A Great Introduction For Kids

I’ve often marveled at the relatively low-brow (does anyone use that term anymore?) way I was introduced to classical orchestral music as a child. It wasn’t piano lessons or music appreciation courses or anything quite so formal. Rather it was my typical kid’s addiction to cartoons on television. 

I’m not talking about latter-day Saturday morning fare like the Powerpuff Girls or SpongeBob SquarePants, but classic Hollywood theatrical cartoons that were a fixture of TV back in the day. I still remember seeing Andy Panda conduct a cartoon orchestra in a performance of Suppe’s Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna overture, or Mickey Mouse leading a band performance of the overture to Rossini’s William Tell. I was totally hooked, and those cartoon selections, among others, were my main incentive for acquiring my first classical LPs. 

It wasn’t just the animation, of course. The music seemed so right to me, and I have come to realize in retrospect just how ideal an introduction to classical music overtures can be. They are brief enough not to tax a child’s attention span, and most of them are jam-packed with wonderful tunes that today’s children—at least those with an open mind—can still find entrancing. 

This is why the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert on Sunday, July 21, is a wonderful opportunity to introduce the children you care most about to the endlessly rewarding world of classical music. The program includes the overture to Bernstein’s Candide, the overture—and Wedding March—from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (virtually any child will recognize that march) and two of the most perennially popular of Rossini’s infectious overtures, those to The Barber of Seville and The Thieving Magpie, both of which have made an appearance in numerous cartoons—the former was a specialty of Bugs Bunny, and a 1964 adaptation of the latter earned an Oscar nomination. Here’s your chance to give some lucky children something they can cherish for the rest of their lives—and have a lot of fun yourself along the way.