Child’s Play

A Pint-size Journey Into Musical Instruments, In Honor of Austria’s Legendary Wunderkind

On The Town | Margaret Childs | October 2006

A crowd of children mingles outside the "Resounding Mozartmobil," wide eyed and eager. Tunes from the magic flute provide the 18th century flair as parents guide their offspring to their chosen instrument.

"I wanna try this one" five year old Valerie squeals. Violin in hand, she beams as it responds valiantly to her enthusiastic scratching.

The musical bus was sent to Vienna from Berlin at the direction of German conductor Gerd Albrecht, with the goal to bring children closer to music.

"Usually children are never allowed to touch musical instruments," one of the Mozartmobil team explains. But in this bus they can try everything from tubas to violins.

Albrecht has always had a soft spot for children and opened the Museum of Sound in Hamburg in 1989, where many children and adults have discovered a passion for making music.

After the museum’s great success, a second site was opened in Berlin in 2002 from which the "Resounding Mobil" emerged, bringing the Museum to schools, nurseries and street festivals.

The Mozart year 2006 provided the opportunity to bring the bus to Vienna with trained music teachers in tow, to celebrate music and Mozart.

"Who knows why we’re celebrating Mozart?" organizer Birgit Reithofer asks. "He makes music, and he’s famous," one girl offers. "Its his 250th birthday!" another girl exclaims. "I learned that in school!"

One puzzled boy, holding a clarinet, looks perplexed and asks, "Well, where is he now?"

"Most of the kids know who Mozart is," co-organizer Veronika Pengg explains, "and when we go to schools we do more Mozart. But when the kids are constantly coming and going, we can’t keep their attention."

A little girl’s eyes and pigtails peek over the edge of a relatively enormous chello as she strains to reach the strings with the bow.

"See mommy, I can do it!" Its clear that for many of these children, the Mozart bus is the first opportunity for them to experience musical instruments up close.

At the door of the bus, one Mozart team member holds a miniature tuba called a Euphonium for a 7 year old who can’t seem to make her lips the right shape. Finally she blows with all her might and is rewarded with a deep resonant tone.

"Oh wow!" her mother cheers. The girl smiles ecstatically. "I wanna do it again!"

Schools and youth centers often do not have a wide variety of instruments available, so the "Resounding Mozartmobile" compliments music instruction and preschool music training, which according to the Mozart team, can have a lasting effect on the music class.

"I like the violins best," six year old Valerie said, before her four year old brother Konstantin interupted.

"My favorite is the one that you hang around your neck and blow into it," he announced. Of course, the saxophone.

The Mozartmobil team also answers questions about the workings and history of musical instruments.

When asked if they would like to learn to play the instruments most were hesitant. But a few admitted that they would, "make my mommy buy me one."

Other articles from this issue