Central City Opera’s Tiny Tots series puts toddlers inside the orchestra
Keeping hundreds of small children engaged during an orchestra concert is no small task, but when the Junior Symphony Guild’s 2011 Tiny Tots Inside the Orchestra season kicks off Tuesday, conductor Tom Jensen will be prepared.
“The first rule is, ‘Don’t bore the kids,’ ” Jensen says. “Preschoolers will let you know in no uncertain terms if they’re not happy.”
As music director and conductor for the guild, a long-standing local nonprofit that, among other things, aims to bring classical music to young people, Jensen created Inside the Orchestra as an outreach program for preschool and elementary-school kids. The program invites these budding music lovers on stage for an up-close-and-personal experience. “It’s very visceral to actually feel that you’re sitting in the orchestra,” Jensen says.
Taking his orchestra to area schools, Jensen reaches 25,000 students each year through 80 concerts. His Tiny Tots series is directed at the smallest audience members, ages 6 and under. This season’s Tiny Tots performances run Tuesday through Feb. 9 at locations including Temple Emanuel, Boettcher Concert Hall and The Wildlife Experience.
With 25 years of experience with Inside the Orchestra, Jensen has developed a briskly paced program that involves “theater of the mind” activities to engage little ones. For example, during excerpts from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” a piece that many children recognize from various cartoons, Jensen relates the changes in the music’s volume to using their “inside voices” versus their “outside voices.”
During Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” most famous from the soundtrack for “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he asks kids to “grow as the music grows.” They start out hugging the floor and as sounds swell, the kids gradually reach all the way up to the sky.
The program ends with Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” — also known as the theme music to the “The Lone Ranger.” Kids are encouraged to ride pretend horses around the stage.
Being in close proximity to Jensen, children can quickly see that when the conductor makes big movements, the sound gets louder, and when he makes smaller movements, the sounds get softer. He also talks, tells stories and asks questions of the children throughout the performances.
“I always speak to the kids and not down to them,” Jensen says. “They can see the cause and effect of conducting without overly explaining it.”
Most shows also feature a young child soloist, to demonstrate peer success to the children in the audience.
“Music is one of the mental pursuits that can be developed very early if given the right circumstances,” Jensen says. “The kids can’t believe that someone so young can perform like that.”
-Kat Valentine King
Tiny Tots Inside the Orchestra
When: Tuesday-Feb. 9 at multiple locations
Tickets: $5 per person; must be reserved in advance
Information: Visit insidetheorchestra .com or call 303-355-7855 for reservation forms and concert schedules.