The flitting melody of violin brings an unpredictable journey to life in “The Flight of the Bumblebee.”

A joyous allegro of instruments punctuates Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals.” The transition from spring to summer, fall to winter is happily turned into music through Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

To get children interested in the symphony orchestra, you need to create a musical world that appeals to them, said Ruth Wolff, director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Learning Community.

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“You have to do it a way that’s engaging to their needs. Being able to move, not feeling that they’re committed to sitting in a seat for 40 minutes,” she said. “They have to be able to experience the music in a way they feel compelled to.”

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is bringing a kid-friendly series of concerts to a pair of Johnson County libraries this spring. The Teddy Bear concert series will feature small ensembles of five musicians performing special programs aimed at preschool and kindergarten-aged children.

Participants and their families are encouraged to follow along with original stories that implement familiar orchestral pieces with movement and play-acting.

“The goal is to give them a taste of high-quality musicians and one of their first experiences with music in a live setting that excites them and engages them, to really set the fire to begin loving music,” said Megan Masterman, program coordinator for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Learning Community. “It’s really a great combination of listening to a story and then getting up and listening to the music.”

By coming to communities beyond downtown Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra can reach a new, younger audience, while libraries can offer programming for people who have maybe never experienced this type of music.

“We don’t have violins, but our mission is to strengthen our community by connecting people with resources and experiences, and this is a great experience,” said Chris Kolderup, children’s services manager at the White River branch of the Johnson County Public Library. “I would say most kids don’t have an extra violin laying around at home, so this is a great chance to play one and learn about one.”

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra started the Teddy Bear series in 2014, growing out of existing early childhood education program. The first year, the concerts revolved around an original story, “The Giant’s Violin.” Written by Victoria Griswold, a violinist for the orchestra, the program implemented orchestral music while introducing preschoolers to the instruments of the orchestra through story and movement, in addition to music.

Different programs also implement different instruments to give kids and families wide exposure to all that the orchestra is, Wolff said.

Griswold has written a new story for this year’s series of concert. “The Garden Symphony” follows a ladybug’s search through a garden for her own special song.

Children are invited to help the ladybug through different movement activities, engaging them further into the music, Griswold said.

“In all of the stories, I wanted to take a few of the instruments from the orchestra to introduce to them. Most of my stories have a child in them with a musical dilemma, and the stories rhyme because musically, I think children that age like that rhyming and that rhythm,” she said.

While a majority of the performances take place at the Central Library in Indianapolis, the program has also migrated to surrounding communities.

Concerts in Avon and the Center Grove area last year drew hefty crowds, enough so that the symphony has expanded to include a performance at the Carmel Clay Public Library.

During the performance at the White River branch of the Johnson County Public Library in July, kids were able to not only listen to symphony music, but see what the instruments look like and try to make music themselves.

“That’s how kids learn, by touching and playing with something,” Kolderup said. “This is not normally the type of experiences that kids can see here.”

The orchestra will again be at the White River branch, with another concert at the library’s Franklin branch.

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra has regularly brought special concerts and programs to Johnson County, among other communities throughout central Indiana.

Through its 317 series, it played full-orchestra shows at Mount Pleasant Christian Church, Center Grove High School and Mallow Run Winery, in addition to being involved with schools and other programs.

With a mission that includes educating people about symphonic music, it is important to come out to where the people are, Masterman said.

“It’s incredible for young kids to hear such world-class musicians and see them up close,” she said. “I think people take it for granted, but it’s really a special opportunity to interact with those musicians.”

If you go

Teddy Bear Series Concerts

What: A special program aimed at preschool and kindergarten-aged children that brings family-friendly concerts to different communities.

Who: The series is organized by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, which provides five musicians to perform original stories and musical excerpts.

Local performances

March 18: 11 a.m., “The Garden Symphony,” White River branch of the Johnson County Public Library, 1664 Library Blvd., Greenwood.

April 1: 11 a.m., “The Giant’s Violin,” Franklin branch of the Johnson County Public Library, 401 State St.

Cost: Free

Information: or

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.