Before kids I loved hearing all types of live music, including hearing the National Symphony Orchestra. So I was excited to see that the NSO has family-friendly concerts most months at the Kennedy Center. I wasn’t sure what to expect but with a cold day ahead I decided to finally check it out with two of my kids, aged four and seven.
I was pleased to see that NSO Family Concerts are shorter than regular NSO concerts, at approximately one hour in length (with no intermission). While this may seem long for some kids, the NSO keeps things engaging for children. All NSO Family Concerts have a child-friendly theme, including teddy bear concerts and the Magic Horn.
The theme at the concert my family attended was Casey at the Bat and it was kept lively with the conductor wearing a variety of sports-themed outfits including boxing gloves and a Nationals jersey, four violinists dressed as bat girls acting out a comedy while Take Me Out to Ballgame played, and a former Nationals player reciting the story of Casey at the Bat to an original composition but the NSO conductor. Both of my children (a girl and a boy) were enraptured but the entire performance.
As a bonus, there is an instrument petting zoo before each performance where children can hold various orchestra instruments and learn about them. Most months there is also a “kids chat” with select NSO members after one performance which is indicated on the Kennedy Center’s website. Although my children were not selected to ask questions they enjoyed listening to other children’s’ questions and the answers. I found the exchange interesting as well!
Most tickets are $15 to $20 depending on seats and the specific performances. While NSO Family Performances are not held on a set schedule, performances are usually held every few weeks. Most performances are recommended for ages 5+ and run approximately 60 minutes but select performances for ages 3 to 5 are approximately 45 minutes. That said, my four year old had no problem sitting through one of the longer performances. Upcoming performances and themes can be found online.
An NSO Family Concert is a great introduction to the symphony and a great idea for a first trip the Kennedy Center!
- Upcoming performances include:
- NSO Family Concert: The Magic Horn on Sunday, March 29, 2015.
- NSO Teddy Bear Concert: Imagination Duo April 11 and 12, 2015.
- NSO Family Concert: Gershwin’s Magic Key on Sunday, April 26, 2015.
- NSO Ensemble Concert: Connections: Science & Math + Music on Saturday, May 2, 2015.
- NSO Kinderclassics: Beethoven at the Ballpark! on Saturday, May 9, 2015.
- NSO Teddy Bear Concert: Violins and Trombones and Bears, Oh My! on May 30 and 31, 2015.
- Instrument Petting Zoos usually begin about 45 minutes before the scheduled performance.
- There is paid parking at the Kennedy Center’s garage with slightly less expensive parking available in two garages across the street. Limited two hour street parking is also available in the blocks around the Kennedy Center.
- My family dressed very casually in jeans as did many others, but we also saw children dressed to the nines and in fancy dresses and ties, as well as children dressed according to the theme in baseball jerseys so really anything goes.
- The orchestra was much louder than my children expected so you may want to prepare your children in advance.
- Strollers may be brought right up to the doors of the concert hall and stroller parking is available.
Photo by Jamie Davis Smith.