Are you familiar with the concept of a petting zoo? Simply put, it is a place where people (mostly children) can interact with domesticated animals by touching and feeding them. It could be a great learning experience as it not only brings inner-city kids closer to nature, but also teaches them to be kind and gentle to our four-legged friends. (In New York, there’s a small but friendly petting zoo in Central Park)
Now, there are also other venues that provide a similar hands-on experience, minus the furry creatures: musical instrument petting zoos! This may sound like something we just made up, but we assure you that such places not only exist, but there are plenty of them.
You may think that a venerable institution like the National Symphony Orchestra, which performs at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C, is not a kid-friendly place. However, as part of its education and community outreach programs, the Orchestra runs a Petting Zoo, where children have a chance to touch and handle the orchestral instruments professional musicians play. The purpose of this exercise is obvious: it gives the kids who may not otherwise be exposed to musical instruments a unique opportunity to touch “the real thing” and spark their interest in music. True, a tuba or a cello may not be as soft and cuddly as a baby goat, but the inspirational value behind the “up-close-and-personal” interaction with a musical instrument should not be underestimated. The National Symphony Orchestra is just one of numerous organizations around the country that run such programs, including some in NYC.
American blues composer and musician W.C. Handy once said: “Setting my mind on a musical instrument was like falling in love. All the world seemed bright and changed.” Handy eventually learned to play the piano, trumpet, and guitar, earning the title of “The Father of Blues.” We are guessing that in his lifetime, at the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, there was no abundance of petting zoos, so Handy most likely chose his instruments based on affinity. Today’s youngsters have so many more choices. At an instrument petting zoo, they are not only exposed to music, but they also get to know some really cool things about the instruments. For instance:
It goes without saying that a musical instrument should never be chosen randomly in the “eeny, meeny, miny, mo” manner. It would serve your children well to “get acquainted” with different instruments before picking one that suits them best. The next logical step is finding the best teacher in New York City – one who is “fluent” in an instrument of your choice – to guide your child through the exciting musical journey. We can help! Whether you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Riverdale, our instructors will happily come to your home or office – and even pet your sheep, if you have one!