Great Composers and Their Music: Lapbook and Biography Sets

Have you seen the collection of composer lapbook and biography sets that Joy Morin, of the Color in My Piano blog, has created and made available in her store? What a fabulous and memorable way to teach music history to students and/or children! Growing up, I loved to create my own lapbooks to document and share the things I had learned in various subject areas, so the prospect of using this approach to teach about composers and their music is very appealing to me.

Joy uses these as the curriculum for her homeschool music appreciation class – a fabulous approach that I think any homeschool family would love! I can also see using them for a summer piano/music camp or even as an ongoing group class theme throughout the year. There are lots of possibilities!

Check Out the 24-Hour Kids Classical Internet Radio Channel

Classical New England has launched a 24-hour Kids Classical Channel with classical music programs specially designed for kids. I was listening to it for a while the other day and caught a broadcast of “The Instruminute” – a short clip of music and information about a musical instrument. This was followed by a rousing performance of The William Tell Overture. What a great resource for parents and kids – and all of us who enjoy listening to and learning about classical music! 🙂

Review and Giveaway of Beethoven Who – Family Fun with Music!

From the colorful, eye-catching artwork on the cover to the extensive index at the back, Marcia Washburn has put together a fun and practical resource that is great for parents and teachers alike – Beethoven Who?! This 334 page ebook covers everything from why children should learn music, to an overview of different styles of music, to handy hyperlinks that take you directly to the corresponding terms in the glossary, and lots more.

Coming from a Christian perspective, Marcia includes a multitude of Scripture verses, inspirational quotes, listening suggestions, and full-color pictures. The book would be a great resource for music teachers wanting to plan a music camp, gather ideas for group classes, or just build their own knowledge of the history and elements of music to incorporate it more into their teaching. It is also ideal for a homeschool family looking for a fun, easy-to-use music appreciation curriculum.

Now, for the best part…Marcia has graciously offered to giveaway one copy of the Beethoven Who? curriculum (a $29.99 value) to a Music Matters Blog reader! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing to win. A winner will be chosen using a random number generator on Thursday, September 20 at noon (CST). [Also, if you want to go ahead and purchase a copy, Marcia said that she would be happy to refund the winner for the purchase price if they’ve already ordered it.]

Music Videos in 1900?!

In doing some research for a curriculum I’m working on for Adventures In Character, I came across this fascinating history of music videos on the PBS Kids website. Sheet music publishers often used music videos (a.k.a. illustrated songs) to boost sheet music sales. It was highly effective. The Little Lost Child, one of the first illustrated songs, sold millions of copies!

This is great information to share with students! And I could see even using it as inspiration for a special project, maybe as part of a composition project where they create a music video to promote their newly composed work…

The 1-Minute Documentary Project

For Travel Tour (a.k.a. Group Class) #5 last night, one of our activities was what I dubbed, “The 1-Minute Documentary Project.” The idea was inspired by the fabulous Videolicious App, and it turned out to be a lot of fun!

I started by coming up with a handful of music-related topics, like a composer or a musical element. The students were grouped in pairs and each pair drew one of the topics. Here’s a rundown of the step-by-step process from that point on:

1. Read/study material about the topic (students were permitted to use any resource in the studio).
2. Select key information to include.
3. Write a 50 second narration.
4. Select and take 4-8 pictures to correlate with the narration.
5. Open Videolicious App.
6. Select General Video.
7. Select previously taken pictures in the order you want them to appear in the video.
8. Film one student saying the narration.
9. Select an excerpt from your music library to play in the background (if the students have time during their research they can find and download a piece of music for this purpose).
10. Preview and publish the video.

In addition to being a lot of fun, the process was educational and provided a great opportunity for the students to work together. There is still plenty of room for improvement in a variety of aspects (especially the direction of some of the pictures!), but I thought they did a good job in a limited time. And we all enjoyed watching the finished documentaries at the end of the class:


Levi and Andrew on Dynamics


Desiree and Hayley on Bartolomeo Cristofori


Amanda and Mercy on Tempo


Lucas and Landon on Key Signatures


Olive and Noelle on Articulation


Tommy on Domenico Scarlatti

Monday Mailbag – Composer Biographies for Students

I have a student that is a very avid reader (girl, 7th grade, homeschooled).  Her mother asked me to compile a list of good biographies or books of composers/music.  She thought that this would help her practicing since she might be more interested in the composer or subject matter.

One of my all-time favorite collection of composer biographies is Ben Lansing’s The Bigwigs of Classical Music (Your student might be interested to know that Ben was homeschooled, too! You can read an interview I did with him here.). A couple of the books I mentioned last week (My Life with the Great Pianists and Lang Lang’s biography) might be of interest as well.

Also, these aren’t books, but the In Search of Beethoven and In Search of Mozart films are very well done and I think would be of interest to a middle school and/or high school student. I also really like and occasionally reference the book Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh. It includes interesting stories, well-written historical information, and a highlight on a character quality exemplified by the featured composers. Honestly, I haven’t read many other biographies of composers or musicians that come to mind, so I’m hoping some others can chime in with suggestions!

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

Pedagogy Central

When I was at our state music teachers conference this summer another teacher alerted me to this fabulous website that is the brainchild of Dr. Matthew Edwards, another state association member: Pedagogy Central. This is a treasure trove for any piano teacher! Here’s what Dr. Edwards says, “The original idea of this website is to be a place where teachers can shop for music with intelligent search tools, discuss ideas and technique with other teachers, and many other possibilities. At current, however, the site is primarily a resource on Baroque piano literature, and Romantic piano literature…”

There’s already a lot of great information on the site, but it’s definitely a place to bookmark and keep your eye on for further development!

Review and Giveaway of In Search of Composer DVDs by Seventh Art Productions

Several weeks ago, I shared a few things I gleaned from the magazine, Listen. After the particularly interesting article with documentarian, Phil Grabsky, I was eager to get my hands on DVDs of In Search of Beethoven and In Search of Mozart. Seventh Art Productions graciously sent me a couple copies for review and I am thoroughly impressed!

The films are a collection of interviews with historians and musicians, commentary on the times in which the composer lived, and incredible live excerpts of of performances of the composer’s works by leading symphonies and musicians from around the world! What I loved most was getting to travel progressively with the composer through his life and gain a better understanding of the chronological order of his compositions and the events and experiences that inspired each one.

The films are very professional and insightful and last approximately two hours.  The In Search of Beethoven film comes with a bonus disc of special features, including deleted scenes, an interview the director, and complete movements. These would make a marvelous addition to the library of every music lover, teacher, professor, and student!

Seventh Art Productions is generously offering one of each DVD as a giveaway to Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in a drawing to win one of these excellent films. The winner will be drawn using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Thursday, August 18.

An Amazing Resource for All Your Music Theory and Music History Needs!

Ever wanted to gain a broader understanding of the development of music notation through the ages? Or perhaps you want to know more about intervals. Maybe you’d like to take a look at one of over 1,000 different scales and its pattern.  Or maybe you need some great visuals and explanations for helping your students grasp the concept of hemiola in their pieces. Not to worry! All this an more – tons more – can be found at Dolmetsch.com – a compendium of all things music history and music theory. I used this site extensively in preparation for our Kick-it-up-a-Notch! piano camps. It’s definitely one of those resources that should probably be at the top of the list of every music teacher’s bookmarked sites!