The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra: Activities for the Car

Explore the activities below with your child (ren) before arriving at Symphony Center–they’re perfect for your car or train ride downtown!

LISTEN before the concert, using our Spotify playlist. Access the playlist below or at this link. You can listen to the tracks freely, or you can explore the activities below for an enhanced listening experience.

*Note that a free account is required to use Spotify.


Your child will see many different instrument families at the concert today. Show him or her these pictures of each instrument family before you arrive. After finding your seats at the concert, ask your child if he or she can identify any of the instrument families!


Edwin Outwater

About the intersection between orchestral music and humor, Edwin says, “Being funny is about timing! It’s not only what you say or do, it’s how you time it. Try saying something funny with different timing and see how your friends react. Some classical music is funny too, and once again, timing is everything. The funniest moments in music often involve silence, and how I pause can often make the audience smile and even laugh!”

Guest Artist SPOTLIGHT

The Second City

Since opening its doors in 1959, The Second City has grown to become the world’s premier comedy club, theater, and school of improvisation, entertaining one million theatergoers a year around the globe. Alumni of The Second City’s resident stages, touring companies, and theatrical divisions include some of the biggest names in entertainment, and in addition to the sold-out shows playing nightly on resident stages in Chicago and Toronto, the comedy empire has staged productions with a wide range of illustrious creative partners and theater companies, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Goodman Theatre, Center Theater Group Los Angeles, Portland Center Stage, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, La Jolla Playhouse, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, and the Chicago Bulls.


Leonard Bernstein

  • Born on August 25, 1918, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. His birth name was Louis—the result of his grandmother’s insistence—Bernstein’s family preferred to call him Leonard, and many friends simply called him Lenny.
  • Bernstein began his career in 1943 as the assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, but was suddenly thrust into the spotlight when guest conductor Bruno Walter caught the flu and could not conduct the concert at Carnegie Hall. Bernstein saved the day by stepping in to conduct with only a few hours’ notice and without a single rehearsal! Eventually, Bernstein worked his way up to the coveted position of Music Director with the New York Philharmonic.
  • While working as the New York Philharmonic’s principal conductor, Bernstein collaborated with CBS to broadcast fifty-three Young People’s Concerts. This televised series, as well as Bernstein’s dedication to music education, has influenced orchestral music educators ever since.

Edvard Grieg

  • Born in Bergen, a seaport in Norway, on June 15, 1843. His first music teacher was his mother, who was a wonderful pianist. In fact, many members of the Grieg family were musical, so Edvard’s parents didn’t object when he wanted to be a musician.
  • As a teenager, Edvard was sent to study at the best music conservatory in Europe — the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany.
  • Grieg had an active career as a pianist, giving concerts all over Europe. But every summer, he came back to his beloved Norway to compose.
  • In 1875, Grieg wrote the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s play by the same name.

Benjamin Britten

  • Born in Lowestoft, a town on the English seacoast in 1913. His birthday, November 22nd, happens to be the same day of the patron saint of music, St. Cecilia.
  • Benjamin’s father was a dentist; his mother loved to sing, and regularly held concerts in their home. From the moment he started playing the piano, Britten knew he wanted to earn his living as a composer. His first paying job was writing music for films.
  • In 1945, Benjamin Britten was asked to write music for a children’s film that explained all of the different instruments of the orchestra. Afterward, he took this movie music and turned it into a concert piece called The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. His inspiration for this composition was a tune by his favorite composer, Henry Purcell. Britten then wrote a set of variations on that tune. Each variation slightly changes the melody and features a different instrument, or group of instruments, in the orchestra.