Our composer studies are so simple I am almost embarrassed to share them; but I do so because I have a feeling that some of the liberal arts sound really daunting to parents and many just don’t even attempt to tackle them because they don’t know where to begin, or they suppose that it will take up too much valuable time needed for other subject areas. I understand! Hopefully, this post will allay some of those fears or just give some fresh, simple ideas to someone.
During the first year or two of school, we don’t study particular composers. We have a basic overview of music beginning with the Orchestra, Ballet and Opera.
Bernstein Favorites is an invaluable tool in introducing the ORCHESTRA to children in a delightful way. Many of you may remember listening to the ‘Peter and the Wolf’ instrumental story while still a young school child, yourself. We just listen to portions of this a few minutes each week. I also bought a simple children’s picture book illustrating the Orchestra. There are several good ones out there. We happen to have The Orchestra by Rubin and Daniel. I read this aloud to the children. This is a leisurely activity that I spread out over several weeks.
BALLET is introduced in the winter term to boys and girls alike with a picture book of Tchaikovsky’s 'Nutcracker Ballet' Suite. We have The Nutcracker retold by Rita Balducci, illustrated by Lanza; but again, any brief beautifully illustrated book will suffice. First, we read the story, then we listen to the music. Then we watch the ballet if we can. We like to do this in the winter because this ballet has a Christmas theme and often the ballet is playing at the local theatre. This is a MUST SEE performance! My children will never forget it and still speak about it to this day. We dressed in our finest and afterwards, went to the ice-cream shop. I still get misty-eyed thinking about that wonderful memory we made. I am not a big fan of dance classes for young children, but I will say that my daughters’ coordination and balance improved immensely after we spent several weeks learning basic graceful moves. This was so fun for my little girls, too. We raided the dress up box at the end of the term and put on a little show for daddy.
For the last term, I introduce the OPERA by reading the picture book Pet of the Met aloud. Again, this is what I have on hand; there are many resources for children on this. I want to emphasize the importance of keeping it simple and short. My children listen to portions of Mozart’s 'Magic Flute' over the next several weeks whenever they please. We usually have it playing during lessons. The kids like to dress up like the characters in the book and act it out while listening, as well--very cute!
As you can well imagine, by the end of first or second grade, the child will have a nice introduction to the beautiful world of music, and what’s more important, will have already developed a genuine interest which can be built upon during the following years as you introduce various composers. If your children are older and you have not yet begun this study, it is certainly not too late. This is not a ‘childish’ study; it just refuses to have the word ‘academic’ tacked onto it.