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Children Get Taste of Classical Music

February 25, 1990

I was fortunate in being able to join 3,000 schoolchildren and their teachers at the young people's concert performed by the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. A sea of youngsters from fourth grade to eighth grade filled the spacious approach to the elegant Terrace Theatre with its fountain of "dancing waters," looking on, eagerly waiting for the doors to open.

When they were finally admitted, they quickly filed in and took their assigned seats by school. The music director and conductor, JoAnn Falletta, appeared, and the children were ushered into a strange, new, exciting world of classical music.

Falletta had wisely selected the musical numbers on a theme that children could readily relate to: "Classical Music in the Movies." With the increased use of classical music as scores in films, she was able to make some fine selections, such as Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" from the film "Apocalypse (Now)," some Mozart music from "Amadeus," Pachelbel's "Canon" from "Ordinary People," and of course, John Williams' score to "Star Wars." The music was reinforced with visuals from the films.

It was obvious that for the children, it was a totally new experience. Arriving, they were in awe of the huge, well-appointed auditorium. They were intrigued by the orchestra's tuning up.

And then the music. It evidently got to them. The children responded. Whereas they were subdued listening to the serene, sad music of Pachelbel's "Canon," they were overwhelmed by the fury of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries." And scores of children's arms began flaying as they "conducted" the rhythmic "Scheherazade" of Rimsky-Korsakov. The children were indeed receptive. For an audience of 3,000 youngsters to show such discipline at their first music encounter was remarkable.

I would like to commend Falletta for introducing this marvelous outreach program, and the Long Beach Symphony Assn., which together with the Long Beach Unified School District made it possible for a total of 12,000 students to attend these two-day concerts. For too long our children have been deprived of an adequate music education. In the general retrenchment of school funding, and in the emphasis on the "three Rs" and computers, the creative arts have been sorely neglected. This new program is a wonderful beginning. It is also a sound investment, that of preparing a future audience for classical music. Our children's education is not complete without music.



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