Learning Through Example and Experience (Appreciating Classical Music Part 1)

Posted by Elisabeth Tanner on 9/19/2016 to Homeschooling

It has been said that

A love of classical music is only partially a natural response to hearing the works performed, it also must come about by a decision to listen carefully, [and] to pay close attention...”1

As teachers and parents, we need to be intentional about teaching our students to love and appreciate this unique genre. Let us share some creative and practical ways to introduce your students to classical music.

This week we will talk about introducing our children to classical music through EXAMPLE and EXPERIENCES.


The main way that children will begin to appreciate classical music is by watching you enjoy it.

Do they hear it playing simply for your pleasure? Do you have a classical music playlist on your MP3 player?  Do you ever hum a classical song or mention that you recognize what’s playing at a restaurant or store? It is very important that our children know we have listened to these songs and enjoy this style of music as well. I like to turn classical music on while I am doing housework (it gets me moving faster J). The Piano Guys are my dish-washing friends; my mother-in-law likes to play it when she is exercising. I will often have the public classical radio station on when we are driving. Even if one of the children asks me to put “their music” on (children’s songs), sometimes I will say, “Well, Mommy is enjoying this song right now, and I will put the other songs on when it is finished.” Our positive approach is very valuable to our children’s perception of anything—even music choices! Just as in everything else, the best way we can teach is through example.


Another way I would like to encourage you to intentionally engage your child in classical music is through interactive experiences with the composers. There are many great resources available both online and in book form to accomplish this goal. I would like to suggest several key components for you to consider as you present the composers to your child.

1.      Keep the information age-appropriate. Some wonderful biographies about the composers have been written, but one of my favorites is Zeezok’s Great Musician Series and the accompanying activity book. These books have been written in an engaging storybook form, but contain accurate details and are very personable. Children respond well to the pictures and book layouts, as well as the hands-on activities. This is very important as you introduce your children to the life stories of these men. Young readers need to be able to understand the information and be interested in what they are reading.

2.      Help the child relate to the information by connecting it to modern day experiences.

·         Handel’s Blindness: As Handel entered his mid-sixties, his eyesight was so badly weakened that he could hardly see the notes without a magnifying glass. In order to sense what Handel might have experienced as he lost his sight, complete one of these commands:

o   Close your eyes and write your name, address, and phone number on a piece of paper.

o   Close your eyes and try to tie your shoes or zip your coat.

o   How did you feel? Did it make these tasks feel more frustrating? Imagine how Handel felt as his sight was slipping away.

3.      Give the “behind the scenes” story of the songs you play for your children. Some of the reasons why these songs were written are quite fascinating.

·         Handel’s “Water Music”—Handel had obtained leave from the Prince to visit England, promising a quick return, but he was actually gone for almost a year.  The Prince made a trip to London, and Handel, who was concerned he would be in trouble for being gone so long, decided to write a special song to please the Prince while he sailed along the river Thames “Water Music” was the result of his efforts. (The King was pleased with the song and pardoned his court composer for being away.)

·         Paganini was challenged by the Princess to compose a song for just one string. Paganini wrote a song for the G-string alone. He called it Napoleon’s Sonata and presented it in time for the emperor’s birthday.

·         When the musicians in Haydn’s orchestra had been separated from their families for almost a year, they became restless and asked him to convey their displeasure to the Prince. Haydn wrote his Symphony No. 45, nicknamed Farewell. As he was conducting, the musicians slowly got up and left the room. The Prince took the hint, and preparations for a trip to Vienna were started the next day!

4.      Share interesting facts about the composers themselves (where they lived and travelled, what they liked to eat, family facts, timelines of their lives, popular songs they wrote, other jobs they held, etc…)

·         Did you know that Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart were all alive at the same time? (Mozart and Haydn were very good friends.)

·         Did you know that George Handel was in a sword duel?

·         Did you know that Franz Schubert was nicknamed “Little Mushroom” (Schwammerl) by some of his friends?

(All of these practical application samples are from Zeezok Publishing’s Great Musicians Series and Music Appreciation Student Activity Book 1)

Exposing our children to and developing a love for classical music is a very valuable endeavor and can have a lifelong effect on our children’s learning and outlook! Join us next week for a discussion on how to encourage our children to love classical music by exposing them to this amazing genre.

[1] Charles Rosen.

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