Tickling the Ivories and Funny Bones
What's the most difficult thing about cultivating a child's interest in the arts? I would say it's getting them excited, whether it's playing an instrument, visiting museums, or listening to different genres of music.
We've had success with most genres, from rock to show tunes to parodies (we're seeing Weird Al in concert next month) to jazz. If you're thinking the biggest roadblock was classical music, you'd be mistaken. We have a few classical samplers and Ben has put them into a rotation for the car (every six CD rotation has at least one classical or easy listening CD).
The most frequent selections for that sixth slot? Anything from Richard Perlmutter's Beethoven's Wig series. We received the first two as a gift a few years ago, and Ben was intrigued. He had heard several of the "straight" versions of classic pieces from our limited samplers. The fact that someone was putting LYRICS to them, and especially FUNNY lyrics, was shocking. Simply shocking, to a seven-year-old.
This brings us back to my original premise, getting children excited about the arts. When I bring home a new CD (or receive it in the mail), Ben will clearly demonstrate an initial level of interest. Weezer? Happy. Ralph's World? Very happy. Beethoven's Wig 5: Sing Along Piano Classics? Jumping up and down, trying to pry it from my hands.
Perlmutter and company do not mess with their existing formula (one that Allan Sherman found much success with decades ago. The CD collects a variety of piano classics (Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Scott Joplin) and adds lyrics that turn them on their heads.
"Brahms Lullaby" becomes "I Can't Sleep," because there's a fly buzzing around in the bedroom. "Chopsticks" is "My Little Chicken." The CD builds to "A Voyage to the Moon," to the tune of Debussy's "Clair de Lune," complete with NASA sound effects. And Joplin's "The Entertainer" is turned into "A Piano Is Stuck In The Door":
They tried pushing it left and right,
But that poor piano was stuck in there tight.
They said "Hope that you're not too sore,
We've never seen this before,
A piano is stuck in the door."
I see Beethoven's Wig 5 getting immediately exposure in our car rotation - which will also help educate Ben's little brother Matt (10 months old) in the ways of classical music. And hopefully Matt will continue the tradition of selecting classical CDs, when he gets his turn down the road.
Beethoven's Wig 5 is available on September 27 through Amazon.com, cdbaby.com, iTunes, and other music retailers.