Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Classical Composers Part II - Listener Appreciation (Includes Free Printables!)

Welcome to Part II of this series on how to make classical music a part of your classroom! While Part I showcased a way to create a budget friendly visual aid of composers for your room, Part II is focused on the methods that I use to introduce classical composers and their works to my own children.  I welcome your feedback and suggestions in the comment section below!!

Many art and music programs in schools across the country are being cut due to budget constraints.  This is a tragedy and fills me with great sadness, because vocal and instrumental music were undoubtedly the highlight of my school years, and I know first-hand the fruits that the arts can bear in children's lives.

While I am thankful that the boys are able to take violin and piano lessons, and our oldest participates in orchestra, I believe that their appreciation for music can expand within the classroom as well.  Lord knows we spend plenty of time listening to everything from classic rock to country during moments of leisure - my kids love to play d.j. in their free time!  It's only fair that we also expose them to other genres of music, particularly those of the great classical composers.

The boys often listen to a variety of classical composers during the school day as they work (read about the benefits here), but I also have a more formal and specific method of "training" my little students' ears to recognize and appreciate specific artist's compositions. (Please keep in mind that this is a simple, introductory format, not intended to thoroughly cover all composers or periods of music.  It is only meant to be a platform from which the students may "grow" into greater music appreciation.) The method is simple, yet rewarding:

Select a list of your favorite composers (our list below is just one example), from any or all of the classical music periods. Note: Classical is a period itself, but the term also used in a general sense to describe the genres of music listed below. 

Introduce the artist by reading a brief biography of him.  We typically learn about one per composer per week. If you can, offer the children a visual aid.  Many can be found online, in books or you can view ours here.

Choose one or two pieces that the child might associate with the composer, and listen to them in their entirety or simply choose shorter excerpts that are most popular.  You may wish to create a playlist of the songs so that they are easily accessible, or check your local library for audio resources. You Tube also offers recordings and/or performances of many composers' works.  
Older students may be challenged to take notes on the artist and his compositions (view our printable worksheet here).  While the music is playing, the students may write descriptives of the piece which might include its tempo, whether it's a fugue or minuet etc., prominent instruments, the mood of the music etc.  Those notes can then be compiled and bound into a notebook with a cover page to be saved and kept in the student's records.
Creating a timeline is optional, but fun.  Kids can make a large one to hang up in the classroom, or a small one to keep with their notes.  Students may wish to cut out pictures of the composers that they are studying and add them to the timeline for visual interest. Label the timeline with the following musical period dates (you may also include 21st century if you are including modern composers in your study):
Baroque (1600 - 1750)
Classical (1735 - 1825)
Romantic (1815 - 1835)
20th Century (1850-1950)

With the introduction of each new composer and their chosen works, the children will be more likely to gain familiarity with the music the more often they hear it.  Play the songs each day, and ask the children if they can name the piece, the composer and the period in which it was written.

For additional study you might want to consider:
Learning about the various instruments in the orchestra, studying the evolution of certain instruments throughout the various periods of music (i.e. harpsichord to piano), and discussing how history and culture influence music styles.

Supporting Resources:
Internet: Musically SpeakingClassical NetClassics for Kids
Books:  10 Fantastic Recommendations (Many of which we own and enjoy.)
Audio:  Classical Kids Series (perfect for young students) and Music Masters Series (May be purchased individually.)
Video: The Composers' Specials Though I'm not a fan of videos, this one comes highly recommended by elementary music educators.)

(all composers are linked to Classics for Kids)
Antonio Vivaldi:
* Excerpts from the Four Seasons (Concertos #1-4)

Johann Sebastian Bach:
* Brandenburg Concerto
* Mass in B Minor

George Frederick Handel:
* Messiah
* Water Music

Joseph Haydn:
*  Emperor's Hymn
*  "Surprise" from the London Symphony

Ludwig van Beethoven: (since he is the children's favorite composer, we are listening to more of his compositions!)
* 5th Symphony
* 9th Symphony
* Moonlight Sonata
* Fur Elise

Frederick Chopin:
*  Fantasie Impromptu
*  Polonaise in A Major

Johannes Brahms:
*  Hungarian Dance #5
*  Lullaby

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:
*  Swan Lake
*  1812 Overture
*  Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy

1 comment:

  1. I love this! I am thinking it was be good to add in to the piano lessons I'm teaching my kids! Thanks! :)


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