Each week, I try to think of some fun activity to start off each lesson. Hot on the heels of the previous week’s A Galaxy of Composers group class theme, I was inspired to do a composer-oriented listening activity with my students. I grabbed my favorite composer resource book (comes with a CD!) – Accent on Composers – and selected six famous works. The student was given a white board labeled as follows:
Then I played approximately one minute of each of the selections and instructed them to listen and see if they could correctly identify any or all of the above criteria for each piece. They were allowed to refer to the timeline, which contained almost all of the selected composers. Here are the works that I selected:
1. Hallelujah Chorus – George Frederic Handel – Baroque
2. The Entertainer – Scott Joplin – 20th Century
3. March from the Nutcracker – Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Romantic
4. Symphony No. 5 in C Minor – Ludwig van Beethoven – Classical
5. Spring from the Four Seasons – Antonio Vivaldi – Baroque
6. Hoedown from Rodeo – Aaron Copland – 20th Century
All of my students loved this activity! Even the ones that were a little hesitant at first were surprised at how many of the pieces they recognized. If they were stuck on the name of the piece or the composer, I gave them hints or pointed out certain elements in the recording that might help them identify the time period or the ethnicity of the music.
One of the things that prompted me to do this activity was the realization of how much of our time and activities are focused on doing and playing and mastering skills, concepts, etc. Rarely do I devote much time to music appreciation – just listening to and pointing out elements in music, discussing the composers, the historical eras. We do this a lot as we learn new repertoire, but there’s something different about taking a few minutes to listen to these timeless masterpieces. This is an activity that I’ll definitely be repeating in the future (with different selections, of course!).