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With Kids: The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra's Children's Arts Festival

Elliott Haney, 2, at last year's instrument petting zoo at the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra's Children's Arts Festival.
Elliott Haney, 2, at last year's instrument petting zoo at the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra's Children's Arts Festival. (By John Lawther)
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By Jessica Claire Haney
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, June 5, 2009

How often do children get to test-drive a cello, tuba and xylophone? The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra's annual Children's Arts Festival offers a rare treat for the ears -- and the eyes and hands.

The multi-sensory arts fest Sunday at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria features a "petting zoo" of 20 instruments, interactive art stations staffed by professional artists and a concert.

Although the festival is geared toward ages 4-11, a local Suzuki teacher suggested that the event would be a good place to expose my toddler to instruments. Last year at the petting zoo, my son swept a silver xylophone up and down its double tiers. He grew contemplative with the strings, giggly with the bells and the bass drum, and tactile with the trumpet, more interested in pressing the buttons than in blowing. (Antibacterial wipes are used for mouthpieces, but be warned: Earplugs are not provided.)

For hands-on activities of a different sort, the Torpedo Factory Art Center and the Art League of Alexandria will offer interactive art stations, Del Ray Artisans will teach children how to silkscreen movie posters and symphony staff members will be on hand to help budding musicians create instruments out of cardboard, balloons and rubber bands.

The concert will showcase music from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "The Fellowship of the Ring," among other works. The family-friendly, interactive vibe offers a great chance to get your feet wet as members of a classical music audience. And as part of the "Adventures in Music" theme, concertgoers big and small are encouraged to dress up as their favorite adventurer.

Children's Arts Festival Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall, Northern Virgnia Community College, 3001 N. Beauregard St., Alexandria. 703-548-0885. http://www.alexsym.org. Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. $5. Free parking.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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