Topics we’ll cover —
Lesson 1: The dawn of humanity and the invention/discovery of music (36000 BCE - 256 BCE)
Lesson 2: (433 BCE - 1584 BCE) Where did these 12 notes come from? (433 BCE - 1584 CE)
Lesson 3: From Sui to Qing Dynasty and the Chanting Monks of the Middle Ages (5th-15th Century)
Lesson 4: Employee of God, J. S. Bach (1685-1750)
Lesson 5: Baroque Represent! George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Lesson 6: Founder of Viennese Classical Music Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809)
Lesson 7: Freelancer Mozart (1756-1791)
Lesson 8: Beethoven and his Friends (1770-1827)
Lesson 9: Late-Classical/Early-Romantic Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Lesson 10: Beethoven’s Grandstudent Liszt (1811-1886)
Lesson 11: Piano Poet Frédéric Chopin (1811-1849)
Lesson 12: Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Lesson 1: The Devil’s Violinist Paganini (1782-1840)
Lesson 2: Berlioz and his Fantasies (1803-1869)
Lesson 3: The Love Story of Robert (1810-1856) & Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
Lesson 4: Romantic Classical Composer Brahms (1833-1897)
Lesson 5: Verdi the Opera Composer Who Loves his Country (1813-1901)
Lesson 6: Liszt’s Son-in-Law, Wagner (1813-1883)
Lesson 7: Tchaikovsky the Composer who Never Met His Patron (1840-1893)
Lesson 8: Puccini the Composer Worth Billions (1858-1924)
Lesson 9: Mahler Knows How Cool He Is (1860-1911)
Lesson 10: Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Lesson 11: Debussy the Impressionist Composer (1862-1918)
Lesson 12: Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
is it possible for a 3-year-old to appreciate classical music?
"Without music, life would be a mistake." —Friedrich Nietzsche
"Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without." — Confucius
If there was such thing as medicine for the soul, something that not only feeds it nourishing energy but is also readily available, one would find it in music. When my son was still two years old, a wise person said to me, “let him listen to more music; let him be surrounded by music in the same way he is surrounded by air”. I took his words seriously, and even set my car’s default radio station to FM91.5 (a classical music radio station in SoCal). This subtle yet nurturing music education played a big role in his subsequent growth that most obviously manifested in an increased sensitivity to language and sound, a larger capacity for memory and rote learning, and a prolonged attention span, allowing him to enjoy activities from short half-hour long classes to nearly two-and-a-half-hour long concerts and performances.
Summer is typically filled with beautiful long days and lots of fun activities, but this year we had to spend it isolated at home. Although music continued to be played in our household, I still longed to have more contact and connection with it. Around this time, a course called "Bukaopu Music History" appeared on my social media. When I first saw the post, my first thought was that it was an online lecture designed for adults or older children. Even knowing that the hosts are the siblings duo Kemin and Rosy Zhang (whom I believe can make any subject into something fun and engaging), I was still unconvinced that it’d be something my three-year-old son would be interested in.
In order to increase the likelihood that my son could sit through the entire lesson, I told him, "This is a class that you can attend with your favourite toy", implying that he is allowed to play while learning. This was a big deal for him because he’s been enrolled in early education programs from as young as four months old all the way through to the pandemic, and he has never once been allowed to play during class (even though science has shown that learning while playing is the most effective teaching method for children of this age)! So ever since, accompanied by Lego and Transformers, we’ve gotten to know Beethoven, listen to Chopin, and
“visited” Hamburg to see the Mendelssohn Museum together. In fact, it’s become one of my favourite pictures of him taking this class! I’d like to think that if the toys were alive, they’d be thankful for the extra twelve chances they got to play with him!
Topics such as "The dawn of humanity and the invention/discovery of music”, "Understanding the bronze musical instruments of the Warring States period", and "Appreciating the music of the Baroque era" are definitely hard to relate to a three-and-a-half year old, but through the teachers’ humorous explanations and storytelling, packed presentations, and handpicked beautiful music, the "Bukaopu Music History Course" really enticed him enough to sit down and pay attention; every time he was able to listen and relish in it for more than an hour.
Although he doesn’t remember the specific years that they were discovered, he already knows what a bone flute looks like and what a guqin (ancient Chinese instrument) sounds like. Although he still doesn't know who the “Father of the String Quartet and Symphony” is, when Haydn's photo appeared for the second time, he could call out his name like a conditioned reflex! He even saw how a carrot could be made into a clarinet, and even though he didn’t enjoy Chopin’s music as much as his mother, he remembered a woman named George Sand and can also tell you that “Op. 9 No. 2” and “C Sharp Minor”were two examples of 'Nocturnes'. Despite not fully knowing who Franz Liszt is, watching old music cartoons playing Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 had him giggling in delight.
Paganini’s famous melody has recently become his favourite tune to hum:
- and was super excited to hear Chinese electronic music effects in opening theme song of his favourite TV show, Journey to the West!
Even if he isn’t able to yet fully grasp all of the content in the course, his knowledge of these composers and the appreciation of their works gave him a stronger cognition and perception of music, and his memory of melody and lyrics has also greatly improved. Now, when he hears his mom singing or playing the piano he says, "Mom, you sound so good, I want to hear more!" Thanks to Kemin and Rosy for their "Bukaopu Music History Course" for bringing out yet another adorable side to our children!
Learning classical music can actually be really fun, you can also feel the magic of music while enjoying egg soup and nibbling on corn.
That said, Alvin wasn’t even the youngest child in this class; his classmate Mikayla is five months younger than him! This is why I believe it’s truly a music history class that can be listened to by three-year-old children. It’s not too soon to start the introduction of classical music education at the age of three, in fact, it’s the perfect time!
By the way, the wise person I mentioned at the beginning of this story is actually our teacher, Kemin Zhang! Thank you "Bukaopu Music History Course" for restoring the missing colours of this summer. I look forward to seeing more young children hop on our classical music train in the second season, and appreciate with us the immortal works left to the world by these great artists!
Article and Photos by: Lin Qu
Translated by: Rosalind Zhang