The soundtrack to a child’s life is always in shuffle mode. Over the years, sing-alongs from Cocomelon and Bluey eventually ease out of the playlist so hits from Dua Lipa and Olivia Rodrigo can jump into heavy rotation.
However, one genre that can continue to tap into a kid’s imagination, from toddler to tween, is classical music, especially when a child experiences a live, family-friendly concert performed by one of the world’s most renowned orchestras.
This season, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) will once again hit the stage for its popular Family Concert series. Featuring three captivating performances, the series ensures orchestral concerts are accessible for families and thrilling for their kiddos, whether they’re regular concert-goers or experiencing the magic of SLSO for the first time. Add to the series SLSO family movie nights and digital concerts, and it’s an action-packed season for every music lover.
“We have so many exciting performances for families with children of all ages,” said Jessica Ingraham, SLSO Director of Education. “These concerts are also fun for adults, sharing experiences with children and instilling a sense of wonder that promotes curiosity and exploration. We’ve done a great job of mixing fun and entertainment, with these important opportunities for the child’s growth and development at all levels.”
A season your family won’t forget
Throughout the series, young SLSO audience members can enjoy themed performances that blend together music, storytelling, and dance for a truly immersive concert experience. This year’s impressive lineup of must-see shows include:
A Zoo Called Earth
Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, 3 p.m., Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri – St. Louis
Throw on your Halloween costume and get ready to be transported to outer space where you can learn more about the creatures that roam our planet from the perspective of a friendly extraterrestrial. This delightful romp from composer Peter Schickele spotlights the importance of taking care of our world even at a young age.
Tiny Tunes: The Lion and The Mouse
Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, 11:30 a.m., The Sheldon
Geared toward kids ages 3-6 years, “The Lion and the Mouse” offers attendees an afternoon of singing, dancing, and playing along to a performance based on the book by Jenny Broom and Nahta Nój. During the show, two unlikely friends – the mighty lion and the little mouse – take little ones on a journey that proves even the smallest acts of kindness can make a big difference.
Sunday, March 24, 2024, 3 p.m., Lindenwood University’s J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts
Wear your dancing shoes and get ready to party the day away! SLSO will host a giant bash as orchestra members bring a classical spin to the latest dance crazes. Your kids won’t be able to still sit as your family grooves to some of the greatest orchestral music of all time – and they won’t be able to stay awake on the ride home!
After seeing the responses of the littlest guests to SLSO concerts over the years, Ingraham shared how incredible the experiences have been for audience members – and the orchestra members themselves.
“There are moments when the entire audience goes silent, and you see the children, eyes fixed on the stage, hands and bodies moving to the music as if they were conducting. Then of course, at some point, each child will turn to the person next to them, so full of excitement, that they must share. And then, the silence is broken. That’s when I find myself grinning from ear to ear, when the excitement is so intense the child must share their experience with those around them!”
The fun of the Family Concert series isn’t limited to the concerts themselves. Each performance includes a full hour of pre-show events that engage and entertain families. Plans are already in play for the first concert of the season.
Explained Ingraham, “If you come to ‘A Zoo Called Earth’ on October 22, the Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri Botanical Garden, Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House, Forest ReLeaf, and Ballet 314 will be there providing activities around conservation, a main theme of the program. We also introduce the instruments of the orchestra through a scavenger hunt featuring musicians from the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra.
In addition, SLSO makes a concerted effort to ensure everyone can attend a Family Concert without stress or worry by assisting families who may need additional support. SLSO staff and musicians go through training on Sensory-Processing Disorder, and they’ve put various accommodations in place to help individuals with sensory sensitives enjoy the series.
More fun is waiting in the wings
While the Family Concert series is the main attraction of family-oriented programs, SLSO also hosts special events for the older kids in your life, especially if you want to share a bit of your own childhood nostalgia with them.
Enjoy a night out at the movies at Stifel Theatre throughout the SLSO season and rewatch your favorite films in a way that will leave you feeling like you’re seeing them for the very first time. While the adventures play on the bring screen, SLSO will perform the iconic scores live, showcasing how music sets the mood of a scene and shapes the narrative of the story. Catch one or all of the concerts in this can’t-miss Movie Night series:
Finally, SLSO presents extraordinary shows you can watch right in your own home with its online programming created for all ages. Settle back on your couch with some snacks and catch on-demand digital performances of “Peter and the Wolf” – which includes a virtual visit to the Endangered Wolf Center – and “Tiny Tunes: Giraffes Can’t Dance,” a free 30-minute show with hands-on activities.
Tickets for all SLSO family-friendly performances are on sale now at www.slso.org.
For Ingraham and the team at SLSO, producing the Family Concert is something they hold close to their heart after seeing first-hand the impact of music on their young fans. “Our mission at the SLSO is to enrich lives through the power of music, and I hope we do just that for families. We create shared experiences, a crucial component to the growth and stability of a family. For children who attend, we hope to inspire them to get involved and stay involved in music.”
Photos courtesy of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Metro East mom Nicole Plegge has written for STL Parent for more than 12 years. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL
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