Monday, October 13, 2014

Y is for... A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

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So here I was, sifting through my archives, looking for posts to submit for the Artist and Composer Study Round-up (which will be live on the Schoolhouse Crew website on Wednesday, October 15th, by the way), and I had a whole series of composer study posts from a few years ago. It was hard to narrow those down and choose just one or two, so I thought maybe a summary of the series would work. And as I got started with that, I realized that I could combine it with a Blogging Through the Alphabet post - I love it when a plan just falls into place like that!

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers is a music history and appreciation curriculum from Bright Ideas Press. I purchased it on CD-ROM so I could print out all the lesson materials for the two students I had working on it. It's well-suited for Grades 4 through 8, and is great for teaching multiple ages at once. Best of all, anyone can use this to teach their children about great composers and how to listen thoughtfully to music, even if they don't have a music background themselves.

We used this study when Landon was 11-12 years old and Kennady was 10 years old. Landon was not very interested in music, but Kennady was. This was something we could do together and have some fun with it. There is text to read and a review page for students to answer questions about what they read or listened to. There is also a timeline to construct, and a set of Composer Cards that the kids could make, with a drawing and some facts about each of the composers in the study.

The study gives a brief, child-friendly biography of each composer and discusses their contributions to music and the times in which they lived.  There are plenty of listening suggestions, including links to videos of many of the pieces. We did find that a number of those links were no longer active, or that when I searched, I could find something on YouTube that was better. We also borrowed CDs from the library for our listening, and for most of the composers, I also found read-aloud books to include.

The study begins with the music of the ancients, and then moves chronologically through some of the music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and then highlights great composers from Johann Sebastian Bach through John Williams. Following is a summary of the lessons that we most enjoyed, but you can see my entire series here: Composer Studies

The first introduction to Baroque music wasn't super popular, but soon after that we found that We Can Definitely Handle Handel! and that Bach Rocks!
Surprise! We had fun studying Haydn, especially the Surprise Symphony, which really did surprise Kennady. She remembered it this past year when the theme from that symphony was the basis of a piece she had to learn for either piano or guitar lessons. (Isn't that awful? I can't remember which instrument!) My favorite composer is probably Beethoven, so I especially enjoyed the lesson that focused on him and his music. Playing Favorites - Beethoven
An American Composer was another very interesting lesson, because it focused on Stephen Foster. At the time, my students didn't know his name, but they were quite familiar with his music - thanks for Looney Tunes and other cartoons using Camptown Races and other Foster tunes! In Not Just Lullabies!, we learned about Johannes Brahms, and although his name is associated with the famous lullaby, we listened to a sampling of his other compositions as well.

King of Ragtime was one of the last lessons, but it was the one Kennady had waited for all year. We all loved listening to Scott Joplin's distinctive ragtime music! And the final lesson was the one Landon was most excited about, John Williams. I even managed to work the calendar so we studied the composer of the Star Wars soundtrack on May 4th, in our Star Wars Day Composer Study (May the Fourth be with you!).
As you can see and hear, there was a wide variety of music to listen to in this study, and I felt free to include some fun or silly interpretations along with the serious ones along the way. My entire YouTube playlist for this study is here: Music for School - although I didn't save the foot piano or Rowlf's Moonlight Sonata on the list!

So if you're looking for a full year's curriculum for composer studies that's easy to teach, easy on the ears, and easy on your pocketbook, you may want to check out A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers.

This post is linked at Blogging through the Alphabet, hosted by Ben And Me. Ben and Me

This post will also be included in the Artist and Composer Study Round-up at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. (this link will be live Wednesday, October 15th).
Artist and Composer Round-up

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