Concerts and Events

Academy Tots from the Royal Academy of Music

On Friday my daughter and I attended a music class from the Royal Academy of Music: Academy Tots.

It is a music class aimed at 2-4 year olds which takes place every other week at 10.20am on a Friday morning. The class is run by students at the Royal Academy of Music and is part of a course those students are on to give them experience of running sessions like this. It was, therefore, free of charge, though places had to be booked in advance and participants are encouraged on the website to make a financial donation.

This is, I feel, a benefit of the pandemic. Before this happened there is no way that I could have taken my children to a class at the Royal Academy of Music because of where we live. Now for us that wouldn’t be too much of an issue as we live in Birmingham with Symphony Hall, the Town Hall, the CBSO Centre and many other wonderful venues only 15 minutes drive away, but if you live in an area without access to so many arts venues then being able to access virtual classes is fantastic.

On to the class itself:

We were admitted into the room after the class had begun and were greeted by one of the students waving hello (a nice touch which made my very excited little girl smile), before our screen showing two musicians performing an improvisation on French Horn and percussion. My daughter listened intently for a while. I did feel that this improvisation was a little long as it was for nearly 10 minutes at the start of the session. Children this age have very short attention spans, and are built to move as much as possible (I often comment to my family that my daughter especially is only still while she is asleep – and even that is not guaranteed), so a 10 minute listening experience is quite a difficult task for them. The hello song followed this improvisation.

The rest of the session took the form of a mix of children’s songs such as a nice peekaboo song set to the tune of What shall we do with a drunken sailor, a sleepy bunnies song Hop Little Bunnies Hop, Hop, Hop; hymns like Morning Has Broken – my daughter tried to copy the actions of the musicians she could see on screen which was very cute; and some further listening exercises for the children including getting them to take part in a unicorn ride to the Mozart Horn Concerto in E flat Major, to me this piece is always associated with Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox as it was used as the song for the bad guys in the book:

Boggs and Beyoncé and Bean

One fat, one short, one lean

These horrible crooks so different in looks

Were equally horrid and mean

We had a Roald Dahl story CD that was played in the car that had this song on, and that chorus pops into my head every time I hear the Horn Concerto!

The theme of the session was animals and before the class we were asked to bring our favourite stuffed animal, and the theming was evident in the music chosen and activities such as the unicorn ride. My daughter chose to bring 3 animals to the session (I must work on her working within a brief!), 2 that she insisted on referring to as Winnie the Pooh despite clearly being a general bear and a panda, and a unicorn. I loved the fact that each of the musicians had their own animal stuffed toy that they also introduced. The session leaders made some lovely attempts to get the children involved in the class with getting them to jump up and down, ride their unicorns and act like sleepy bunnies. They asked children lots of questions and were very engaging. Sadly there weren’t many children attending the session and of the children who were there two were under the suggested age range for the class. For our part, my daughter stopped wanting to join in at all after the sleepy bunnies task because she took it a bit too literally and decided she was going to remain a sleepy bunny for the rest of the session, and that was that!

The only criticism I would make of this class was that for children of this age I think it was a little long. The classes I taught were all 30 minutes long, and attending other classes as a parent with my children, the ones that were around 30 minutes were the best length. Any that lasted longer needed a break for just general play in the middle of them, just to match the children’s ability to concentrate, do one thing, and stay relatively still.

In future sessions it would be lovely to be advised to have a musical instrument – a shaker, a set of bells, or a saucepan with a spoon, to play along with some of the music.

I would recommend these sessions if you have a 2-4 year old at home with you on a Friday, it was a lovely thing to do to start the weekend off.

You can book a free ticket for this by following the link below:

Academy Tots, Royal Academy of Music

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