More Classical Composers as Kids

Have you ever wondered what classical composers were like when they were kids? Let’s meet a few and find out!

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

Franz Liszt at 13 years old
Liszt, 13 years old

Franz Liszt [that’s pronounced “List!”] was born in Hungary. His father was a government official, and he also played the piano, the cello, and the guitar. Franz especially loved listening to his father play the piano, so when he was six, his dad started teaching him how to play. Franz also started composing when he was eight!

The Liszt family moved a few times, partly so Franz could study with great piano teachers. They moved to Vienna was Franz was about nine. When he was about sixteen, his father passed away, and he and his mom moved to Paris where he continued studying piano, and also started teaching his own students!

Franz Liszt grew up to be one of the most famous pianists in Europe, and a composer who loved to experiment with new musical ideas.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, far left, at 8 years old with his family
Tchaikovsky (far left), 8 years old, with his family

The little boy in the far right of this picture is Pyotr [or Peter] Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the Russian composer who grew up to write The Nutcracker and many other ballets, symphonies, and operas.

As you can see, he had many brothers and sisters! The ones in this picture were named Alexandra, Zinaida, Nikolai, and Ippolit. Two years after this family photo, Peter also got two twin brothers, Modest and Antoly, who remained two of his closest friends for his whole life.

Peter’s dad worked as a mining engineer, and the family had to move several times so his dad could find work. Peter sometimes attended boarding schools, but he was much happier when his family hired governesses to teach him and his siblings at home. His favorite school subjects were literature, music, and French!

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)

Antonín Dvořák as a child
Dvořák as a child

Antonín Dvořák [that’s pronounced “da-VORE-zhahk”!] grew up in a little town that is now in the Czech Republic. His mother and father ran an inn and butcher shop, and his dad liked to play a folk instrument called the zither to entertain their customers.

Antonín learned music at the village school, where his teacher and his church organist taught him how to sing and play the violin. Soon Antonín was able to play violin in the village band, performing polkas and other dances for community gatherings.

Antonín Dvořák grew up to be a church organist, and eventually he became a world famous composer who worked both in Europe and America.

Teresa Carreño (1853-1917)

Carreño, 8 years old

The Hispanic composer Teresa Carreño was born in Venezuela, where she grew up in the town of Caracas. Her dad was a politician and also an amateur musician, and he gave Teresa her first music lessons.

When Teresa was eight, her family emigrated to America, and soon she started performing piano recitals all over the country – she even played for President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, when she was nine! A few years later, she and her parents moved to Paris, where she continued to take piano lessons, and also learned how to sing.

Teresa grew up to be a world-famous composer, singer, pianist, and piano teacher.

Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)

Isaac Albéniz about 12 years old
Albéniz, about 12 years old

Isaac Albéniz was born in Spain. His mother had been a piano prodigy when she was little, and Isaac took after her – he played his first concert when he was four! His first piano teacher was his big sister Clementina.

Isaac and Clemetina’s dad worked for the government as a customs official, which meant the family got to travel a lot. Isaac enjoyed playing concerts wherever they went – places like Argentina, Cuba, San Francisco, and London. Sometimes Clementina played in the concerts, too!

Isaac Albéniz grew up to be a composer who created music with a Spanish flavor.

Charles Ives (1874-1954) 

Charles Ives at 15 years old
Ives, 15 years old

Charles Ives was an American composer who wrote unusual, experimental music. He grew up in Danbury, Connecticut. His father was a music teacher and a bandmaster who was a veteran of the Civil War, and he gave Charles his first music lessons. Little Charles loved to sit in the town square and listen to his father’s marching band play – he especially loved the exciting noise when another band across the street played different music at the same time!

When he was old enough, Charles played the drums in his dad’s band. He also learned to play the organ, and he was playing in his church by the time he was twelve or fourteen. But music wasn’t Charles’s only interest – when he was a teenager, he became captain of his high school baseball team! 

Charles Ives and a friend on his high school baseball team
Charles Ives and a friend on his high school baseball team

Interested in learning more about classical composers and their childhoods? Check out this blog!