When saxophonist Davey Yarborough's daughter, Davie, was born, he put a piano in her bedroom. It was part of his belief that sometimes parents simply should expose a child to music and then sit back to watch what happens.
One evening, Yarborough, the director of jazz studies at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in the District, heard then-3-year-old Davie pecking at the piano keys. He didn't get up and go into her room. He just listened.
"When they are young," he says, "their minds are very open."
Yarborough and his wife, vocalist Esther Williams, had been thinking about Davie and music even before she was out of the womb. Williams, who performs with her husband, continued to do shows until a few weeks before giving birth, and the couple regularly played John Coltrane, Johnny Hartman and Chopin for their daughter.
Today, Davie, a freshman at George Washington University, has a deep appreciation of music, her parents' ultimate goal.
"They had a big influence on me because I heard them playing the music," says Davie, who listens to "all types of music," from hip-hop to the classic jazz of singers such as Billie Holiday.
There is nothing new about her parents' approach to trying to shape her musical ear. Educators and others agree that early and regular exposure is the key to developing a child's true appreciation for music.
The Washington Conservatory of Music, for example, has classes for children as young as 2. "You should just have music in the background to whatever they are doing," Maribeth Gowen, a conservatory instructor and pianist, says of cultivating children's musical interest. "Once they become more physically coordinated, provide them with instruments."
Those instruments could be just about anything, she says. "I love the idea of them exploring the music using pots and pans on the floor."
Christopher Desrocher, a fellow conservatory instructor and a professional trombone player, believes the early approach has important practical applications as well.
"Music is a model for life," he says. "Even if they are not performing it, it is still very valuable." He adds that the experience of playing music with others can help children learn discipline, self-confidence and teamwork.
But you don't have to be an accomplished musician or music educator to develop an abiding appreciation of music in your child.
Stan Brager, of Northridge, Calif., did it.
"When my son Larry was born, I began a campaign to make music part of my son's life," says Brager, a former host of several West Coast-based jazz radio programs. "My plan was to have music be a part of his life as it was for me."
Brager's approach was simple: He exposed his son to the music he loved early and often. He also associated the music with his son's daily routine, such as taking a bath or getting ready for bed. There was music, no matter what they were doing.
Later, Brager organized regular father-son trips to jazz festivals and performed a personal nightly rendition of the jazz standard "When You're Smiling" right before Larry's bedtime.
"Today, music is a part of his life," Brager says of his son, "and although he likes more contemporary popular music, he takes it very seriously."
Down in Clearwater, Fla., Robert and Claire Li Franki got innovative with their music education.
They compiled a DVD, "The A to Z Symphony," which consists of 26 independent, one-minute videos set to the melodies of some of classical music's most well-known compositions. A letter of the alphabet, a sample of vocabulary words and the title of the music and the composer precede each video.
For example, Rossini's "William Tell" Overture plays while the letter A and the words "arrow" and "apple" become the focus of a short video. Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture features the letter F, the U.S. flag and fireworks. The concept teaches children to associate the letters and the words (depending upon the age group), but it ultimately seeks to expose the young to Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi. For the Frankis, the motivation was their 6-year-old daughter Nicole.
"When we moved to Florida from Manhattan, we looked for music programs for our daughter, but we couldn't find any," Bob Franki says. So they developed something on their own, formed a company -- Classical Fun Music -- and produced the CD.
"We asked ourselves," Bob recalls, "couldn't we combine fun and music with a higher quality of music?"
The music appreciation process should be fun, too, experts say. But whatever form of music you seek to promote with your children, there are time-tested rules: expose them to the music early and often; make music a recurring positive experience; and be creative. There are so many ways to make the musical experience fresh and new every day.
Yarborough and his wife are pleased with their early efforts.
Says Yarborough of his daughter, "She has a very vast listening library and a wide appreciation of all kinds of music."