Music and Kids

Since kids have vivid and strong imaginations, listening to music often gives them distinct and lasting impressions which is why several world famous opera companies and orchestras have embarked upon concerts to help develop children’s knowledge and appreciation for classical music. Giving kids different musical experiences helps them to distinguish between genres and to further explore the world of music for themselves.

The Production

The Ugly Duckling, based on the popular Hans Christian Andersen story, is a clever and playful chamber music piece scored by Jon Deak for soprano, doublebass and string quartet. The bass player, Göteborg Symfoniker's Jan Alm and American soprano, Amy Elizabeth Wheeler perform an unaccompanied duet in the first half, and in the second half they are joined by the string quartet. Mr. Alm, in addition to executing a virtuoso bass part (which despite being very difficult to play, looks like its fun and easy) also portrays the Ugly Duckling, while Miss Wheeler plays several characters with different voices and narrates the story. 

Before the piece starts, the instruments in the quartet are introduced to the audience by a brief and entertaining skit, which demonstrates how each instrument sounds and how it functions in the quartet. When the double bass is introduced, the quartet treats it like an "ugly duckling" but when Jan plays virtuoso passages like a "swan", he wows the quartet and he joins the show. The musicians interact with the audience including them in the action as it unfolds.

Technical Information

Duration: 20 minutes

Introduction of the instruments: 10 minutes (optional)

Languages: English; Swedish; (Polish and German translations in process)

Ages: 4 and up

Stage requirements: Stage or performance space, 20 square feet, maximum 600 seats, lights and sound system.

Previous Performances

1996, American Opera Projects, First Night Concert Series, New York City*

1996, live radio broadcast on WNYC with NPR’s Fred Child

1999, Bohus Opera Summar Festival, Sweden**

2001, Children’s Concert Series, Gothenburg Konserhuset, Sweden**

2001, Backa Theater, Hisingsbacka, Sweden**

*With Julliard Alumni, and Roger Wagner, Doublebass ** With members of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra


"...both accessible and intelligent, hilarious and touching...not since Saint-Saens "Carnival of the Animals" or Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" has a member of the animal kingdom been given such a clear musical persona...." - The Washington Post

"…The Ugly Duckling was a big success…the performers not only pricked up the ears of our young audience and made them laugh, but also awoke strong feelings about bullying and being misunderstood…"– Inger Ericsson, Producer for Children’s programming, Göteborgs Konserthus

Future plans for The Ugly Duckling

We are currently seeking cooperation with animators to create an animated version of Jon Deak's adaptation, including the introduction with the instruments.

The Ugly Duckling seeks partnerships with schools and symphony orchestras in both Sweden and the U.S.