For the first years of Kinder Konzerts™ (1979-1984), a quartet or quintet of Minnesota Orchestra musicians would improvise on text written by music education specialist Joanna Cortright. Some of the stories included children’s classics (“The Little Engine That Could,” “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” and “The Three Bears”); a shorter arrangement of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” was also performed.
In 1983, the size of the accompanying ensemble expanded to eight musicians, representing all four instrument families. Improvised stories were no longer feasible, so the exciting prospect of FRIENDS of the Minnesota Orchestra’s commissioning story pieces specifically for young children and the Kinder Konzerts program took hold. Libby Larsen, then composer in residence with the Minnesota Orchestra, recommended Janika Vandevelde as a composer capable of creating a work with special appeal to young children.
Since then, some of the story compositions have been based on existing children’s book while others were based on public domain tales. The text for these pieces was usually written by Joanna Cortright.