Behind the Scenes: Tiny Tots Music

Inside the Orchestra is starting the year off strong with big plans for Spring Tiny Tots: Ocean Adventure! In these programs, children and their families will sit encircled by our 30+piece orchestra and go on an immersive, interactive musical adventure! Let’s go behind the scenes with our Music Director and Arranger, Daniel Leavitt, aka Conductor Dan, to see what preparations are underway. 

Our programs are designed specifically for children aged 0-7 and their families. We asked Conductor Dan how that changes the way he arrange and orchestrate our pieces.

We have many discussions as a staff and I also consult my daughter, Dr. Rachael Leavitt-McDonald who is a developmental psychologist, concerning musical concepts such as how long should a piece be, attention span, repetition of melody and phrases, harmonic and rhythmic complexity, etc. These all factor into the many artistic decisions for our concert repertoire. Often the question arises as to how to make a complex work of art suitable for children. I find that presenting large classical works on a smaller scale is a great way to introduce great works of music to the next generation of music lovers, making as few changes to the original aesthetic as possible.

Another important consideration for me is the available kinesthetic and tactile applications to the song. Many times we will consider what movement can be associated with certain songs such as music about rain storms or running. We recently performed selections from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, and gave instruction to the young listeners regarding spinning around and moving hands and arms in circular patterns resembling the rotation of planets.

The final aspect in considering how to present orchestra music is the educational potential. When writing an arrangement, I will frequently feature a certain section of the orchestra. We want our young audience members to experience hearing real musicians playing live. Most music today is heard on TV, movies, radio, mp3 players, etc. but I feel strongly that there is a special artistic conversation between an audience member and a real live musician. Part of what we do is to feature the strings and we demonstrate what the violin, viola, cello, and bass both look like and sound like. We have done this with all of the instruments of the orchestra from the smallest: the piccolo, to the largest: the tuba. We have also featured other musical instruments such as the human voice, the theremin, the saxophone, the piccolo trumpet, and even the conductor. In our upcoming spring show I will be playing some notes on a seashell!

As you can see, there are a lot of decisions that are made when producing our musical arrangement. The one last item and for me the most important of all is this: does the arrangement sound great? If not, I keep working! Hopefully by the time we get to the live performance, it sounds awesome to all of our audience members!

Our upcoming April Tiny Tots programs will include lots of different types of music, including classical masterpieces, familiar tunes, and new favorites. We asked Conductor Dan what pieces he is most excited about.

I actually get excited for all of the music we do. I am frequently surprised during a concert at an unexpected moment when it hits me that all of these notes that I arranged on my computer are being played live by professional musicians who are adding their expertise and experiences to the sound. It really is a privilege to stand in front of an orchestra and hear ideas that came from my brain. If you watch me conduct and I smile, it is because of the joy of hearing my own thoughts about a piece of music applied to a live orchestra performance. It is a very cool experience indeed.

We hope you’ll join us in April for Tiny Tots: Ocean Adventure! You can get tickets here for any of our five concerts across the Denver Metro area.

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