In my many searchings on the internet for tips on how to get young people to listen to classical music, I found a GREAT article written by Richard Perlmutter called "How to Get (and Keep) Your Kids Excited about Classical Music. (Find the full article here). Based on my own experience I thought I would highlight a few of this best ideas:
1) "Start with Music You Like"
This is part of the fun of getting your kids to listen, you have to listen too! You have to figure out what you like, and your enthusiasm about those pieces will rub off on your kids. If (by any rare chance) you don't like "classical music", keep searching!
Try a new time period. Classical music really only refers to the period in which composers such as Haydn and Mozart were writing music. Try something from the Romantic period (Beethoven, Mahler, Mendelssohn, etc.) You will surprise yourself, and I promise if you keep digging you'll find something that you will love!
2) "Mix it Up"
The classics are not only classical music. Listen to all kinds of things--Jazz, Blues, R&B, Pop, Mellow Seventies, etc. Just getting different sounds in their ears may be enough to get them exploring on their own.
3) "See Music"
In other words, go to as many live events as you can. I could not be more passionate about this. Sticking a bunch of music on an IPod and listening to it on shuffle does not create better listeners. It does not usually involve active listening at all. Make the music listening and experience in itself, and a whole new world of possibilities open up.
A great example is opera--no recording will ever be able to imitate the true power of listening to live opera. Don't start with Wagner's Ring cycle, go with something shorter and lighter. You won't regret it!
4) Be an active listener, and identify instruments, voice types, etc.
First of all it's a great idea to listen to music that does this for you. My kids love Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev. I'll be posting a review of my two favorites, with a third potential favorite on the way. Here is one of them:
You will be surprised how quickly even your youngest children can identify instruments not just in Peter and the Wolf, but in other pieces as well.
5) "Dig In"
Learn as much as you can about certain performers and composers. The more you learn about them the more you are going to be aching to hear them. Knowing little anecdotes and stories are great for sharing with kids.
6) "Take Music Lessons"
Learning an instrument or how to sing will give you a deeper appreciation for what the pros do. And who knows, maybe you'll find a secret talent you never had. Also, enrolling your children in lessons early can get them into it when it's still "cool". Then it might stay "cool".
Whatever you do, stick with it. The world of classical music is such a rewarding one to live in. Support the arts in your communities, and listen as much as you can--but do it actively! Don't just let this music become background music, or we may lose it forever.
Happy listening, and good luck!
Getting Kids Excited about Classical Music