Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Concerts for Young Children

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Concerts for Young Children

Article excerpt

THE IMAGE OF A SYMPHONY concert is that of a formal occasion: well-dressed patrons in well-appointed venues listening attentively to programs of classical music, applauding when etiquette demands and enjoying a drink with friends at interval--not an environment designed to cater for the needs and interests of young children. In fact, some performances state that children under eight or 10 years will not be admitted.

However, concert-giving organisations across the world acknowledge that today's children are the potential audiences and consumers of live music performances and recordings in the future. This fact has been recognised for decades by concert organisers who have staged concerts specifically dedicated to schools and young people. On the other hand, performances for young children who have not yet entered formal schooling is a comparatively new undertaking for most organisations, performers and teachers. By definition, concerts for children under seven years of age cannot be the same as those for adults, nor simply shorter versions of performances for high school or primary school students.

This paper explores views about concerts for an early childhood audience from the perspectives of musicians and educators. Further, it offers some guidance for those preparing to attend or present concert performances for young children.


From the early months of life, young children are naturally responsive to music (Andress, 1998; Littleton, 2002; Young & Glover, 1998). However, they do not grow from eager responders to music into enthusiastic adult concert-goers, listeners and consumers of music without opportunities to explore music activities in their playroom and experience live concert performances.

Early childhood services across Australia provide programs that foster creative and aesthetic development using music and movement. This is good practice and required for accreditation; Accreditation Principle 6.6.21 (National Childcare Accreditation Council, 2003) for day care centres states that the 'program includes excursions and/or visitors to the centre for ... performances that serve as a stimulus for children's creativity' (p.40).

But how is it possible to introduce children to concert experiences? How can performances work for an audience unfamiliar with concert etiquette and repertoire? How do young children who prefer to be moving and active become engaged in the fundamentally passive activity of being a concert audience member?

Previous investigations of concerts for children have focused principally on children's responses to performance (Suthers, 1993; Suthers & Larkin, 1997; Sydney Symphony Orchestra, 1998; Thoms, 1994) and ensuring equality of access for all children (Oue, 1996; Thompson, 1996). In this investigation, key issues in planning and implementing performances for young children were discussed with musicians and educators, and common ground and differences analysed.


This investigation aimed to discover what constitutes an appropriate and effective model of concerts for young children. Specifically, it explored the questions:

* What do musicians and educators regard as goals and outcomes of concerts for young children?

* What principles would be useful for performers and educators planning concerts for young children?


The study employed a qualitative methodology. It sought to collect the opinions and ideas of some key personnel involved in providing concert experiences for young children. Three musicians specialising in giving concerts for children, two early childhood educators and two parents were interviewed. Data was collected using recorded semi-structured interviews (Burns, 1997); respondents were free to discuss or omit any topics they wished. The interviews were intended to allow the respondents to talk about what they considered to be the important aspects of concerts for young children and thus provide insights into the perspectives and views of teachers, performers and parents. …

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