Musician Ingrid Hausl describes children’s first visit to a concert as like a “journey to an exotic land”. Inspired by her own on-stage experience, she wanted to find out how to get and keep kids excited about music. That’s why the bassoonist also studied music education and has been developing concerts for younger audiences for many years, including for „Der Gasteig brummt! 2023“.
Feelings without words
The sounds, the conventions (when should I clap?) – there’s a lot that’s initially unfamiliar in a concert setting. Music educator Ingrid Hausl sees herself as an interpreter: her role is not to explain music, but rather to enable access to this as yet unfamiliar world through her stories and narrations. Hausl believes that youngsters should trust their own perceptions and imagination. “I don’t necessarily want them to come out of a concert knowing more than they did before; rather, they should go home with a feeling that can’t be put into words”, she says.
When are children ready to be introduced to the magic of music?
With plenty of experience in this field, the Munich Philharmonic’s Spielfeld Klassik team is well placed to answer that question. Acting as music ambassadors, members of the orchestra develop formats for people of all ages: from concerts for kindergartens and workshops for the very young to youth programmes and musicals for all the family. Everyone should experience at least once what an orchestra is all about and how varied and engaging classical music can be. Speaking from experience, Lena Jaeger from Spielfeld Klassik says: “The sooner children come into contact with classical music, the more open they are and the more enthusiasm they develop for it.”
Kids perceive the world with all their senses
Younger children do not yet think rationally; they perceive the world with all their senses. Unlike adults, they are still free of judgement and don’t think in categories. The younger a child, the more holistically and unbiased they can experience the world, including music. Very young children in particular benefit greatly from suitable cultural offerings: They usually still have unfettered access to their own emotions and don’t worry about not understanding something or maybe misinterpreting it: Everyone hears differently and perceives music differently.
This is also what the pianist and cultural manager Anastasia Reiber has found. Together with the music journalist and BR Klassik presenter Uta Sailer, she has for many years now been organising the mini.musik participatory concerts for children aged three and up at the Gasteig. “Especially at the early age up to six years, involvement with music and art is formative for development,” says Reiber. “It allows kids to express themselves creatively and it also promotes concentration and discipline.”
Taking part is key
Addressing the children via different sensory channels, selecting suitable music, and an interaction that focusses on hearing are essential in music education, explains Anastasia Reiber. She carefully selects the music for her concerts and embeds it in topics that are at the forefront in children’s lives at this early age, such as animals or the circus. To stimulate all the senses, the mini.musik-Konzerten often use drama, projections or other creative arts in addition to the music. Carefully chosen participatory activities encourage the kids to listen at just the right moment.
Listening fosters togetherness
In her work with youngsters, Ingrid Hausl has found that many kids today find it hard to focus on closely listening for longer periods. In our highly visual and digitalised world, music can help youngster (re)learn focussed hearing and listening. Music helps strengthen the communicative skills of children and adults alike. Getting immersed in the action on stage, in the sounds and the musicians paves the way to approaching encounters with strangers without preconceptions and with an open mind. After all, that’s precisely what determines whether a trip to a faraway country is a success and the recipe for positive everyday interactions with family, friends and strangers alike, be it at home or out and about.
Sing, sing, sing
The pros have a tip for how to get started on our musical journey: Sing as much as you can starting as soon as you can – with your kids or with others, while you cook or in the shower. Whenever the mood takes you. Neuroscientists now know that singing together has a positive effect on the brain. And once you’ve experienced how much fun it is, you won’t want to stop. By the way, there are regular open sing-along events in the Gasteig, such as the Rudelsingen or the open Sunday sing-along events of the Münchner Volkshochschule adult education centre.
Text: Maria Zimmerer