The Bing Nursery School has launched a three-part performance series in collaboration with the Department of Music to encourage an appreciation of the arts among young children.
The series—which began in October with a sold-out show for a performance of “Peter and the Wolf” narrated by Helen Bing—was created through a longstanding partnership between the Bing Nursery School and Jindong Cai, director of Orchestral Studies and associate professor of music.
“It was really sort of a collaborative effort between him and us, and he was always very generous bringing musicians to the school,” said Jennifer Winters, director of the nursery school. She added that the program has been funded thus far by donations.
Cai, whose two young children attended Bing Nursery School, has worked with the school to offer a variety of live performances since 2007, but this year marks the first formal performance series.
“After the kids left, I continued to help to do this project,” Cai said. “This time we wanted to put it into a series so people will have a program to look for it.”
Cai emphasized the important of exposing children to arts education at a young age.
“Arts are the most important part of education for kids to have,” he said. “We have this responsibility to explore arts for the students.”
Beth Wise, the assistant director of Bing Nursery School, shared similar feelings.
“I think early exposure to the arts is key in young children’s lives,” Wise said. “We want to encourage audience goers in the future. Hopefully they’ll attend when they’re older, with their children.”
However, to Cai, this means more than simply introducing them to music.
“My idea at the nursery school is to find programs that will more open their minds, open their thinking,” he said. “It’s more diverse. They not only explore music but also explore different cultures or different disciplines.”
Cai said there were many possibilities available for this performance series.
“We can bring dancers, we can bring instrumental players, we can bring different ethnic performing art forms from all over the world,” he said. “Whenever we have those groups come on campus, if we just take some initiative to connect them with the series, more people will benefit from it. Stanford has the advantage to connect with that and that’s what I’m here to do.”
Next quarter, the children and their families will be given the opportunity to see music and dance from Tibet. In the spring, Oran Etkin, a jazz/world musician, will perform for the children.
Cai works to make sure these performances engage his young audience.
“Different age groups have different needs,” he said. “You have to find the right art form, the right performance that they will like.”
Winters said that Cai’s understanding of the children helps him select the appropriate performances.
“He’s a gifted musician and conductor, but he also is really gifted in understanding children of that age,” she said. “He can relate to young children and that’s really special.”
And it seems to have paid off. Wise said that the students are excellent audience members and enjoy the performances they have been given the chance to attend.
“We really recognized that they had not only a love of this, but also a thirst for it,” Winters said, who said she hopes the performance series continues to grow in the future.
Contact Brittany Torrez at btorrez ‘at’ stanford.edu.