grateful to her mom for her own early exposure to the arts. 

“I remember you took me to the ballet,” says Kavoris.   ”Yes,” says her mother.  “We had season tickets to the ballet."

listening and learning
Credit VIVIAN GOODMAN / WKSU
/
WKSU
SymphonyLand is not just for listening but also for learning.

"And then I did dance for years and years,” Kavoris adds. She’s convinced that early exposure to the arts is a very good thing.

Kavoris regularly attends Canton Symphony concerts, without the children.  

“With a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old you can’t necessarily bring them to an evening performance of the symphony and expect them to sit there for two hours.” 

Relaxing for young and old
But the relaxed atmosphere of SymphonyLand works for the whole Kavoris family.  

“I wanted something to introduce them to music without having to bring them to some place where everybody’s going to say, ‘Oh, those kids are making noise.’”

At SymphonyLand, kids don’t even fidget while the music plays.  

press keys
Credit VIVIAN GOODMAN / WKSU
/
WKSU
Little fingers press the keys so the kids can learn how the instruments work.

Listening to classical music might not make children smarter. The so-called “Mozart Effect” has been largely discredited.

But parents still think their toddlers benefit from hearing some of the world’s greatest music played live in SymphonyLand.