I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face the first time she heard Inside the Orchestra perform: momentary surprise followed by pure awe and amazement. She was just 10 months old at the time, but from the very first chord, she was fully captivated by the music that quite literally surrounded her. Instead of crying and squirming (as was her usual behavior for any activity that required her attention for more than a few seconds), she remained perfectly still the entire time, mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the instruments. Check out the video:
My son’s first experience with Inside the Orchestra was nearly identical. At just seven months old, he was enchanted by the music and hypnotized by the opera singer. My daughter is now three-and-a-half years old, and my son is a little over one, and Tiny Tots is still the only activity I’ve found that will consistently keep their full attention from start to finish.
As someone who grew up playing an instrument, this was music to my ears (if you’ll excuse the obvious metaphor). Exposing my children to the performing arts, especially from a young age, has been a priority for me as a parent. I started playing the tuba in fifth grade, and the knowledge and skills I learned in concert and marching band helped me to excel across the board both in and out of school. I want my children to develop the same love and appreciation for music that I had growing up, and also hopefully reap the same benefits. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to find performing arts events that are age appropriate for infants and toddlers. It’s just not realistic to expect kids—especially spirited children like mine—to stay in their seats through an entire orchestra or ballet performance, let alone stay silent, observant, and entertained.
My daughter at Tiny Tots, and with my son.
Herein lies the brilliance of Inside the Orchestra’s Tiny Tots program. Inside the Orchestra is the only professional orchestra in the country that is solely dedicated to early childhood music education, so the format and songs are specifically designed to suit kids’ needs and interests. The audience sits on the floor rather than in chairs, and the performers surround the group on all sides. This format lets kids stand up, move around, and dance—things their little bodies constantly need to do—and allows them to engage with the musicians and instruments on a much closer level. During the concert, musicians, dancers, and opera singers wend their way through the crowd gathered on the floor, giving everyone an up-close-and-personal experience. The music, too, is tailored for a younger crowd. The conductors use carefully selected songs to convey themes and emotions, like a melody that sounds like waking up in the morning, or how minor key can sound like you just got put in time out. The program features classical works like Tchaikovsky and Grieg, but kids are also treated to more familiar works like Disney and Star Wars themes. Everything is made more relatable and enjoyable.
Inside the Orchestra programs also make music accessible. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by music and theater, so for me, learning to play an instrument and joining my school’s concert band were a given. But for many children, music can seem uninteresting, unattainable, and even unknown, particularly if their school does not have a music program. Inside the Orchestra brings music into schools (prioritizing high-need schools), often exposing students to orchestra music and instruments for the very first time. And as I can personally attest, it only takes one Inside the Orchestra concert to become completely hooked.
For these reasons (among countless others), I decided to join Inside the Orchestra’s Board of Directors. As a parent, a musician, and an active community member, I can truly understand and appreciate the positive impact an organization like this can have on children, especially those who need it the most and might not otherwise have access to it. I am a firm believer in programs that encourage children to make music a part of their lives, and Inside the Orchestra does just that—and does it extraordinarily well. I am excited to support the organization and help bring its incredible, one-of-a-kind programs—and that same look of awe and amazement—to as many of Denver’s kids as possible.