Even though I helped raise three spectacular daughters, I have never been drawn to the idea of playing children’s concerts. But earlier this year, I was commissioned to write a new string quintet for a regular Takoma Park, Maryland, kiddie event called “Peanut Butter & Jam Sessions.” My first instinct was to write something harmonically and melodically simple. But aside from it being a boring task, I realized that it probably wouldn’t work for this concert. The “Pixar” model of bi-level sensibilities is what kids—and their parents—expect now. So in the end I wrote a pretty interesting piece that had enough surprises in it for a three-year-old, enough musical meat in it to hopefully be satisfying for the adults in the audience, and just enough of a technical challenge for the quintet. The Takoma Ensemble string quintet also performed the third movement of my Three Completely Workable Perpetual Motion Devices. What fun! The players did an outstanding job with both pieces, and I discovered something about children’s concerts that hadn’t occurred to me (or that I had forgotten): music has an instant visceral impact on kids. Just hearing live music makes them fall on the floor—rolling and laughing. I’ve had some great nights in my life, but I can’t remember hearing my work played for a more appreciative crowd. A big thank-you to Maestro Vicki Gau for making this happen, and to the string quintet who took the work so seriously, while clearly enjoying the day.

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