Happy Birthday, Chopin!

Yes, I know I’m a day late. Yesterday, March 1, was the 200th birthday of the renowned Frederic Chopin. 200 is a pretty big milestone, though, so I think it’s acceptable to prolong the celebration for a little longer. 🙂 Thanks to Gerald Klickstein, of The Musician’s Way Blog, for putting together a great collection of resources Celebrating the Chopin Bicentennial.

For one of my more advanced students this year, I am using a different approach. Instead of having her work on repertoire representative of each historical era, we’re focusing on one composer at a time. She loves lyrical, Romantic music, so Chopin was the perfect start! While working through a variety of repertoire, I also had her complete a research assignment each week to learn more about Chopin and the time in which he lived. Here are the assignments I gave her:

  1. Research and define each of these: Prelude, Etude, Waltz, Polonaise, Nocturne, and Mazurka.
  2. Find video clips of performances of each style of piece; listen to and watch them to familiarize yourself with the various styles.
  3. Research Chopin and write a brief biography.
  4. Look up three great pianists who performed Chopin, then compare and contrast them using a circle diagram.
  5. Look up three of Chopin’s contemporaries and write a short essay discussing their work and its similarities and differences with Chopin’s work.
  6. Investigate what was going on in different parts of the world during Chopin’s lifetime.
  7. Explore other fine arts and discuss the common threads and undergirding philosophies: art (sculpture, paint, architecture – find images), literature (authors, philosophers, theologians), and theatre/dance.
  8. Collect some of Chopin’s writings to identify his worldview, philosophies, motivations, etc.
  9. Research Poland and list: interesting facts, famous people, famous landmarks/places, and famous events that are associated with the country.

The whole process was quite interesting and informative for both my student and me, and this approach is working really well for this particular student. I will probably use it with several others in the future as well. Plus, putting this together for her has given me a good framework that we can use as we move on and study other composers.

Share and enjoy!

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