A University of Arizona study published last year suggested that parents can improve relationships with their children by listening to music together, adding to a body of research showing how music can aid child development.
Parents who want to take advantage of these benefits could curate their own playlists for their kids. They could also check out the new International Children’s Arts Network from All Classical Portland.
Launched in April, the stream of arts and music programming for kids is the brainchild of All Classical CEO Suzanne Nance and Arianna Avena, program director of the station’s Joyous Outreach to You/th program. They aimed to expand JOY and deliver classical music to a wider audience while using an HD Radio subchannel that previously aired holiday and vocal music.
Nance said she was also inspired by a 2017 Frontiers in Psychology article that highlighted studies showing that a child’s brain develops most rapidly during the first five years of life. During that time, music can aid development of language, cognition and social skills.
The result is ICAN, a “creative playground,” in Nance’s words, that allows children and their caregivers to nurture emotional intelligence and discover classical music and diverse arts and cultural programming from around the world.
“Recognizing the benefits of exposure to the arts and the growing need for arts education for young people, we decided to create a brand-new station expressly for children,” Nance said.
It was easier said than done. Creating programming that achieved a balance between entertainment and education was complex, Nance said. She and her team consulted with All Classical listeners and Pacific Northwest artists and educators to learn how to create such a resource and address a void in arts education. Funding comes from underwriting, listener contributions and grants from the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Herbert A. Templeton Foundation, the Brookby Foundation and the Oregon Community Foundation.
ICAN’s programming includes Adventure Hour, in which host Sarah Zwinklis asks child guests to “describe an amazing adventure,” creating a story using their unscripted responses, complete with sound effects and music. Children are interviewed about their favorite songs and classic fairy tales and choose music to introduce to listeners.
The service also features hourlong dives into particular music styles, such as Mindful Music with light classical; International Dance Hour with music from all around the world; Dance Break!, featuring waltzes, tangos and ballet; and Winding Down, incorporating stories and international lullabies. Alongside its original content, ICAN provides From the Top and storytelling podcasts Storynory and What If World.
Meanwhile, ICAN is also giving Portland-area children a chance to curate and present content. JOY’s Youth Roving Reporter program provides yearlong arts journalism mentorships for teens ages 15–18, who shadow All Classical Portland hosts to see how radio programs are produced. Youth Roving Reporter alumni will also have the option to deepen their skills by helping to produce ICAN content, such as poetry segments.
“Although we are a classical music station and are excited to bring that music into children’s lives, it won’t all be classical,” said Zwinklis, a former colleague of Nance’s at WFMT in Chicago as well as ICAN’s producer and program manager. “It’s really about exposure to other cultures, being aware of what’s happening outside of your community and hearing music in different languages.”
In the long-term, Nance envisions ICAN having an impact on the arts economy by inspiring young listeners, encouraging support of the arts and expanding the station’s connections with diverse communities. She also wants to strengthen ICAN’s partnerships with educators and serve as a resource for teachers and schools.
Feedback from listeners, most of whom are parents, grandparents, or caregivers, has been positive, according to Nance. ICAN has become a part of morning drives to school or other activities and bedtime routines.
All Classical Portland is heavily promoting ICAN on its FM broadcast. The service can also be heard online at www.allclassical.org/ICAN.