When the ParentPal developers began envisioning a young child’s first experiences with music, they turned to the best person they knew for the job: William Weisbach. The goal was to create arrangements of classical and popular works that would be most meaningful to infants and toddlers. Weisbach had created, performed, and produced the music for the very popular Baby Einstein line of products. Plus, his experience as a composer and producer of award-winning media productions and sound design for such companies as Disney and Hasbro gave him the perfect credentials for this work.
ParentPal’s music makes use of Weisbach’s specially crafted arrangements, created with the specific purpose of introducing young children (and in some cases, their parents) to Classical music. Weisbach—a musical parent—explains, “When my son was an infant, I wrote lullabies for him. I initially worked them out on piano, putting considerable thought into what instrument sounds would best contribute to the moment, whether it was quiet time, nap time or bedtime.”
Will first considers the music’s basic mood, texture, and shape for his arrangements and orchestrations. He thinks about which instruments support his vision. Will they be plucked? Strummed? Struck? Blown? “I’ve learned a lot over the years by observing how parents and children respond to different instruments—whether they be toy instruments or orchestral instruments—so I do factor all that in when arranging,” says Weisbach.
Weisbach’s son grew up hearing Classical music and his dad’s arrangements. “He’s got a deep appreciation for many styles and forms of music, has developed a great ear for melody, and knows meter inside and out. He’s a prime example of a kid who’s been enriched by his early experiences.”
Weisbach has been collecting and creating his own instruments for many years. Inspired by many stories about first musical experiences in the kitchen beating on pots and pans, Weisbach created a “kitchen sink” percussion kit. “I actually got some pots and pans and created some shakers out of cans,” he said. “I also have some toys that I’m using as instruments. Toys become fun but viable musical voices; I’m having the kazoos, nose flutes, slide whistles, wind-up toys, and even an occasional squeaky toy join in.”
The ParentPal music experience lets young children hear and enjoy a wide range of classical music together with their parents. The related opportunities for movement, play, and singing create fun and memorable first experiences with music for a child.
Don’t have ParentPal? Enjoy these samples of Weisbach’s work.
“Sheep May Safely Graze” by Johann Sebastian Bach
The Hunting Cantata was written in 1713 to celebrate the 31st birthday of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfeis. The fourth aria, “Sheep May Safely Graze,” is its most familiar movement. The song’s words were pure flattery for Duke Christian, describing him as the “good shepherd” who guarded his sheep well (meaning the peasants), creating peace and harmony. The music has withstood the test of time, and today, more than 300 years later, is perfect for soothing your little one to sleep.
This piece evokes feelings of joy and excitement, and is the perfect music to accompany a movement and dance activity with your little one!
Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, 1st Movement by Johann Sebastian Bach
In 18th century Germany, musicians had to find jobs with either the nobility or the church. In 1717, a new king came to power in Berlin—Freidrich Wilhelm, a soldier. He had no use for music, so he disbanded the famous court orchestra and let go all the musicians. That meant some of the best musicians in Germany were looking for jobs. Bach’s boss in Cöthen, Prince Leopold, quickly snatched up several. Bach soon composed his Brandenburg Concertos for these virtuoso musicians.
5 quick steps for making a homemade percussion instrument
It’s fun and easy for your toddler or preschooler to make a shaker and move it to the beat of any of Weisbach’s pieces.
First, gather one or more of the following empty containers:
- Water bottle with cap
- Plastic Easter egg
- Paper towel or toilet paper cardboard core
- Gather masking tape, a stapler (if using a cardboard cord) and materials for decorating the shakers, e.g., stickers and color markers.
- Half-fill your container with rice, popcorn seeds, or small stones. (Note: If you’re using a cardboard core, flatten one end and staple or tightly tape it closed before attempting to fill it.)
- Securely tape or staple the other half of the cardboard core. Or, securely tape closed the two halves of the plastic egg. Or, securely tighten the bottle cap and then wind tape around it several times to ensure it doesn’t unscrew over time. Then, let the decorating begin!
- Play some music, and let your little one start shaking to the beat!