Little Listeners at the Library introduces children to music and instruments

Philip Kates lets a child from the Vail Public Library try his hand at plucking the violin strings at the Bravo! Vail Little Listeners Program at the Library.
Cheer! Vail Music Festival / Courtesy Photo

Beyond what you see on stage at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, the Bravo! Vail Music Festival connects with the community in several ways. To reach young people in the Vail Valley, Bravo! Vail hosts the Little Listeners at the Library program throughout the festival.

“This is a very popular series at Bravo! Vail Music Festival for young audiences from all over the Vail Valley. Here we invite professional musicians who perform with the festival at the Ford Amphitheater to come and perform more intimate room aimed at children ages two through elementary school and their families,” said Amara Sperber, Programs Coordinator at Bravo! Vail Music Festival.

Three musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra led the Little Listeners at the Library program, a group of about 50 people at the Vail Public Library on a Thursday afternoon. Children of all ages, even babies, were treated to the sounds of Philip Kates on fiddle, Elizabeth Masoudnia on oboe and English horn, and Matthew Vaughn on trombone and small tuba.

Cheer! Vail’s Little Listeners at the Library is a free program, but registration is required at
Tricia Swenson / Daily Vail

Kates caught the children’s attention while playing a familiar tune. Ears perked up as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” filled the room and attention focused on Kates. He talked about tempo and what tempo works best for a happy song or a sad song. He told the children the story of an ox pulling a large cart and asked the children what kind of tempo should be used for this scene.

“Slow!” cried the children in unison.

Education and commitment are two things that Bravo! Vail aims to inspire musical curiosity. That’s great! Vail’s mission is to share the joy and power of music and inspire lifelong learning. The power of the music came into the room as even crying babies were lulled into a mesmerized gaze as the sounds of instruments filled the space.

Elizabeth Masoudnia taught the children the oboe and English horn, which she let the children know is neither English nor horn, and played higher and faster songs with the oboe and higher notes. slower and deeper with the English horn. She also showed them the reeds she makes and uses for her wind instruments.

Matthew Vaughn had fun making funny noises with his trombone and introduced the children to the little tuba he brought and described how sounds are formed via the mouthpiece and how horns depend more on vibration than breath . He also showed little listeners how he can manipulate the sounds coming out of the horn bell using a mute or a familiar household object: the base of a piston.

Matt Vaughn demonstrates the range of notes the trombone can produce.
Tricia Swenson / Daily Vail

“But I promise you that plunger has never been used in the toilet,” Vaughn said as the kids laughed at the bathroom joke.

The trio then reunited and played for a few minutes before the program ended. It’s a 30-minute opportunity to introduce children to music and instruments in an accessible way.

“Parents love it. I think what’s so amazing about this series. It’s often a student’s first encounter with classical music and it’s presented at such a high level, by the musicians at Bravo Vail, making it an even more lasting impact on students who might be interested in learning to play.

Kids can win stickers at each of the eight Little Listeners at the Library shows.
Tom Cohen/Courtesy Photo

The Little Listeners program travels to Vail Public Library, Avon Public Library, Eagle Public Library, and Gypsum Public Library. It’s also free, just sign up at to make sure they have enough room for everyone. To learn more, visit

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