LA Phil’s Toyota Symphonies for Youth (& not so youth)

I wasn’t very familiar with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and I’m not exactly a classical music fan, but with the help of the Toyota Symphonies for Youth (TSY) series and the encouragement of my six year old daughter, I’ve learned a lot about the orchestra. This 2015/16 season, we purchased the TSY series for the first time. Our daughter was five at the beginning of the season and it was something I’d had my eye on for a few years. Finally, she was old enough to meet the cutoff age and three terrace seats at the Walt Disney Concert Hall were ours.

The TSY series consist of four concerts that begin at 11am and last a quick hour. The timing is perfect. Just as your child begins squirming, the grand finale will kick in and grab their attention one last time. What’s surprising, and only briefly mentioned, is the hour before the show. From 10am to 11am the Walt Disney Concert Hall is transformed into a fun maze of arts and crafts discovery. On the ground level, the largest of the arts and crafts areas is opened up for the primary project the kids can make prior to the show. The rest of the floors have surprises to explore.

Inspiration and art projects from Debussy’s La Mer performance.

Each show has a theme and the projects complement that theme. The third show presented Debussy’s La Mer (The Sea) and the projects were related to the ocean. The kids could make a collage of waves on the ground floor, then go up the stairs to enjoy some interpretive dance with fabrics mimicking waves. All the shows have one common, favorite spot to visit and that’s the instrument Petting Zoo. The Zoo, located in the outdoor garden, is a bustling spot where you can meet some of the musicians and see their instruments. Who doesn’t want to try their hand at the cello, the bongos, or a violin?

Petting a violin at the Instrument Petting Zoo.

After a bit of screeching and drumming, head back inside to wander the staircases and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy entering the Concert Hall. Our daughter stands in awe of the grand organ and loves watching the orchestra warm up. Walking into the Hall is always a treat and we try to get there early enough to give her a chance to take it in. Enjoying every bit of the music going experience is what these mornings are all about.

Getting to our seats is part of the fun!

The house lights dim and the stage takes on new life as the orchestra plays their first bars of Beethoven, Britten, or Debussy. Everyone is quiet with anticipation. The shows are not traditional, classical concerts. There are always twists or lively turns reminding us that we’re here for the Youth series. These additional performance aspects give younger or more novice listeners, like myself, an easier point of entry.

During the Beethoven concert, Immortal Beethoven: Ludwig’s Legacy, a revived Ludwig van Beethoven joined the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela on stage and guided them passionately and humorously throughout their performance. During City of Light: Debussy’s La Mer, a wayward beachgoer set up his tanning station on the stage and much to his surprise felt the power of the ocean’s waves without touching actual water, but rather though the music.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall creates programming that fosters music performance appreciation. The Symphonies for Youth series exemplifies that goal. By welcoming audience members of all ages, TSY helps listeners learn about the music being performed and most importantly, encourages us to enjoy it!

(Final shows this season are on April 9–10, 2016. Get tickets!)