Top Billing: Grand Central Kids

March will be filled with music, thanks to the Kids on Central concerts at the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains. These concerts are designed to teach children about the different instruments that comprise an orchestra — not only by hearing the instruments played, but by playing along with the musicians as well.

Kids on Central is a collaboration between the Conservatory and the Westchester Philharmonic that began three years ago. Each concert focuses on instruments from a particular section of the orchestra. The two concerts this month will be about woodwinds and strings, hence their titles, “Into the Woodwinds” (oboe, flute, clarinet, saxophone and bassoon), and “The String Thing” (violin, viola, cello and bass). The concerts are open to all children and their families, but are especially geared to kids ages 5-10.

Dr. Jean M. Newton, dean of students and faculty at the Conservatory explains, “Kids on Central allows children to get a wonderful introduction to the different instruments of the orchestra — what they sound like, how they are played. They also have an opportunity to hear a live music performance in a child-friendly setting. This opportunity can spark their interest in music and in learning to play an instrument.”

The idea for the series originated with the Conservatory’s previous director, Lisa Deutsch, who had also served in the same post at the Philharmonic. “The collaboration has been quite successful and benefits both organizations,” says Dr. Newton. “It really helps highlight the importance of music and music education in children’s lives.”

At a recent Kids on Central concert entitled “The Big Bang” (which focused on the orchestra’s percussion section), the audience was filled with budding musicians and their families eager to explore various sounds with the performers, Matt Ward and Joe Tompkins of the Westchester Philharmonic. There were various instruments onstage, both conventional and exotic: marimba, cymbals, conga, bongo drums, and a djembe (a hollow, wooden African drum). Ward and Tompkins discussed each instrument and presented musical pieces. They played a piece on the marimba and djembe that made for an especially lively rhythm. Tompkins described how certain percussive rhythms have merged to form familiar beats; the African clave rhythm, for instance, evolved into the Latin salsa rhythm. The musicians then demonstrated the snare, bass drums and cymbals — “parade” instruments — and played a short piece on them. They also played a portion of the song “Moby Dick” by Led Zeppelin to demonstrate the sound of a conventional drum set used by rock bands.

Towards the end of the program, the children happily got to play some music themselves. Each child was given a plastic bucket, tambourine or maracas to accompany the musicians who led them in a rousing musical finale.

Where: The Music Conservatory of Westchester, 216 Central Avenue, White Plains
When: Sunday, March 5 (Into the Woods); Sunday, March 26 (The String Thing). Both concerts begin at 2pm and are approximately 40 minutes long.
How much: $10
For more info: Call (914) 761-3900 (Westchester Conservatory) or go to (Westchester Philharmonic)