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Violinist's Stamford Talks Make Music Fun for Kids

STAMFORD, Conn. – With MP3 players and online downloads seemingly everywhere, America might be in danger of raising a generation that doesn't know what live music is all about. Leah Potteiger wants to make sure that doesn't happen.

The violinist is using the MusiKids lecture series before Sunday matinee performances by the Stamford Symphony to show young people that classical music can not only be beautiful, but fun, too. And this isn't just dry music appreciation series – it's a program that gets the kids actively involved in learning about what they're going to hear later.

"They don't just sit there and listen to someone talk," said Potteiger, a graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music who teaches in New York City at schools that don't have in-house music programs. "They're always doing something, dancing or singing. We've done tangos and syncopated rhythm body percussion. It's all driven by the music."

And it's not just the youngsters who benefit. "I think the parents have just as much fun," said Potteiger. "They tell me they listen differently after attending a lecture."

Potteiger, whose connection to Stamford developed through her work with fellow violinist Jann Klose, focuses on the basics during the 45-minute presentations preceding the afternoon concerts at the Palace Theater. "We don't get into technicalities," she said. "We try to prepare them for what they're going to hear. There's a little bit of concert etiquette, when to applaud and so forth, but basically we focus on what to listen for in the music. What story was the composer trying to tell?

"We play games, and there's an occasional raffle or contest for something like an ice cream party," Potteiger continued. "We'll hand out glow bracelets for the kids to wear during the performance. Our goal is to show that going to a concert can be fun."

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