My Little Conservatory | Fun Music Classes for Little Kids
My Little Conservatory shares the joy of music with young children. They offer Kindermusik and Music for Little Mozarts (private piano). You'll find posts on music for kids, parenting, fun things to do in Silicon Valley, general music, piano and of course, Kindermusik!
We often get the question, “What instruments will my child get to play in Kindermusik?” Because of this we did a Facebook live showing and discussing all the wonderful instruments and props your little one will get to use and explore during their time in Kindermusik. Check out this video to see first hand!
Often, first time parents what to know about the curriculum that we use for our littlest pianists (ages 4-5). We often get questions like: “What will my child be learning?” or “Will it be too difficult for them?” Watch the video below to get all answers to all of these questions and more!
Every month we share the wonders of Kindermusik with the residents of the Belmont Village Senior Living Center. Our Kindermusik for Grandfriends events bring the young and young at heart together to experience the joy and cognitive benefits of music! This is truly a magical experience for all that attend. The toddlers love engaging with the elders and the seniors in turn are invigorated by the little ones’ youthful spirit. These events are free to current MLC families as a perk to your enrollment.
So much of American popular music comes from or has been influenced by African-American culture. Ragtime is a fun one to get to know with your children. Ragtime brings together the polyrhythms (two rhythms played at the same time) of African music and the march beats made popular by John Philip Sousa. It enjoyed its peak popularity between 1895 and 1918. It gets its name from its syncopated or “ragged” rhythm.
Here are a few ragtime favorites that you should get to know.
You have probably heard of Ragtime composer Scott Joplin (ca. 1868–1917) because of his famous “Maple Leaf Rag” (1899) and “The Entertainer” (1902). For at least 12 years after its publication, “Maple Leaf Rag” heavily influenced subsequent ragtime composers with its melody lines, harmonic progressions or metric patterns. Ragtime had was mostly forgotten until the major ragtime revival in the early 1970s, after Joplin’s songs were the soundtrack for the movie “The Sting.” Now you may hear it in commercials, TV shows and movies.
Maple Leaf Rag
This is a recording of Maple Leaf Rag. Before there were records, piano rolls were an easy way to get “recordings” or popular musicians playing their songs. People would have player pianos in bars and homes. This video shows a piano roll that was actually recorded on piano roll by Scott Joplin himself. This piano roll was found in the wrong box on eBay apparently, and turned out to be a long lost Joplin recording.
Maple Leaf Rag Played by Scott Joplin - YouTube
Ragtime Piano : SCOTT JOPLIN . " The Entertainer " (1902) - YouTube
"Pineapple Rag" on a 1916 Behr Bros. Player Piano - YouTube
While his ragtime songs might not be super well known today, Eubie Blake was very well known throughout his life and on television throughout the 1970s. His career spanned a time when music experiences vast changes. Born Feb. 7, 1887, Baltimore, MD, Eubie was an American pianist and composer of ragtime music, popular and vaudeville tunes, and scores for musical theater. Blake’s parents were former slaves, and he was involved with music from a very young age.
While out shopping with his mother when he was 4 or 5, he wandered into a music store, climbed on the bench of an organ, and started “foolin’ around”. When his mother found him, the store manager said to her, “The child is a genius! It would be criminal to deprive him of the chance to make use of such a sublime, God-given talent.” So they found a way to afford a pump organ, and he began to play at home. As a teenager he played piano in saloons. And by his 20s performed at the Goldfield Hotel in Baltimore, as well as at several clubs in Atlantic City. He continued composing throughout his life and composed scores for Broadway as well as films. He died Feb. 12, 1983 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Here’s Eubie Blake in this video performing his “Charleston Rag” at the
“Philharmonie”, Berlin (Germany), November 4, 1972. He was 12 years old when he composed the “Charleston Rag” in 1899.
Eubie Blake - Charleston Rag - YouTube
I love watching this video of the player piano roll. Even if you cannot read music, you can see how the dots are different for each hand. The left hand tends to be short dots, while the right hand tends to be long lines.
Fizz Water-A Great Rag by Eubie Blake - YouTube
Jelly Roll Morton
Born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, Jelly Roll Morton is better known for being the first person to publish a jazz composition. But he composed various popular styles while touring the American South, starting in 1904, as part of minstrel shows. One of the songs written during this time was a ragtime standard – King Porter Stomp.
King Porter Stomp
Jelly Roll Morton - King Porter Stomp - YouTube
On the YouTube videos, click the settings gear icon and play with the video speed. It’s fun to hear what these complicated songs sound like slower or faster than how they’re supposed to be played.
So much of classical music evokes a feeling of romance and love. It’s perfect for setting the ambiance for a romantic dinner or a cozy evening cuddling with the kids while reading a story. It’s no wonder that some of the greatest composers created songs of romantic love. They were in the midsts of some inspiring love stories. Go behind the classical music and discover the love stories that inspired some of the most beautiful classical compositions.
Widmung by Robert Schumann
If your little one takes piano lessons with us, you’ve been introduced to Clara Schumann as part of the “Music for Little Mozarts” curriculum. A brilliant pianist and composer, Clara was married to another talented composer – Robert. During their courtship he wrote her music, but it wasn’t necessarily a smooth courtship. Clara had accepted Robert’s offer of marriage, but they had to fight her father who was opposed to it. Like most fathers, he thought no one was good enough for his daughter. Eventually they took Clara’s father to court. The judge ruled in their favor, and they married the day before Clara’s 21st birthday. As a wedding gift, he wrote a set of songs for his new wife – “Widmung” and “Dedication”. These were but 2 of the over 130 songs that he wrote that were inspired by his relationship with Clara. You’d think that would be hard to top. After watching this video of an excerpt from Robert Schumann’s “Widmug”, you may be surprised by the next entry.
Brahms’ talent caught the attention of Clara Schumann when she was much older and her husband’s health was declining. There is no proof that there was anything other than friendship between them, but it was clear that Brahms loved her dearly. It could just simply be a case of unrequited love. In a letter to Clara, Brahms wrote: My Beloved Clara, I wish I could write to you as tenderly as I love you and tell you all the good things that I wish you. You are so infinitely dear to me, dearer than I can say. I should like to spend the whole day calling you endearing names and paying you compliments without ever being satisfied. Brahms dedicated to Clara Six Pieces Op. 118. One of the more beautiful pieces in it is teh Intermezzo in A.
Arthur Rubinstein - Brahms Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2 in A major - YouTube
Un Bal (A Ball) from Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz
This one might sound familiar, because we highlighted another song from Symphonie Fantastique for Halloween. This symphony has an interesting back story. When he was 24, Berlioz, a French composer, went to a performance of Hamlet. The actress Harriett Smithson caught his eye, and he fell head-over-heels in love with her. He sent her love letters, but she didn’t give him the time of day. So Berlioz figured the best way to get her attention was to write Symphonie Fantastique inspired by the fact that Harriett spurned his love for her. At its premiere in December 1830, Berlioz wrote in the program the entire story of Symphonie Fantastique for his audience. At the time, it was highly unusual to have a program that explained the music in such detail. He explained in detail that it was a story about a Parisian artist scorned by a woman. After it’s premier Berlioz was welcomed into the upper echelons of society. And then Harriett went to the second performance of the piece. Well, she must have realised that it was about her in some way. And it helped that he was rather talented and now in society. They married the following year.
Elgar is another one of our “Music for Little Mozart” characters. Like most musicians during his time, he had students. Before going on vacation during the summer of 1888, one of his students, Alice Roberts, gave him a love poem. Like most musicians, he wrote the only thing he knew how in return. He gave her this song when he came back from vacation. He also proposed. She said “yes!”
Edward Elgar - Salut d'Amour Op.12 - YouTube
Andante Favori by Beethoven
Known as Beethoven Bear to our piano students here at My Little Conservatory, Beethoven is another composer who used his musical talents to woo his future wife. In 1799, Beethoven had a new piano student, Countess Jozefina Brunszvik de Korompa (aka Josephine Brunsvik). It was love at first sight for both of them. But because she was an aristocrat, and in an arranged marriage, they could not be together. Yet they wrote letters and Beethoven secretly dedicated many compositions to her. Andante Favori is thought to be written as a declaration of Beethoven’s love of Josephine.
Beethoven-Andante in F major - YouTube
The Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo by Benjamin Britten
The composer Benjamin Britten and the great English tenor Peter Pears met in 1937 and fell in love. Peter became Britten’s muse, but given the time in which they lived their relationship wasn’t public. However their friends knew. They built a life together as both life partners and musical partners for 40 years until Britten died in 1976. Britten wrote many songs and leading roles for Pears. One of Pears most memorable performances was the tenor part in one of Bitten’s most moving works, War Requiem. When The Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo debuted during WWII, it was not translated for the audience. If it had, the audience may have suspected that it was written about Britten’s love for Pears.
Peter Pears: The complete "Seven sonnets of Michelangelo Op. 22" (Britten) - YouTube
I love Christmas music! Whether you talking about time-honored pop songs or classical Christmas songs, they’re all on my playlist for the holiday season. But it’s the classical Christmas songs that help set a relaxing, happy and cozy mood that keeps me centered during what can be a hectic time. Some of my favorite times when my kids were little toddlers where when we’d snuggle together reading Christmas stories while classical Christmas songs quietly played in the background. Suddenly the crazy running around subsided and the kiddos were ready for sugar plums to dance in their heads.
Classical Christmas Songs on Youtube
It’s great for the kids to see orchestras play live. But it can be expensive, especially if you bring the whole family. So if you haven’t been able to catch any free performances during the Christmas season, you can easy introduce them to “live” performances of classical Christmas songs on Youtube. Here are a few of some world-renowned orchestras playing some of my classical Christmas favorites.
The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky
This one everyone knows. But you usually cannot see the orchestra down in the pit while the ballerinas dance on stage. This is a lovely video that focuses on the musicians, so that you can see them play their instruments when they’re featured in a song.
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest - Complete concert in HD - YouTube
Christmas Oratorio by J.S. Bach
This vibrant classical Christmas work describes the nativity, the adoration of the shepherds and the naming of Jesus.
Johann Sebastian Bach: Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 Part 1 - YouTube
Carol Symphony by Victor Hely-Hutchinson
You’ll recognize several Christmas classics woven throughout this piece written in 1927. You’ll hear hints of “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “The First Noel”.
Victor Hely-Hutchinson : "Carol Symphony", 1er mouvement, sous la direction de Mikko Franck - YouTube
Handel: Messiah, For unto us a child is born
During the holiday season you can usually find at least on Messiah sing-a-long. If you missed it, you can do your own sing-a-long in the privacy of your own home to the part about the birth of Jesus.
Handel: Messiah, For unto us a child is born (Sir Colin Davis, Tenebrae, LSO) - YouTube
Vivaldi – Winter
While not necessarily a Christmas song, it’s hard not to think about swirling snow on Christmas night when listening to this piece.
Vivaldi Four Seasons: "Winter" (L'Inverno), complete; Cynthia Freivogel, Voices of Music 4K RV 297 - YouTube
Carol of the Bells
“Carol Of The Bells” was composed in 1904 by Mykola Leontovych (music) and Peter J. Wilhousky (lyrics). When I was a kid, George Winston was super popular at the time. This song with him playing is synonymous with Christmas for me. This is one of the rare videos of him on YouTube playing it.
George Winston plays Carol of the Bells - YouTube
Classical Christmas Songs for your TV
If you have a networked TV that can play Youtube videos, you can put this one on in the background during a party. It makes a little more sense than playing a fireplace on the TV. (I know, I know. That’s sacrilege!)
Classical Christmas - YouTube
Classical Christmas Songs on Spotify
Here’s the My Little Conservatory Classical Christmas Songs playlist from our Spotify account. I’ll keep adding to it as I come across well-loved and newly discovered songs.
Written by Amelia Vitarelli, owner and educator of My Little Conservatory in San Jose, CA. Amelia has been enriching the lives of children in Silicon Valley for over 20 years.
Piano lessons as a gift? Well, the short answer is – yes, of course! And here’s why.
If you’re like me you might feel tempted to want to give a gift that gets you instant excitement when they open it. Yet, I also have quite a few photos that show my kids playing with the box it came in rather than the gift itself. That instant excitement when a gift is opened can be a fairly fleeting moment.
Thinking back to when I was little, the memories that I have are more of things that I did rather than things that I received. These years with them, in the long run, are so few. We want them to remember them fondly. That’s why experience gifts are becoming more popular. And giving them an experience gift will have a longer “shelf life”.
But I know, you want to give them something that will make them super excited and instantly happy. So how does giving piano lessons make them happy when they might not even know they want to play the piano? Well here are three reasons why it’s better to give piano lessons rather than the latest hot toy as a gift.
1. Piano lessons changes kids’ brains for the better
It can be rather hard to find toys that are both fun and good for your child. Piano lessons, however, can be both. Research shows that playing the piano develops the brain to work in a more complex, yet efficient way. Both sides of their brain can work together. Plus their language and math skills are being developed.
Additionally, they’re building executive function skills that help with school and life.
2. Piano lessons are a unique gift (i.e. your kids will be happier)
Piano lessons are an unexpected, surprise gift. Unless they’ve been asking for them for a while. Experience gifts are hard to compare with a gift someone else got. And it’s hard for your child to compare their piano lessons to another sibling’s or friend’s lessons, especially if they started at different times. The experience is unique to each person. And research has shown that the uniqueness of the gift and the experience makes people happier. We tend to look back at experiences with rose-tinted glasses. Even if they had a bad day, overall they’ll look back and remember the overall good feeling of their lessons. So they are certain to have happy or rewarding memories attached to an experience present like piano lessons.
3. Piano lessons last a lifetime
The hot toy of this year will be forgotten next year. When they’re so little their wants are fleeting and change so often. We all know that physical gifts can make you happy for only so long. But it’s also backed up by research into happiness. Ultimately you need to get more stuff to keep that happy feeling going.
But when you give experiences, like piano lessons, the feeling the gift gives will live longer. And the positive changes that piano lessons make to their brains and the skills that they develop will never be lost. Plus the memories of the fun they had will forever be a part of them and they’ll consider being a piano player as part of their identity.
How to wrap it?
For smaller children, it might help them to understand what they’re getting if you give them a little something to go along with their piano lessons gift. There are so many wonderful picture books out there that have a piano in them or are about a composer. Here are a few special ones that I’ve found: