How Parents Instilled A 5-Year-Old’s Love For Beethoven

October 8, 2020
record player with child's hands musicrecord player with child's hands musicJames Hill
Alder Hill cueing up Beethoven’s 7th in the kitchen of his home in Nova Scotia, Canada.

A couple in Nova Scotia are passing their love of Beethoven to their young son by way of some old technology -- a record player.

His mom is Anne Janelle, a classically trained cellist, songwriter, performer, and teacher. When she was 13, growing up in British Columbia, a music teacher encouraged Janelle to try out for a city symphony orchestra. She was accepted and the first piece she performed in that orchestra was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

"This was a wonderful introduction to the symphonic repertoire," said Janelle. She still remembers the feeling of all those instruments playing together, like a community. She believes the success of that experience is what made her pursue a musical career. 

The boy's dad is James Hill, who is also classically trained on violin and viola, but a virtuoso on the ukulele. In many Canadian schools ukulele class is mandatory beginning in the 4th grade (much like the recorder is for some American schools). Hill travels the world performing and even wrote a classical piece for the ukulele called "One Small Suite for Ukulele: I. Allegro Con Brio. Hill and his father, former school teacher Barry Hill, created the first comprehensive ukulele teacher training program. 

The couple have exposed their 5-year-old son Alder to lots of music, in their kitchen in Nova Scotia, by way of a stereo turntable. Alder loves the reggae music of Bob Marley as much as he loves Beethoven, according to his dad. 

"At this stage in the game, I want to throw it all in a melting pot and just hear it and take it at face value. He’s got the rest of his life to draw boundaries between styles of music," Hill said.

Beethoven Symphony No 7 recordJames Hill
Record of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 recorded by Tonhalle Orchester Zurich, with conductor Otto Ackerman, around 1953. The LP was part of a “gifted” collection to Anne Janelle.

Alder is already quite good at identifying instruments. When his mother played the first movement of Beethoven’s 7th, he could identify the flute and the timpani even though the album, produced in the 50s, is a little scratchy from wear.

"Beethoven is a really fun entry point to classical music, I think," said Janelle. “It’s obvious when it’s a calm part or a sad part or when it’s a real angry part. I think kids can really identify with that emotional landscape.” 

When asked if he liked Beethoven’s music, Alder replied “Yes, I do. It’s exciting!” 

Alder can’t quite believe that Beethoven would be 250 years old if he were still alive.

“WHAT?!? That’s older than Gramps!”  he told his mom.

“Yes,” his mom said. "And we’re STILL listening to his music."

Janelle and Hill made a recording in their home studio in Nova Scotia for CPR Classical. They did their own arrangement of "O How Can I Be Blithe." It’s from a set of 25 Scottish folk tunes Beethoven arranged between 1812 and 1817. 

Listen below:

O How Can I Be Blithe

Read more about the famous composer

2020 marks 250 years since the birth of Ludwig Van Beethoven and CPR Classical celebrates! 

On CPR Classical every weekend Oct. 9 - Dec. 13: Fridays at 12:30 p.m., Saturdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.