The Symphony Tales program is a music and literacy educational program geared to children ages four through seven. In the Symphony Tales program, children attend a reading of a popular children’s book while being accompanied by a live musical performance by a New Bedford Symphony Orchestra musician.
The Symphony Tales program is unique, in that the music is composed speciﬁcally to imitate the prosodic elements of the text, such as stress, pitch, contour, rhythm and tempo. This concept of linking the prosody in text and music is based on current ﬁndings in cognitive psychology that show that music and language have a shared neural perception system and have strong similarities in syntax and semantics processing. Thus, music perception skills can strongly contribute to the development of linguistic skills such as phonemic awareness and phonological memory.
During the Symphony Tales program, the children hear the book performed with a narrator and musician. Following the performance, the children are led in several interactive activities designed to further develop the children’s ability to perceive prosodic elements in the text while using only the sounds of the instrument. Literally, it is as if the instrument is speaking the words of the text, with all inﬂection, but without speciﬁc word meaning attached. For example, in one activity the instrument performs a single sentence or excerpt from the story. The children must listen to the prosodic cues in the music in order to identify and then echo back the same phrase using words and motions on stressed syllables. At the end of the program, we bring the children up to play a cello that is sized just for them!
Many other musical story times exist throughout the country where the music is used to enhance a story, or relate to a theme or character in a book. However, Symphony Tales is the only program that develops the musical aspect of the program in a way that connects the prosodic elements in the text to the prosodic elements in the music. Indeed, it is through these two representations, that children can develop their prosodic perceptive skills that are so vital in the development of beginning readers.
The Grannyman by Judith Schachner. tells the endearing story of an old cat who ﬁnds new purpose in life as he takes a new kitten under his wing.
This piece was composed for solo violin and narrator. At the end of the performance, children have an opportunity to try a tiny violin sized just for them!
Scritch-Scratch a Perfect Match
Scritch-Scratch a Perfect Match was the premier book for the Symphony Tales program. Author Kim Marcus tells an amusing story of a pesky ﬂea who decides to hitch a ride on an unsuspecting pup. Through his journey to rid himself of this ﬂea, a new friendship is formed between the pup and a helpful man.
This piece was composed for solo cello and narrator. At the end of the program, children are able to play on a cello that is sized just for them.