With so many music-centered kids’ activities planned for next week, families are advised to heed the Pied Piper, lest their young ones be carried away by music forever.
First is Music Mania, a music-themed youth summer camp at the Breckenridge Recreation Center, which members of the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra will visit four of the five days to play selections and show their instruments to the kids.
“We try to introduce them to the major sections of the orchestra,” said Olivia Grover, marketing director for the Breckenridge Music Festival.
Last year, children heard from woodwind and brass groups, a solo harp player and a string quartet. The close-up environment allows musicians to demonstrate extended techniques that you don’t normally get to see, such as how the oboe player uses circular breathing to hold a note for longer than 2 minutes, Grover said.
“I always enjoy letting kids play and hear my harp,” said Emily Melendes, who will visit the camp again this year. “They particularly liked that I could play the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Harry Potter’ music on it.”
This year, Melendes plans to present some of the solo repertoire she played in competition this summer in order to showcase different music styles. The pieces will include Liszt’s “Nightingale,” Scarlatti’s “Sonata K113” and Ami Ma’ayani’s “Maqamat.”
“In addition to those pieces, I’ll go through how the harp works and what notes are which and how to play the instrument,” she said, along with a talk on how she got started, how much harps cost and other information.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to expose kids to music,” said Jessica Morse, youth coordinator at the Breckenridge Recreation Center, which offers a state-licensed summer camp program Monday through Friday for kids ages 5 to 12. Same-day sign-ups are available, though parents need to fill out a packet of information the first time they participate. “We really are blessed we could partner with the Breckenridge Music Festival and give kids that opportunity,” Morse said.
“I think it’s very important to introduce kids to orchestral music and instruments because I believe it fosters an emotional development inherent in music without words that allows people to express feelings and dreams and ideas that otherwise would remain dormant,” Melendes said. “Also, classical music helps develop the brain and helps kids appreciate the arts and, hopefully, either join arts organizations or frequent them as they grow up.”
Inside the Orchestra
On Friday, the Breckenridge Music Festival presents its annual family concert free of charge. This year’s concert is “Inside the Orchestra,” a program created by conductor Thomas Jensen in 1986 for what was then the Junior Symphony Guild in Denver. Jensen will lead the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra in an interactive performance that invites children to move and respond to orchestral selections from a unique vantage point — inside the orchestra.
The seating arrangement allows for 450 to 500 people to be seated on the floor in the middle of the venue, with the orchestra arranged in a circle around them for the hour-long concert.
“Kids and grown-ups can not only look at the orchestra and hear what it sounds like but also learn what it feels like to be inside the orchestra,” Jensen said. “There’s not a bad seat in the house.”
He promised “the kind of infectious music that even if you don’t know it, you know it,” with a range of activities including “theater of the mind bits where you give the audience something to act out and do or conceptualize.”
For example, listening to the first few seconds of a tone poem by Richard Strauss, kids and families will be invited to get down on the floor and slowly grow until they are on their knees and then stand in a crouched position and slowly straighten their backs to reach for the sky — all to the sounds of the music.
Jensen will liken Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 to getting a “‘time out’ — two words that strike fear into the hearts of kids,” he said. The music starts out serious and then turns happy, as if you’re “bouncing a ball in the middle of the street,” which of course is why you’re on time out in the first place, Jensen said. Afterward, the music becomes serious again. “Everything has to have some kind of thing that kids can relate to,” he said.
Storytelling through songs
Jensen has a background in talk radio, to which he credits his talent as a storyteller. He uses the stories to help young listeners connect with orchestral music, an important part of which is its live nature.
“Nowadays you go to the Pepsi Center or some kind of big concert center and they’re lip syncing,” he said. “You’re not hearing a singer hit the high note and thinking, ‘Gosh, will he or she make it — will that virtuoso singer mess up?’ It’s like a Nascar race. To me, it’s important that people see the artistry. I think kids who go through school and never hear Beethoven or Mozart … it’s like going through school not reading ‘Moby Dick’ or ‘Huck Finn.’ … I think their education is diminished. They need to read that stuff and hear that kind of music.”
At Friday’s concert, children will have that opportunity. The music week activities are coordinated by the Breckenridge Music Festival and partners as a way to connect kids to music and local groups to one another. The Breckenridge Recreation Center joined forces with the music festival last year, and the Breckenridge Arts District came on board this year for future projects.
Erica Marciniec is a paid writer with the Breckenridge Music Festival.