The best behaved audience

By Eleanor Hodgkinson  -  03 March 2015

If anyone had told me when I was at music college that giving a recital to a noisy, mobile and unpredictable audience would form a highlight of my working week, I'd have laughed at them.  Yet this is exactly how to describe the concertgoers of Leicestershire’s BabyGigs series for under 5s and their carers.

© Lunamarina | - Spectator Children Looking At The Show Photo

Last year, after a move to Leicestershire and with 2 small children of my own, I decided it was time for BabyGigs to be born! BabyGigs is about a desire to bring live music into the Under 5s community in the form of informal concerts.  As a mum I know all the practicalities that need to be negotiated and also what appeals to parents looking for activities for their little ones.  The concerts have never been about musicians trying to perform their “adult stuff” to a room of babies.  Equally we never only play nursery rhymes and TV/Film themes.  Instead the musicians play a mixture of classical, jazz and popular repertoire, all in good arrangements that will engage the children.  We might play games with the music to encourage participation, or introduce props to aid interaction. But sometimes we let the children listen - and listen they do!  A room of babies sat still for 10 minutes of bass trombone music –not Star Wars, but an entire concerto!  Other toddlers did free improvisation with a clarinet. Parents are consistently astonished by their children's reactions to the music, often in disbelief that the children can concentrate so fully at such a young age. 

Research suggests that there is a strong possibility that the origin of language is in music, with music-like utterances being the precursors of speech sounds. Babies respond to intonation in speech before they understand words. If you listen to a child learning to speak, there are musical patterns or phrases that they have long before words are distinct. Equally, physical responses such as rhythmic swaying and bobbing happen instinctively in reaction to music. It appears that there is an innate musicality in mankind which makes it unsurprising that babies and children are so receptive to music. Music has rhythm and melody, and kids love to explore these concepts physically which they are encouraged to do at BabyGigs. Our concerts have a huge range of instruments - violin, clarinet, bass clarinet, trombone, flute, oboe, harp, guitar, piano....and expanding. Parents and children love the variety and the fact they can see and touch the instruments. 


The appeal of childrens’ concerts is huge in the UK and the BabyGigs venture has swiftly established itself in Leicestershire, a testament perhaps to the appreciation of the importance of music in our culture. So why do I find this atypical audience so appealing? Simply put, it's because they respond honestly to the music with no pre-conceptions. It is an amazing privilege to present a child’s first experience of live music: communicating in this environment hones music to what it's all about. These concerts constantly remind me of the wonder of music and how important it is to enable people to hear live music at as young an age as possible ...after all they are the musicians of the future! 

About Eleanor Hodgkinson

Eleanor is a professional pianist, professor of piano at the Royal Academy of Music and founder of BabyGigs

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