How to teach kids classical music

For this week's CDZA musical experiment video, Joe Sabia and the Collective Cadenza musicians teamed up with children to explore one way to "teach the classics to students today"—have them sing their favorite contemporary pop music lyrics to the tune of classical compositions. In this video, young Alyssa Lower and Aiden Medina perform:

Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik meets LMFAO's Party Rock
Offenbach's "Can Can" meets Gaga's Bad Romance
Beethoven's Fur Elise meets Adel's Rolling in the Deep
Grieg's Peer Gynt Overture meets Carly Rae Jepson's Call Me Maybe
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony meets Katy Perry's "Wide Awake"
Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy meets One Direction's What Makes You Beautiful
Haydn's Surprise Symphony meets Justin Bieber's Baby
John William's Jurassic Park Theme meets Psy's Gangnam Style

Spoiler alert: it's pretty adorable.


  1. I have a better way. Give them an instrument!

    I’d start with a big set of cymbals. Everyone always wants to do the cymbals.

    … and the gigantic bass drum.

  2. I don’t know – exposure to actual classical music through parental interest and the aforementioned Warner Bros cartoons, was enough to do it for me. I think mixing up the Dvorak with Madonna would have been a waste of time.

  3. Why “classical” music?  Why not just music in general?  I grew up playing the cello, so I played a TON of classical music.  But I don’t want to listen to it, and I honestly don’t get why people get dressed up and go to classical music concerts.  Yes, I know the social aspects, status markers, etc.  But the whole idea that we privilege one type of music as superior, such that we use significant public subsidies in order that it not disappear is frankly mystifying.

    1. We don’t get dressed up.  That’s just in the movies.

      But we also don’t sing along with Lady Gagga lyrics.  These adorable children need to be reeducated.

      1. Clearly you’ve never been to a reasonably well known symphony orchestra performance, or to a “virtuoso” instrument recital, or to any of the countless events concerned with classical music and its performance, because many, many, many people really do get dressed up for such events, and even a decent number of said events expressly require it for admittance. There is a very real social affectation involved, a game of status and heirarchy and snobbishness in which music is contorted into a thing of the elite, a mark of “sophistication”, and I’ve personally witnessed it from both sides of the stage. It’s not remotely “just in the movies”.

        As per the concept of youth being interested in music? I also feel genre doesn’t matter. Expose kids to music – ANY music. It doesn’t matter what. Mexican Folklorico music? Sure! Aboriginal Drums? Why not! Vintage Bluegrass? Vintage Russian Ballets? Vintage Funk? French Minimalist Ambient Electronica? 1960s British Experimental Synth? 1920s Big Band? 1990s Ska? Grunge? Screamo? Crabcore? WHO THE FUZZ CARES! Just listen to whatever you enjoy, and if you like it enough try making some yourself!

        1. many, many, many people really do get dressed up for such events, and even a decent number of said events expressly require it for admittance.

          They really require it for admittance? Is that in the US? 

          Yes, many people do dress up, but then many people dress up to go clubbing or to rock concerts. I’ve never felt excluded at a ‘classical’ concert for not being dressed up- certainly not as excluded as I felt among the expensively-dressed goth kids at some gigs in the 80s.

          Incidentally, there’s a charity in the UK that teaches opera singing to homeless people. The participants also get tickets to see a performance of the opera they’re working on- in the best seats.

  4. Sorry, but these just do not work. I didn’t do anything but cringe. The idea is an interesting one, but I think if you made kids do this they’d just recoil straight back to the pop stuff even more forcefully. I do like BDiamonds comment about older Warner Bros. cartoons being a good way in.

  5. I thought the video was cute and I think the idea would be good in a class setting with, say, a third or fourth grade class – where they were old enough know the pop songs and also be familiar with the classical tunes. 

  6. First things first: Let’s get adults into Classical music, preferably without all the “Lexus Commercial” posturing that traditionally accompanies a fondness for the genre.

  7. When I was a kid I didn’t need gimmicks to like classical music, I think if you bring kids to an actual live concert of classical “hits” they will enjoy it, especially if you do it before they get into crappy kiddy pop music.  The live experience of classical music is intense, especially for something like Beethoven’s 5th, or Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” (basically anything compiled on those “Classical Thunder” cds they used to hawk on late night TV.)

  8. But how can we get kids involved in bluegrass, or gansta rap? Those asses won’t get caps popped in them themselves.

  9. My kids have really liked Beethoven’s Wig.  The first album contains most of the ones from this video, Beethoven’s 5th, The Can Can, Nachtmusik, Fur Elise, The Surprise Symphony, plus some other favorites, like the 1812 overture. The cd has all the versions with the lyrics, then the entire set again as in instrumental, so they can go from identifying the ones with lyrics to doing it without.   It only took a couple weeks of having it in the car for my 3yr old to be able to identify them all. 
    The one drawback, most of the songs are pretty earwormy. 

    “Please don’t play, your violin at night!/ Wolfgang, please, do turn out the lights”

  10. My wife teaches music in a Title I school, grades K-5. She doesn’t have any problems getting them interested. They like anything up tempo attached to a game (like finding when it returns to the tonic).

  11. “have them sing their favorite contemporary pop music”

    And then a list of utter pop crap I doubt any of them personally chose.

    And if they did? They need better parents.

  12. Slight problem: as any time spent in a karaoke bar can show you, most people don`t actually know the lyrics to their “favourite“ songs.

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