At the urging of my sister-in-law, who did her internship with the Kimmel Center’s PR department, I left my western suburban home with my husband and 18-month old son for the big city. Newbies to the area, we set out for adventure, entertainment and fun. We found all three during a morning with the Kimmel Center’s PNC Grow Up Great program. I was immediately struck by the building’s beauty – a stoic modern architectural feat amidst the historic establishments of Philadelphia. We hadn’t gotten much further than the doorway when Ethan’s eyes became wide – the way the light reflected off of the seemingly never-ending glass, the colorful curved chairs that invited play, the hustle and bustle of patrons coming and going.
We made our way to the stage to hear from Artistas y Músicos Latino Americanos. Puzzle piece mats were scattered in front of the stage as seats for children, and Ethan chose – instead of sitting on one – to piece them all together. Soon, the band members introduced themselves and everyone took their seats (with the exception of the occasional stair-climbing baby and music enthusiasts already starting to sway to the anticipated music.
What we expected was an hour of music; what we got was the history of the Puerto Rican people, details on the great work of local inner city music programs, hands-on learning about instruments, and a rich cultural experience – which of course, included beautiful music evoking a range of emotions.
We learned the complicated rhythms of the castanets – originally made from seashells – and the unique sound of an audience favorite, the cuatro puertorriqueño. We danced, we tried our hand at leather-clad maracas (not at all like the plastic ones we have at home), and listened carefully as each instrument’s origin and role in the ensemble were explained. The children were mesmerized, and I was so thrilled to see men and women young and old, black and white, Hispanic and Puerto Rican, in the crowd. Two weeks later I read this New York Times article about higher-than-ever screen time for kids – with 12% of kids ages 2-4 using a computer every day. I was immediately thankful for having access to culturally rich programming, countless experiential opportunities in a historic city, and interaction with a diverse population from which my family can learn and grow.
By the end, Ethan had decided to harmonize with the ensemble, adding his own vocal flair. Our morning came to a close with a walk around the city, hot drinks in hand to combat the howling wind. We are eager to explore more musical productions at The Kimmel Center – and the high caliber (and no cost!) of the Grow Up Great series is proving to be a great treat.
Jessica Covello is the interim director of marketing & communications at The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr,Pa. Mom to a curious, daredevil 19-month old, Jessica’s life revolves around her son’s latest adventures and subsequent bruises and boo-boos.