The North Carolina Symphony has had a fantastic 2011-2012 season thus far, and what better way to start off the new year than by presenting a family-friendly matinee to introduce children to the concert hall? A part of the symphony’s Young People’s Concerts series [], this “Green Eggs and Ham” concert featured the first and last movements of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik as well as the original composition “Green Eggs and Ham” by conductor, composer, and host Rob Kapilow.

Kapilow is equated by The Boston Globe with Leonard Bernstein and his legendary enthusiasm for the education and entertainment of children at the symphony.Kapilow’s high energy and passion for music were evident in this concert: he not only made the music more relatable to the children but took the time to break down the music the Symphony played into melody, accompaniment (a word which he defined for the crowd and asked them to explain back to him later), and rhythm. He asked the audience members to raise their hands, answer questions, clap, sing, count, and even conduct, which the children really seemed to enjoy – as was made obvious by their continuing to conduct throughout the program!

“Green Eggs and Ham,” Kapilow’s composition based on the classic Dr. Seuss book, featured energetic, programmatic music including familiar tunes like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” that the children could grasp much more easily than the more “complicated” classical music that the NCS might play at other concerts. These musical references, as well as the energetic acting and singing of soprano Sherry Boone and boy soprano Nathan Brenn, helped make the whole program engaging and enjoyable.

Boone has performed in Glee, Gossip Girl, 30 Rock, My Fair Lady, Into the Woods, and other TV and Broadway shows but seemed to enjoy herself thoroughly during “Green Eggs and Ham” as the Grouch. Brenn – although still very young – is similarly well-credited, having played Kiddo in West Side Story on Broadway and read for several workshops of shows like Pan the Musical and The Music Man.

Props, lighting effects, and costumes aside, the concert was highly entertaining and a great way to introduce children to the world of classical music. Although there was a lot of fidgeting going on in the audience, the excitement these children had for the concert was almost overwhelming. I had the pleasure to sit next to a three-year-old boy and his grandmother, and it was almost more fun for me to listen to his comments and watch his almost continuous conducting throughout the concert. I highly recommend this experience to parents who want to do something a little different with their children on a Saturday than just going to see a movie or watch cartoons. The NC Symphony also participates in “Music Makers” exhibits on select Saturdays at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh.

The next in the Young People’s Concerts series will be “Bug Songs” on Saturday, March 10 at Meymandi Hall, downtown Raleigh, at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. For details, click here.