Oct. 26, 2016
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Kids are allowed to be kids at these concerts.
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How to turn your kids on to classical music without really trying

July 27, 2016, 12:00 am

Selling the concept of classical music to kids must not be very easy. “Hey, Billy and/or Susie! Today we’re going to go see some old people play classical music. The music itself is old as hell, as far as you’re concerned, and there usually isn’t singing, and rather than sounding like whatever garbage you think is good (looking at you, 21 Pilots—you suck), it’s all about complex movements and arrangements as played by stringed instruments!”

This is probably where you’re thinking something about how your kids work for you and will damn well go where you tell them. Or that you’ve totally heard about how classical music is great for the to-be-born and toddlers and kids someplace before—even though the truth is that the mildly controversial 1993 Mozart Effect study by psychologist Frances Rauscher has been widely questioned and all but discredited and that Rauscher herself has even said it’s way more important to get kids playing music rather than just passively listening. Hold on to that feeling for just a sec, because even though classical music as a genius incubator might not be provable per se, it isn’t like the stuff is going to hurt your kids or anything—culture is, usually, a good thing for people of any age.

“Lots of parents think [the music] is good for their kids,” Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival’s executive director Steven Ovitsky tells SFR of its youth concert series. “I’ve seen kids as young as … less than 2 years old to kids who are studying music in school and trying to see as many kinds of music as they can.”

The free youth concert portions of the festival become a yearly destination for summer school field trips (and SFCM provides buses for schools with budget shortfalls) alongside open rehearsal programs and a haven for parents and kids who can just walk in off the street, he says. The short sell? It’s brilliant that a classical music festival would not only provide a free series of shows, it’s even cooler that they provide a means for kids to be there.

Generally speaking, young children don’t much have a capacity to hate the arts. Yes, they’ll certainly age and develop their own tastes that usually seem to make the previous generation bemoan how nothing—no, NOTHING—could compare to the halcyon musical days of their own youths (romping through the fens and spinneys), but there’s a joyous quality to a good chunk of classical music that is practically tailor-made for children to enjoy. Probably something to do with Mozart being, like, 8 when he began creating his jams. Either way, the youth program features pieces from the core festival performances and are generally more upbeat than not.

“There are two groups of kids who usually come,” says Deborah Ungar, the festival’s director of education and outreach. “There are the kids who already play an instrument and they say, ‘Oh my gosh! They play my instrument!’ and they get very excited, and then there’s another group who have never played before and maybe haven’t had the exposure but then they think maybe they could do that.”

Ungar, who also teaches in the public school system and performs by night with Balkan folk group Rumelia, has been with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival since 2001 and says the youth program will continue to expand. Additionally, she says that schools are adapting to the idea of bringing large groups of kids downtown and dealing with parking (though she cites the recent hike in parking meter costs as a fairly serious deterrent) by also getting involved with the museums and making a day of it. It’s important to keep in mind that these free Monday performances are also open to the public, not just schools.

“It’s this kind of bright spot in a cool, beautiful place to hear music,” Ungar says, “where you’re transported to somewhere totally different, where beautiful music is played by intelligent artists who are talking to our kids in smart ways. … From what I’ve seen, the kids really appreciate that.“

As well they should. You’ve got two more chances to check out the youth program concerts before the festival comes to a close. Don’t blow it—Mozart Effect or not.

Santa Fe Chamber Music Youth Concert
10 am Monday August 1 and
Monday August 8. Free.
St. Francis Auditorium,
107 W Palace Ave.,


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