How to Teach Your Kids About the Orchestra and Classical Composers

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Are you ready to teach your kids about the orchestra?

I decided to go for it this year and suddenly our homeschool music class seems to be my kids’ favorite subject.

This makes very little sense because I am the one teaching it.  It’s a bit crazy because I don’t play an instrument, other than rudimentary piano, and I don’t sing.  I lack musical talent in every single way.  Yet, we are all having a blast, learning a ton, and there are days that my kids beg for more!

So what are we doing?

We are using some fun resources to learn about classical composers and the orchestra and we are clearly having an amazing time.

You are capable of teaching homeschool music to your kids. There are great books, videos and other resources available to equip you with everything you need to introduce your kids to classical composers and the orchestra.

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Teach Your Kids About the Orchestra

Our first study of the orchestra occurred when my oldest was in first grade. Our Classical Conversations group was in cycle three and we spent part of the year studying the orchestra, both the music and the instruments.  It’s been 7 years since that unit and I knew it was time to hit the topic again for my younger three kids (12, 10, and 7).

It’s such a fun topic and an important one for kids of all ages and their parents!

Our Primary Orchestra Resource

I am using A Child’s Introduction to the Orchestra by Robert Levine and illustrated by Meredith Hamilton as the spine (core) of our Orchestra and Music Study. This book includes an audio CD with tracks that accompany the information in the book.

The first section of the book is the story of classical music from The Baroque Period to the Modern Era. As you read along, your family will learn about composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Debussy. Each page or double-page spread about a particular composer is informative, but not too lengthy. A featured track on the CD is assigned at the end of most pages allowing you to enjoy a brief selection by the composer.

The second section in the book focuses on the orchestra. Your family will meet the instruments, hear their sounds, and learn about the organization of the orchestra.

This easy-to-understand book is only the beginning of what we have incorporated into our study. A Child’s Introduction to the Orchestra has provided a springboard for all sorts of musical fun and I’d like to share some of our favorite additions!

Free Word Cards

As you teach your kids about the orchestra, they will encounter lots of new vocabulary words. This printable music word card pack from SQUILT is a great way to keep these words in front of your kids as they learn. Add them to a word wall or just pull them out for discussion.

Teach Your Kids about the Orchestra: Instruments

Listen and Learn

We recently discovered the videos on the Philharmonia Orchestra YouTube Channel. As we read about an instrument in A Child’s Introduction to the Orchestra, I follow up with the corresponding video on the Philharmonia Orchestra Channel.

The Philharmonia Orchestra Channel’s Instrument Guides are informative and amusing.  Each musician explains the parts of the instrument, various playing styles, as well as fun little tidbits.  The cellist in this video demonstrates how to play the cello with fruit:

All of the videos have been fantastic so far. When one ends, my kids ask for another! Of course, I like to keep things fresh and fun so I make them wait.

The videos vary in length though most are less than 10 minutes. The cello demonstration is the LONGEST at 18 minutes whereas the trombone is only 3 minutes and 23 seconds. If one doesn’t quite fit into our day, we just pause and finish it up the next day.

There are instruments included in The Story of the Orchestra that are not included on the Philharmonia YouTube channel and vice versa, so they both are great sources. You could certainly pick and choose from each source rather than over do it!

Play and Learn

We love SQUILT music and after we completed this unit, a Meet the Instruments pack was added to their product selection. It is a perfect addition to this unit:

Teach Your Kids about the Orchestra: Themed Picture Books

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
M is for Melody by Kathy-jo Wargin and illustrated by Katherine Larson
Because by Mo Willems
I Know a Shy Fellow who Swallowed a Cello by Barbara Garriel and illustrated by John O’Brien
Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo by John Lithgow and illustrated by Leeza Hernandez
Meet the Orchestra by Ann Hayes and illustrated by Karmen Thompson

Teach Your Kids about the Orchestra: Books with Music

The Carnival of the Animals (Book and CD) by Jack Prelutzky, created by Camille Saint-Saens and illustrated by Mary GrandPre
Can You Hear It? by William Lach
Listen to the Birds: An Introduction to Classical Music by Ana Gerhard and Cecilia Varela
The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket and music by Nathaniel Stookey (see the video in resources at the bottom)

Take an Orchestra Field Trip

Check out your local orchestra performances. Many orchestras have kid concerts as well as educational performances.

Here in Raleigh, the North Carolina Symphony performs Young Peoples Concerts as well as Education Concerts. They are typically short enough for a child’s attention span and some performances involve movement such as puppets or dancers.

We also discovered orchestra performances for movie scores WITH the movie! My daughter and I enjoyed the Harry Potter movie with the entire score performed live by the orchestra. It was incredible.

Teach Your Kids About the Orchestra: Other Resources

As you teach your kids about the orchestra, make sure they know that orchestra instruments and performances aren’t boring! There are so many fun and creative videos to watch and enjoy.

The Piano Guys YouTube channel is definitely worth a visit.

The Cello Star Wars Duel is a classic:

The music and story of Peter and the Wolf introduce the sounds of the orchestra and their ability to communicate a story. I did not find a book that I enjoyed, but this YouTube video did the trick:

Teach Your Kids About Classical Composers

As part of our teaching my kids about the orchestra (more resources below), we also learned about classical composers through the years. Most of our learning was done through listening to music and reading books. Classical music is a great addition to your study when you teach your kids about the orchestra.

Classical Kids Musical Stories

It is hard for me to choose a favorite because I truly enjoy all of them.  Vivaldi’s music includes some of my favorites and the storyline is a bit mysterious so that one is high on my list. My kids have enjoyed listening to both of the Mozart CD’s to fall asleep in bed at night.

Classical Music Silly CDs

These CD’s are full of classical tunes with ridiculous lyrics. The tuns are definitely memorable, but not everyone will enjoy memorizing them this way. Our family did enjoy it and had plenty of laughs.

 

 

Maestro Classics

I simply love the Maestro Classic CD’s. The stories on these CD’s are told creatively through music. In addition, various selections are set to memorable lyrics.

When I hear the music of Swan Lake I still sing in my head, “Tchaikovsky wrote a great ballet, it’s name was Swaa-ah-ah-ahn Lake.”

You can also buy the full set of all 12 Maestro Classics!

Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers

This book series has been a favorite in our home for years. The books include a good amount of information and the illustrations are entertaining.

Classical Music Unit Studies

Our family has implemented several of the Musical Era Studies from SQUILT music. You can read more about how we used these musical era guides in our homeschool.

They are a great addition to your orchestra year, though we used a few in the years following our study.

SQUILT Music has released a series of Listening Maps to assist parents as they listen and teach a variety of musical selections to their kids:

 

Do you feel inspired and equipped to teach the Orchestra and classical music to your kids? I hope so. What would you add to the list?

You are capable of teaching music to your kids. There are great books, videos and other resources available to equip you with everything you need to introduce your kids to classical composers and the orchestra.

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7 thoughts on “How to Teach Your Kids About the Orchestra and Classical Composers”

  1. I loved your well-written comprehensive post and the links to a treasure trove of resources. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

  2. Awesome post! Music appreciation seems intimidating to me since I don’t play any instruments nor sing. How often do you study this…one day a week?

  3. As an above commenter said, this is a treasure trove! I am a musician (and also a newly minted homeschooler) and this is a wonderful list of resources, some of which I didn’t know about! (We also love the Maestro Classics cds!) Thank you so much!

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