Here in Portland, we are lucky that there are so many ways to take advantage of kids’ early love of music, from music classes to a vibrant kindie music scene. Portland Youth Philharmonic’s Family Concert series is one of the city’s musical gems—an engaging, family-friendly way to introduce our youngest kids to classical music.

I took my daughter, Maggie, and her friend, Zoë, to this year’s concert, held at Miller Hall in the World Forestry Center, a lovely and comfortable venue with high wood-beam ceilings and views of the trees. Its open floor seating allowed kids to bring cushions and blankets, to sit and watch, or to move about and dance.


We arrived early to try out the instrument petting zoo set up in the lobby by Kennedy Violins. Kids received an activity sheet where they could place a sticker for trying each instrument, and had a chance to play a violin, a viola, a cello and a bass. The areas around each instrument were sometimes crowded since there were so many sweet photo ops. But PYP members and folks from Kennedy Violins were helpful and friendly, and the girls loved filling in their sheet with the stickers they earned.


At the beginning of the program, Inés Voglar Belgique, the Young String Ensemble Conductor, gave an overview of the instruments. Then each group played by section, giving the audience a chance to hear violin, viola, cello and bass on their own.

The program moved quickly along, matching bright and energetic pieces with just the right amount of introduction and explanation in between. Kids were dancing throughout, in particular during the “Zombie Tango” and the orchestra’s closing piece, “Happy” from Despicable Me 2.

At 45 minutes, the length was just right, holding the attention of the youngest audience members while wowing the adults with a polished and sophisticated performance. We were treated to Belgique, who is also the Assistant Principal Second Violin at the Oregon Symphony, joining her students to play the violin and bass.


Before you head out, consider parking and traffic in Washington Park, which can be challenging year round. But even if we were a little frazzled coming in, the rich and impressive music, a well-timed activity sheet, and some dancing to “Happy” had us recharged and ready for the rest of our day.

Portland Youth Philharmonic regularly hosts performances around Portland metro, including a Family Friendly Concert on May 13 at the Firstenburg Community Center in Vancouver.

Michelle Carew
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