Title: The Story of the Incredible Orchestra Author: Bruce Koscielniak Pages: 33 Reading Level: Child – Young Adult Audience: MusicStudents, Families Stars: ★★★★★
I have been looking for a good children’s resource about the orchestra, but after hunting around for a couple of years, the stuff I was coming up with just was’t that impressive. Shallow. Goofy. Boring.
Then a friend recommended this title, and well… search over.
The content of The Incrdible Story of the Orchestra focuses in two main topics:
The origin of the modern orchestra and its development.
The history of each instrument in the modern orchestra.
At the beginning of the book, the author takes us all the way back to the Middle Ages – an era before the symphony existed – to teach us about the medieval instruments and ensembles that set the stage for the symphony as we know it today.
After that, the author traces the histories of the main instrument families and gives a layman’s explanation of how each instrument works… along with lots of illustrations!
All of this is sprinkled throughout a pleasant overview of the four prominent musical periods that have developed since the orchestra’s birth. He even takes the last few pages to introduce jazz and the modern use of synthetics… all in good taste.
But the content isn’t just great… it’s appealing. And that is key. The material is well-organized and interesting, and every page has colorful illustrations.
Stylistically, the artwork is unique. It looks like an unlikely combination of hand sketches and watercolor paintings. It is a tad busy, but the colors are soft, which keeps it from being overwhelming. (FYI: The colors in these pictures came out a bit brighter than the colors in the book.)
I didn’t have any concerns with this book – the information was accurate, and there was no inappropriate content.
Studio library, family library, personal library, music classroom… Go ahead and get it! It’s great for every occasion.
Alright, guys. There’s a stack of piano repertoire I’ve been intending to knock out for a few years now and just haven’t gotten around to. (Can anyone else relate?)
So I decided to issue a repertoire challenge for myself to take on this summer & fall. And, just so I’ll take myself seriously, I’m gonna make it official with a repertoire liszt!
I mean list. *cough*
I’ve divided my list into two sections.
Pieces to learn for the first time.
Pieces I have learned in the past and need to bring back.
Many of them are easy classics – like Für Elise, the Moonlight Sonata mvt. 1, and Brahms’ Waltz in A-flat (you know, the lullaby one) – that I never got around to perfecting but really should… at least if I’m going to call myself a real classical pianist. ;D There are hard ones, too, like Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu in c# minor, Mozart’s a minor Sonata K. 310, and a couple of Chopin’s etudes.
Then there are doozies like Ravel’s Jeux d’Eau and Liszt’s La Campanella. Oi.
Here’s the complete run-down:
Current Progress: 12/12
Scarlatti Sonata K. 141 (12/22) Bach Fugue No. 2 in c minor (11/23) Clementi Sonata in D Major, Op. 4, No. 1, Mvt. 1 (12/27) Beethoven Fur Elise (8/30) Schubert Impromptu Op. 90, No. 2 Brahms Waltz in Ab, Op. 59, No.15 (7/25) Chopin Etude Op. 10, No. 2 “Revolutionary” Chopin Fantasie-Impromptu Chopin Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 in Eb (12/31) Chopin Waltz Op. 69, No. 1 “L’adieu” Chopin Waltz Op. 69, No. 2 (12/30) Greig Arietta, Op. 12, No. 1 (12/13) Dvorak Humoresque, Op. 102, No.7 (11/25) Glinka L’Alouette “The Lark” Granados The May Song, Op. 1, No. 3 (12/14) Debussy Arabesque 1 (9/10) Debussy Clair de Lune Debussy Golliwog’s Cakewalk Ravel Jeux d’Eau Tauriello Toccata
Current Progress: 12/12
Bach Italian Concerto, Mvt. 1 (10/3) Bach Italian Concerto, Mvt. 3 Bach Prelude No. 2 in c minor Bach Prelude No. 6 in d minor (12/19) Mozart Fantasy in d minor, K. 397 (8/27) Mozart Sonata K. 310, Mvt. 1 in a minor (12/31) Mozart Sonata K. 331, Mvt. 3, “Alla Turca” (7/30) Beethoven Sonata Op. 13 “Pathetique”, Mvt. 1 (12/20) Beethoven Sonata Op. 13 “Pathetique”, Mvt. 2 (11/15) Beethoven Sonata Op. 13 “Pathetique”, Mvt. 3 Beethoven Sonata Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight”, Mvt. 1 (8/18) Chopin Nocturne in c# minor (8/25) Greig Wedding Day at Troldhaugen (12/27) Liszt La Campanella Pieczonka Tarantella in a minor (9/3) Joplin Magnetic Rag Joplin Maple Leaf Rag (9/24)
My goal is to have 12 pieces from each list learned and performance-ready by Christmas. Basically, that translates into four pieces a month between now and the end of the year.
Ambitious? Probably. (read: “Oh, my mad graciousness, what am I thinking?!?”) I mean, I have an 11-week-old, people.
But it’s worth a try, right? :D
I’ll update this post at the end of each month with my progress to keep myself accountable.
So that’s it! My Summer / Fall Repertoire Challenge.
Title: Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff Author: Opal Wheeler Pages: 167 Reading Level: Child – Young Adult Audience: Music Students, Music Teachers, Families Stars: ★★★★★
If I had to pick one work to describe this book, it would be adorable. I love it!
First of all, it’s a fantastic overview of Schumann’s life. Second of all, it’s just plain charming. The book starts with the lad Robert and the many adventures he had with his faithful kitten, Ziff, at his heels. The story continues through his musical career and into his happy life as a husband and father. His family life – both as a boy and as a married man – was delightful, and this book highlights the sweetness of those relationships beautifully.
The illustrationsare darling. The biographies from Opal Wheeler’s Great Musicians Series are illustrated by various artists, but this one is my favorite. They are black and white, but they’re very tastefully done – simple, sweet, and charming. The work of this particular illustrator reminds me of old-fashioned Christmas Card artwork. Love it.
And then there is the wonderful sheet music scattered throughout the book. Schumann wrote piles of music for his little ones, and thousands of boys and girls around the world have benefited from them. Many of his pieces from Album for the Young are included, as well as snippets from his Sonata in G and others.
Even if no one in your house can play the music yet, try following along as you listen to recordings of the pieces. It’s a great way to acquaint yourself with the composer’s style and learn to recognize his compositions.
The writing style is interesting, quick-paced, and in story format, with a pleasant level of maturity. It’s a great resource for little readers and would also be a fun family read aloud.
You can take advantage of the study guide (separate purchase) for the book, if you’d like to incorporate discussion points and quizzes into your group reading time.
Critiques & Cautions
There are no inappropriate details in the book, but here are a few FYI cautions for parents to be aware of:
– Robert lies to a piano salesman in order to gain access to his pianos for a practice session. It’s not portrayed as wrong – only as a little joke p. 46 – Robert says that his music cannot be bound by rules. p. 72 – Robert says that the fairies have blessed his little baby… Which, of course, is absolutely ridiculous. p. 92
This little biography is a fantastic overview of Schumann’s life and is definitely worth adding to your music library.
Music Teachers & Parents, it’s a great resource to spice up your student’s music history studies and would make great reading assignment for a composer of the month project!
It’s Spring Recital time, and everyone is posting recital pictures! Since I moved across the country3 months ago and had a baby 1 month ago, my studio isn’t quite up and running yet – soon! Still, I thought I’d join the fun and post some pictures from one of my past recitals.
I really love recital nights. It’s satisfying to watch the students enjoy the results of their hours of practice and to see a semester of hard work draw to a close. Not to mention visiting with all of the guests, meeting new friends, dressing up, and, well yes… the food. :)
It’s grand all around.
Before recitals start, I usually find my students huddled in little groups, giving each other pep-talks. It’s so sweet to see them interact this way. Definitely makes a teacher smile inside.
Micah performed Away in Manger and Gurlitt’s Indian Dance. It was her first recital!
Clair performed Telemann’s Gavotte in g minor, Bach’s Minuet in g minor, and Slavic Dance by G.P. Tingley.
Kylie performed Bach’s March in D Major and an arrangement I wrote of Ode to Joy.
Tia performed Bach’s Bourrée in F and Portrait of Remembrance (Anon.).
Paige performed Chopin’s Prelude in b minor, Op. 28 No. 6 and Diabelli’s Sonatina in F, Op. 168, No. 1 – Mvt. 1.
Sagan performed Clementi’s Sonatina in C, Op. 36, No. 1 – Mvt. 1, my arrangement of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and Telemann’s Bourrée in a minor.
Kylie performed Clementi’s Sonatina in C, Op. 36. No. 3, an arrangement I wrote of Morning Has Broken, and Vandall’s Toccata in a minor.
Sarah performed Chopin’s Waltz in a minor, Op. 34, No. 2, my arrangement of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent, and Mendelssohn’s Praeludium in e minor.
I always like to play a piece at the end of the program. This recital Laura & I performed the Theme from Schindler’s List.
I really missed having a recital this semester. Looking forward to getting back into the swing of things!
// P.S. //
Share a link to your recital pics in the comments below – I’d love to see yours!!
Title: Great Composers Coloring Book Author: John Green, Paul Negri Pages: 30 Audience: Students & Families – 8 & up Stars: ★★★★
A coloring book of the composers – what a fun way to add a splash of color to your children’s music history!
Okay, that was a tad cheesy. Moving on.
I really like this coloring book. The illustrations are artistic and classic – no goofy cartoons, no impressionism, no unrecognizable modern art. Personal taste aside, I think that’s particularly important when dealing with historical characters because it helps the individuals become “real” for children in a way a cartoonized character (or an unrecognizable modern glob) can’t quite pull off.
This coloring book includes a good variety of composers from the Baroque to modern periods: Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Chopin, Copland, Debussy, Dvorak, Gershwin, Grieg, Handel, Haydn, Joplin, Liszt, Mahler, Fanny & Felix Mendelssohn, Mozart, Prokofiev, Puccini, Ravel, Rossini, Schoenberg, Schubert, Robert & Clara Schumann, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Vivaldi, & Wagner. The composers are featured in the order they were born.
Another thing I really like about this book is that each coloring page has a short description of the composer under his illustration. This helps children can get to know the composer a bit while becoming acquainted with his face. The descriptions are concise — 50-70 words each — and do a great job sharing the most important aspects of the composers’ lives and work, along with a few fun music history tidbits to boot. Here are a few samples of the descriptions:
SCHUMANN | Robert Schumann was born the same year as Chopin, and he also wrote some of the finest piano music of the Romantic period, as well as symphonies, chamber music and songs. He was born in Germany and spent his life there. He was an important music critic and helped many young composers. His wife, Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was one of the greatest pianists of the nineteenth century.
ROSSINI | One of the most popular opera composers of all time, Gioacchino Rossini composed dozens of operas, including the famous Barber of Seville. Born in Italy, Rossini traveled throughout Europe and was enormously successful in his lifetime. His lively music is full of humor and delights the listener with many beautiful melodies. One of his best known works is his William Tell Overture.
TCHAIKOVSKY | Among the very greatest of Russian composers, Peter Tchaikovsky wrote symphonies, ballets, operas and other works, including the beloved ballet The Nutcracker, frequently performed at Christmas time. In 1891 Tchaikovsky came to New York City and conducted at the official opening of Carnegie Hall.
STRAVINSKY | The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky is considered to be among the most important composers of the twentieth century. His music was so different from anything before it that at the 1913 premiere of his ballet The Rite of Spring in Paris, riots broke out in the audience. In 1917, Stravinsky met the great artist Picasso, who made a famous sketch of him.
One thing to keep in mind: the illustrations are quite detailed for a coloring book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that the coloring book will be most appropriate for older children who can handle the fine lines and small coloring spaces. I would recommend it for approximately ages 8 and up.
– CHOPIN | Chopin’s description mentions that he lived with George Sands, and the picture is of him & Sands together at the piano. Neither the description or picture is graphic, but since their relationship was inappropriate, you will want to know it is there. Here is the description, along with the picture, for you to review:
“Frederic Chopin has been called “the soul of the piano,” and he composed some of the finest music ever written for that instrument. He was born near Warsaw, Poland, but moved to Paris where he spent most of his life and career. Regarded as a great composer of the Romantic Period, he lived with the famous writer George Sand (shown here; she was born Aurore Dupin). His Polonaise in A-flat Major, called “Heroic,” is one of the most famous piano works ever written.”
Younger children probably won’t catch anything strange from the picture or description, since neither is explicit, but you may need to discuss the issue with older, more discerning children. Or, if you prefer, you can just tear out the page.
JOPLIN | Joplin’s description mentions that he played in social clubs. True, social clubs of Joplin’s time weren’t anything like today’s, and hopefully your kids don’t even know what “social clubs” are anyway, but still… just an FYI.
RAVEL | Ravel’s description mentions that he and his friends had “wild ideas on art and culture.” I don’t think “wild” is the best word to describe Ravel’s ideas (Impressionism), but that’s how they chose to present it. Just another FYI.
I think you’ll love it! Try talking about the composers or listening to their music while coloring with your children! Have fun!
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Alright, folks, he’s here! Our little man, Winston Spencer, was born on April 25th — he is a precious little ball of kisses and chubs, and he has incredibly long piano fingers.
Or cello fingers. <3
Either way, it’s been a wonderful week and a half since he’s arrived, and every day gets better and better. It will be at least one week – perhaps two – before I resume posting. I’m just waaaaaay too busy staring into his cute little face and kissing his adorable round nose.
Here are a few portraits I took of the little man during one of his afternoon naps.
Angelic? I think so, too. :)
Be looking for some new resource reviews, articles, and quick tips when I come back!
It’s mid-April, and that means only one thing to music teachers: Recital Season!
While you finalize your recital plans, work through logistics, and look for ways to make everything flow as smoothly as possible you might be asking yourself if you should have a rehearsal.
That’s a good question to ask. And in my opinion, the exuberant answer is YES! A hundred times yes!
I love having recital rehearsals for so many reasons, but here are six reasons why I appreciate rehearsals the most.
1 | Early Preparation
This one might just be the biggest.
A trying-to-put-the-last-page-hands-together-the-night-before-the-recital approach is never fun. It’s usually not successful, either. Early preparation is absolutely invaluable, and no amount of last minute cramming will make up for a lack of it. If preparation is key, early preparation is a battering ram.
Having a rehearsal 2-3 weekends before your recital date sets a reasonable goal and an effective incentive for your students to have their pieces prepared and ready to perform well before the recital. It helps them avoid procrastination and allows the few remaining weeks between the rehearsal and recital to be devoted to enhancing presentation, refining artistic details, and building confidence.
2 | Working Though Logistical Kinks
Does the program flow? Are there too many slow pieces in a row? Did Johnny remember how to bow? Does everyone know what they need to bring? What time to arrive?
The rehearsal is a great time for you to see what logistical details need to be smoothed out between now and the recital (take notes!) and to make sure that everyonein the studioknows all of the important details for the recital night. At the rehearsal you can hand the parents and students neatly-printed sheets with all the information pertinent to them or follow up the rehearsal with a concise email. It’s also a great time to work through reception plans with your studio parents. Now, THAT’S the fun part!
3 | Discovering Hidden Weak Spots
Sometimes pieces that appeared solid during lessons suddenly become a bit shaky when performed “cold” for a roomful of people. Because rehearsals have so many of the same dynamics as recitals (audience, formal performance only one time through, etc.) they help to reveal those hidden weak spots that don’t usually manifest themselves during practice time or regular lessons.
As teacher, you’ll have the opportunity to target those areas during the rehearsal… And the best part is that you’ll have time to work through those spots with your students in the lessons between the rehearsal and the recital, find solutions, and get those sections in tip-top shape by recital time.
4 | Confidence
The rehearsal gives all of the students a chance to get familiar with the program and to practice everything that’s expected of them in an formal, recital setting. Audience, bowing, applause, smiling, order of pieces, memory, seating arrangement, presentation… it’s all there. Repetition builds confidence, and knowing that they have “done this before” will give a huge boost to their confidence on recital night.
The rehearsal alsogives your students the chance to find out if there is anything they’re unclear about relating to the recital. Talking over these things with them (and their parents!) will ease their minds and help to prevent confusion come performance time.
5 | Parental Involvement
Ideally, your studio parents are involved all semester and not just during recital season. But if not, the recital rehearsal is a perfect time to help them get connected!
For your student, having a parent physically present at the rehearsal can go a long way in making them more focused during preparation and more confident once performing under pressure. Most parents are excited to come – it’s a great opportunity for them to see how their child is handling preparation for their upcoming performance, and it’s also a perfect time for them to talk with you to find out how they can help their students maintain confidence and overcome weak spots between the rehearsal and the recital night. Plus, they get a fun sneak peak at the recital program!
Ask that at least one parent per student attend the rehearsal to hear the performances. Encourage your parents by reminding them how invaluable their verbal encouragement and physical presence really is to their student and to you.
6 | Camaraderie
Students are usually too preoccupied on recital night to make new friends, but rehearsals lend the perfect atmosphere for them to connect with other students in the studio, mingle, and develop friendships.
Never underestimate this one! When students relate to each other like they’re “in this together” instead of like fierce competitors trying to see who can come out on top, charming things happen.
I have had so much fun watching friendships develop between my students. At rehearsals, I hear them chattering about the upcoming recital – what they’re looking forward to, whether or not they’re nervous yet, and a host of other little excitements and woes. At recitals, I see them huddled on rows together giving each other pep talks, encouraging speeches, and comforting hugs. Just the sort of thing to make a teacher’s heart melt into pudding.
So actively encourage camaraderie between your students. Rehearsals are a perfect place to start! –
BONUS | Group Pictures!
If you’re planning to put a group picture in the printed recital program, the rehearsal is the ideal time to take it! I usually pick a color theme and request that the students wear it to the rehearsal so everyone is matching. They love it! –
IF YOU HAVEN’T had a rehearsal for your recitals before, give it a shot! It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can just be on a Saturday afternoon in your home or studio – short, sweet, and oh-so-effective!
It lifts a huge amount of pressure from the recital evening and provides a great comfort cushion for both you and your students.
If you decide to try it out, let me know how it goes!
Happy recital planning, friends!
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A couple of weeks after wemoved to TN our friends, the Courter Family, hosted an educational music event in their delightful home for families in the local area. Our friend Ben Botkin gave two lectures on the mechanics and morality of music, and a variety of classical and folk performances were interspersed before, between, and after his talks.
My sister Laura & I performed a number of violin / piano duets, including Meditation from Thais by Jules Massenet, Czárdás by Vittorio Monti, Pachelbel’s beloved Canon in D, and an arrangement of How Beautiful I wrote last year for my wedding.
This was our first music event to attend in Tennessee, and both of us had a thoroughly fantastic time participating, learning, and hearing the other musicians perform. And performing while 35 weeks pregnant was certainly a new adventure for me. :]
Ben’s lectures were excellent. I hope to go through my notes and post some thoughts from his talks up here on the blog soon… But here are a few pictures to enjoy in the meantime!
P.S. Ben is a skilled composer & film score artist – you should check out his website and listen to some of his work here: BenBotkin.com.–