Professor Gives Bach to School Children

— Advises How Parents Can Instill Appreciation for Classical Music at Home —

FLUSHING, N. Y., March 22, 2012 – “You’re never too young to learn to appreciate classical music,” says Maxine Fisher, Queens College English literature professor and director of the N.Y./Paris Exchange Program.  She should know.  Fisher, who grew up in Maspeth, fell in love with classical music at an early age.  And now as a labor of love, she’s bringing free classical musical concerts to elementary and middle schools in Queens as part of a program she has created called “Bach to School.”  Fisher created the program with the support and enthusiasm of Edward Smaldone, director of QC’s Aaron Copland School of Music (ACSM). 

Fisher recalls her mother playing old opera recordings at home and taking her by bus and subway in the heat of summer to free classical concerts in Manhattan before she even started school. She advises parents to listen with their children to recordings of classical music – especially ballets and symphonic suites that tell a story such as Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite” and “Swan Lake,” Stravinsky’s “The Firebird,” and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”

There are also radio and television stations that specialize in classical music programming, says Fisher, such as WQXR-FM, New York’s public radio station.  “Even just a few minutes of listening each day with your children will have a great impact on their musical appreciation for years to come,” says Fisher.  The PBS network offers “Great Performances,” a series of six concerts broadcast live from Lincoln Center each year, which brings the world’s greatest artists to millions of home viewers.  In addition, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra performs free live outdoor evening concerts each summer in several borough parks. 

Fisher, who feels that music education is not a high enough priority in schools, devotes hours of her own time preparing for her Bach to School concerts. She makes the classical pieces interactive, fun and easy to understand by guiding her audience of young children on the basic things to listen for, e.g.: a recurring melody, or two instruments “speaking (the same refrain) to each other.”  Fisher turns the experience into a game, and her payback comes when an audience of young children – “most of whom have never heard a classical piece” – raise their hands excitedly when they “get it.”

Bach to School’s inaugural performance was held for first-through-eighth- graders last December at St. Stanislaus School in Maspeth, and featured a pianist and a Julliard-trained violinist who is studying for a Master of Arts degree in Music at Queens College.  Fisher had raised money to pay the musicians with help from Smaldone.

Thanks to a $1,500 grant from the Queens College Foundation, Fisher will be able to give free concerts this spring at public schools in East Elmhurst, Woodside and Middle Village with musicians from ACSM. 

For more about Queens College visit Phyllis Cohen Stevens
Deputy Director of News Services


Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services