Have more time? Explore these SHORT AT-HOME ACTIVITIES with your child before coming to Symphony Center!


2-minute activity: Instrument Families

Guide your child through a discussion about instrument families.

  • Ask your child, “What makes up a family?” Explore the ideas of families in terms of similar looks/traits, common interests or hobbies and connections to one another.
  • Let you child know that musical instruments also belong to families. In the orchestra, similar instruments are grouped together based on various shared characteristics.
  • Ask your child if they know the names of any of the instrument families.
  • Identify the families of instruments in the orchestra using this link.

7-minute activity: A Promenade through an Art Gallery

  • Ask your child to remember a time when they visited an art museum. Encourage them to describe the experience.
  • Remind your child that artwork is exhibited at an art museum and you walk from piece to piece looking at and thinking about the art.
  • Tell your child that composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition begins with a Promenade – an unhurried walk.
  • Play the Promenade from Pictures from an Exhibition and ask your child to pretend that they are walking around an art gallery. How does Mussorgsky make this music sound like someone taking a leisurely walk through an art exhibit?
  • Review the three families of orchestra instruments heard in this piece by naming some of the instruments in each family and noting that the Percussion Family is missing.
  • Play the piece again and ask your child to pay particular attention to the changing sounds of the instruments.
  • On Saturday, May 18, before your concert, take some time to visit the art gallery on the 5th floor of the Rotunda at Symphony Center. As you view the student artwork, remember the sounds of the Promenade.

10-minute+ activity: Bydlo the Ox and Cart

  • Introduce this piece by showing your child a picture of an ox and cart and sharing that Mussorgsky called one of his pieces Bydlo, a Polish word for cattle. The original drawing from the exhibit no longer exists, but it may have looked something like this 1884 painting by Van Gogh.
  • Brainstorm with your child about what the music for an ox and cart might sound like. Would the instrument representing the ox play high or low? Would the tempo be generally fast or slow and would it likely get faster or get slower?
  • Play the first 30 seconds or so of the piece so your child can confirm their expectations. The instrument playing the solo is a tuba, the lowest-pitched instrument in the brass family.
  • Tell your child that in Mussorgsky’s musical story, the ox and cart start far away, move right up next to us, pass us and then move far away again. What might a composer do to help us hear that in the music?”
  • Lead your child through a movement activity created by music teacher and author Dan Fee. Give your child a scarf or streamer. Then, practice these three movements:
    • Move the scarf up and down to the beat
    • “Draw” a slow circle in front of themselves with the scarf—one circle for each two-beat measure
    • Making a large, sideways figure eight across and in front of their bodies
  • Once your child has the hang of the three movements, have them sit on the floor and indicate the change in dynamics by changing body level and scarf movements with the music as follows:
    • Beginning: Seated, use a scarf to make small up down movements touching the floor to show soft dynamics
    • When higher strings enter (:50): On knees, scarf circles getting larger as the music gets louder
    • When snare drum enters (1:30): Stand, scarf figure 8’s. Use large movements to indicate the very loud dynamics
    • As music begins to get softer (1:50): Return to knees and scarf circles, circles getting smaller as the dynamics get softer
    • After second tuba solo (2:10): Return to sitting on floor and practice the small up-down movement, getting smaller with head and body slowly leaning down eventually touching the floor at the end.