Photo by Matt Blewett
Peter and the Wolf_Minnesota Orchestra_Child_Violin
A child tries out the violin before the Minnesota Orchestra's 2016 family performance of Peter and the Wolf.
Of all the activities you can involve your child in, learning a musical instrument is among the most popular, judging by the proliferation of three-foot-tall maestros at music recitals. But playing musical instruments has benefits and takeaways that go far beyond the technique of arpeggios or trills.
“A lot of people’s impression that I hear of classical music is that it’s so relaxing. ‘I listen to it when I study or I listen to it when I go to sleep,’” Minnesota Orchestra violinist Sarah Grimes says. “There is so much out there.”
At 23, Grimes is the youngest and newest full-time member of the Minnesota Orchestra, making her debut last October. Rewind a few years, and she’s a freshman at Northwestern University in Chicago, pursuing a music performance degree with a dream of going professional. Turn back time even more, and Grimes is holding a violin at age 4, learning to play by ear before even looking at sheet music.
“Because I started so young, violin didn’t feel like an extra thing that I was doing,” Grimes says. “It would have left a big hole in my life even in terms of my routine and my friends. It was just something I did.”
Full disclosure—both of Grimes’ parents were music majors and still play in ensembles; her mother is a piano instructor.
Still, there were times Grimes wanted to give up. The endless challenge of learning an instrument sometimes felt like a detriment instead of a draw. In those moments, her mom reminded her that’s what she had said during “impossible” songs before, and like all of those times before, she worked hard, and she got it. With each piece, there came a point where the song was no longer about the notes themselves, but instead about the message they conveyed.
Mastery of an instrument means “you can think less about the mechanics and more about what you’re wanting to say with your music,” Grimes says. “I think that’s a really therapeutic thing a lot of the time.”
For children who do learn to play an instrument, they might not play all their lives. Grimes says that’s okay; the option to play again is there when they want it. She adds that learning and playing an instrument also cultivates risk-taking and resilience skills: Scary auditions and botched performances happen in life, inside and outside of music. The key is to keep trying.
“No matter what instrument I had started on, I’d like to think I’d still be playing,” Grimes says. “It’s more about the music for me than specifically about the violin all the time. Not that I’m indifferent about my instrument—for me it’s like a tool to access something bigger.”
Want to inspire a love of music in your children? Classical music recordings don’t compare to a live performance. Check out these upcoming family concerts and events in the Twin Cities.
Click, Clap, and Klunk
Hear all the different sounds percussion instruments make and join in with provided instruments as the Minnesota Percussion Trio teaches you different rhythms. Azure Family Concerts are geared for those on the autism spectrum and their families; noise-muffling headphones, fidgets, and other accommodations are available upon request.
Hands on Brass
As part of the Science Museum’s Sound Day, Copper Street Brass will explain how their shiny horns make sound with different activities and music, and then let children make and take home their own instruments.
Feb. 18 at 2 and 3 p.m.; free with Science Museum admission; Science Museum of Minnesota, 120 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651-221-9444; smm.org/sound-day.
Inside the Brass Quintet
When a musician talks about a sound’s “color,” what does that mean? Copper Street Brass will answer that question and more as they demonstrate their instruments’ range of sounds.
Feb. 19 from 4-5 p.m.; free; Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland Ave., Minneapolis; 612-722-3667; copperstreetbrass.org.
Family Concert: Musical Motivations
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra can whisper; it can shout. Its sound can race like a horse or drift like it’s on a lazy river. This concert is geared toward children ages 6-12.
Feb. 25 at 9:30 and 11 a.m.; free; Ted Mann Concert Hall, 2128 Fourth St. S., Minneapolis; 651-291-1144; thespco.org.
Young People’s: Discovering Great Melodies
Rhythm, mood, communication, repetition, and the element of surprise are the five fabulous things every melody has, and you’ll discover them all in an hour with the help of the Minnesota Orchestra and a live camera feed for close-ups on the stage.
March 1 and 2, times vary; $6.25; Orchestra Hall, 111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612-371-5600; minnesotaorchestra.org.
Children’s Concert: SAFARI!
Journey on a safari adventure to hear the sounds of the orchestra with demonstrations, a hike, and maybe even a surprise or two.
March 11 at 11 a.m.; free; Normandale Lutheran Church, 6100 Normandale Road, Edina; 952-929-1697; civicorchestrampls.org.
Music & Melody Makers
There are so many orchestral instruments to choose, so Minnesota Youth Symphonies wants to help children play their first notes on each of them. Demonstrations, chances to play the instruments, and catch a glimpse of an orchestra rehearsal round out this morning geared to children ages 3-14.
April 1 from 9-10:30 a.m.; free; Highland Park Middle School, 975 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul; 651-699-5811; mnyouthsymphonies.org.