Barbie at the Symphony

Some say that Mattel’s much loved and much hated doll will help save the symphony orchestra. By some I mean Arnie Roth: conductor, violinist, and award winning composer for no less than ten straight-to-DVD movies featuring Barbie in classic stories or ballets which encourage an appreciation for western art music. (His IMDB page is here.)


Soon after the success of the movies, which are available in 30 languages and sold worldwide, Roth developed a “live show” for children and families. Apparently Barbie has been touring with Roth since 2007, and gave a concert in Toronto with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra. John Terauds, music critic with The Star wrote about the concert here.

The show, titled Barbie at the Symphony, is, “a 90-minute showcase of singing, dancing, painting and skating drawn from the DVDs”. As you can well imagine, all of the music included in the program is written by dead white men.

In the article by Terauds, Roth does make an excellent point in the need to continue to provide opportunities to increase the opportunities for children to be exposed to classical music, and there is nothing quite like sitting in a concert hall with a full orchestra onstage. Though well intentioned, I have some questions and problems with including such a problematic figure as Barbie. Certainly there is another figure from children’s popular culture that would be more universally appealing. How many young boys are being turned off of classical music because of their knee-jerk reactions to oppose anything that is inherently associated with femininity?