Summer Sounds: Daytime Music for Kids at the Hollywood Bowl

Summer Sounds concerts offer younger kids an introduction to music at the Hollywood Bowl in a lively and engaging format without the logistical challenges of evening shows. The concerts have an international flare, introducing little ears to sounds from around the world.

The Hollywood Bowl has always been one of my favorite venues in LA: the finest music offered in an open air, festive environment.  But as a parent, I began to see the scope of the Bowl in a different way. The size of the crowds could be overwhelming, the hour past little ones’ bedtimes, the length of the show beyond little ones’ attention spans. How then to instill in my child the same excitement I feel for this most beloved institution?

Enter Summer Sounds. This concert series offers up internationally-themed morning performances designed especially for kids ages 3 to 9, paired with complementary art workshops to enhance the experience. We chose to see the concert first, then do the art project (as one mother pointed out, this gives context to the art we’re doing).  

The concert itself is held open seating style, just inside the Bowl grounds, on the patio of the Hollywood Bowl Museum (the first building you hit as you walk up from the parking). Concert goers can sit on the floor, on a platform, or in folding chairs.

Summer Sounds frames the concert with friendly, comical characters who are discovering the music just as the kids are. Hostess Sky Blue, sad sack Mr. Kay, and student Emily provide context and meaning and help kids learn about the world the music comes from.

For our maiden experience with Summer Sounds, we booked passage for a musical journey to Buenos Aires, courtesy of Argentinean band Los Pinguos. Los Pinguos is made up of three guitarists and a percussionist, performing Latin rhythms with an Argentinean accent.

Los Pinguos are dynamic entertainers. The music makes you want to get up out of your seat (or off the floor as the case may be) and dance along. There’s no pressure to do so, and many kids stay in their seats, but quite a few dance where they stand or form impromptu dance circles. We learned how to rumba, why they have three guitarists, and what melody and rhythm are. Did you know Buenos Aires is considered the Paris of South America? We do now! After the performance we were able to meet the band members and cast members.

The show ended a bit before 11am. Our art project didn’t begin until 11:15am, which left us with a nice block of time to explore the Bowl. The orchestra was rehearsing, and we were allowed to go to one of the upper levels and listen for a while. (We heard Dudamel conducting Verdi’s Requiem; how lucky was that!)  We also explored the assorted escalators and moving sidewalks and made our way to the top of the Bowl. There we discovered another pastime the Bowl offers: lizard hunting! We spotted easily a dozen of the little critters, though they were all too speedy for capture.

We were so engaged in our hunt that we were a little late getting down to the art project, (note to self: keep an eye on the clock next time!)

For the workshop, kids are given a choice of five different crafts to do, which share a thematic link to the day’s concert.  On the day we were there, options included a gaucho pendant and a wristband. My daughter opted to make her own sun medallion. Kids can view sample pieces for ideas, or let their imaginations run wild. 

After finishing the art project, each kid is given the opportunity to go to the front and “be interviewed.”  A project leader asks kids about the choices they made and they get to speak into a microphone.  I love how that simple act validates the importance of their work. We finished in time to do the “bonus project,” which was stand-up paper dolls.

Most of the people we chatted with were return customers, and I can see why. We will definitely be visiting Summer Sounds again next summer.

Though the concerts stand on their own as excellent children’s entertainment, I also see them as “gateway” concerts. Kids who regularly attend them will see themselves as Bowl goers. Family-friendly events, such as John Williams: Maestro of the Movies or the Sound of Music Sing-along, would be an excellent way to transition to night-time performances.

The nitty gritty: 
Summer Sounds concerts are performed twice each morning, at 10am and 11:15am Monday through Friday (2013 dates are July 8 to August 16.)  Three different concerts are offered, each running for two weeks. Art workshops are offered concurrently, with sittings at 10am and 11:15am as well. Tickets for the art workshop are $5 per child; tickets for the music performance are $7 per person. Each is sold separately. While you could attend one without the other, I feel the pairing enhances the experience for minimal extra cost.

Parking is free, in Lot B (a few yards south of the entrance to the Bowl, on Highland). Cars park in a row on every other lane, so you’re not locked in. (Easy parking at the Bowl, yay!)

Summer Sounds
The Hollywood Bowl
2301 North Highland Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90068

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