Fourth graders wowed by waltzes |

Fourth graders wowed by waltzes

When a 10-year-old exits a concert hall and exclaims, “That music was awesome! It was cool!” you’d think maybe he was talking about a show by Miley Cyrus or maybe a hip-hop artist.

Instead, what nearly 700 Nevada County fourth graders enthused about was a March 25 concert by Music in the Mountains musicians performing waltzes.

Yes, waltzes.

With an educational focus on the evolution of various classical musical forms into the waltz, the fourth annual Classics For Kids, co-sponsored by Music in the Mountains and the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office, offered several unexpected delights for young and old.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart made a surprise appearance, courtesy of MIM Production Manager Rich Mapes, dressed in 18th century garb and wearing a white wig.

Hennessy School student Laiona Duncan, 9, won a drawing for four free piano lessons.

And many of the adults in attendance marveled at the children.

“I was really blown away how good their behavior was,” said Diane Robertson, a former high school teacher and member of the MIM Education Committee, which coordinated the event.

Classics For Kids is about children learning about and enjoying classical music. Presenting a fast-paced, 45-minute program that included works by Josef Haydn, Ludwig von Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Johann Strauss II, new MIM Artistic Director Gregory Vajda said he hoped to provide an experience many young people never or rarely have.

“I wanted to give to the kids the great experience of live music played by great professional musicians,” Vajda explained. “I selected the best-of-the-best to introduce Viennese classical music to our audience and to talk a bit about musical forms, instruments and about the minuet and Viennese waltz in general. I hoped I could balance being entertaining and informative.”

Afterward, several students commented that they connected with certain musicians and their instruments.

“I liked the second piece because I play clarinet,” said Taylor, 10, from Nevada City School of the Arts.

The mid-morning concert at the Amaral Family Festival Center is offered free to local public and private fourth-grade classes. Fourth graders are targeted because they are at an age when many students begin to learn to play school band instruments or begin private lessons, said Mark Vance, MIM Education Coordinator.

It is hoped that the concert will inspire more musical learning, Vance added.

Besides learning about musical forms and composers, the Classics For Kids audience also got instruction from Vajda on conducting in three-four (waltz) time and were silently making triangular motions with their fingers during the latter part of the program. The sight elicited delighted smiles from the adults in the audience.

“This concert was really wonderful. I saw the children fully engaged,” said Stanton Miller, Associate Superintendent of Schools.

Paul Harrar is school arts liaison at the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools office in Nevada City.

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