Sunday, February 22, 2015

Orchestra & Famous Composers

Bumping this post up from the archives in anticipation of our final six weeks of Classical Conversations, when we study Orchestra and Composers in greater depth.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Woodwinds and Brass and Percussion and Strings,
These are a few of my favorite things!

Once upon a time, I played flute, piccolo, bass drum, cymbals and baritone (but... not all at the same time).

In high school, I placed my flute on a shelf to collect years of dust and walked away from a God-given talent, mainly because I never developed a love of the music I played. In the midst of playing solos and ensembles, memorizing many pieces, and leading an entire section of instruments, I had never actually studied classical music or composers. I never appreciated the music I played. I never enjoyed it. Even when I played solos with band accompaniments, I could not tell you anything about a composer or even recognize a piece (except Stars & Stripes Forever). That was two decades ago (TWO DECADES?!?!?). And yet I have thought back longingly to those moments when conductor unified chaos. (Really, I wish I could raise my hands and conduct my home in such a way.  Sometimes I try to, but mostly I just sing Amy Joy Tofte's Catastrophism song (from Cycle 3) until the boys realize I'm talking about their rooms...)

And so now we return to the formal study of such things. I personally have come to appreciate this aspect of Fine Arts more in the past year, albeit through The Nutcracker and Disney's Little Einsteins. (If you're like me and want an easy way to incorporate Fine Arts into your home, visit Wikipedia's List of Little Einsteins Episodes for a list of Little Einstein's episodes along with each art/music focus and then go to this list to find out which episodes are on which DVD. Last year prior to our official composer study, our boys already knew the names "Stravinsky" and "Tchaikovsky" and were familiar with their music due to Disney’s Little Einsteins, specifically, Rocket's Firebird Rescue (Stravinsky's Firebird Suite) and Christmas Wish (Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite).) And despite the fact that I ran away from this classical music stuff at one time, now I look forward to it. It's fun! (And maybe - just maybe - I will be brave enough this year to take the boys to the Symphony!)

The main thing for composer study is to simply listen to the music to become familiar with the composer's sound and style, and to learn the vocabulary.  You can supplement with biographies and notebooking pages, or coloring pages, or let your child draw or scribble, but the most important thing is to listen to the music and gain a basic understanding of classical music!

Towards the bottom of this post, you'll find a list of the resources I've found, but before I get to that point, here's my filtered, less intimidating list of things we might use this semester (ha!  This one looks intimidating, too, but so you know, I will NOT be using all of this stuff! I might use one or two things, like the very cool and funny multiplication connect-the-dots for the composers' wigs. But mostly we will just try to listen to the music of each composer.  And if you come across broken links, please let me know.  I had to re-redo this post several times because I'm Mac-mouse-challenged and Apple-intolerant.)

This page will be updated for Cycle 1 during the fall semester. Until then, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post for Cycle 1 related resources. Thank you for your patience!

For Cycle 3, feel free to use our composer notebooking pages from our Cycle 3 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet!

Download Cycle 2 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet here.
Download Cycle 3 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet here.

The following image is from our Cycle 2 packet, just to show you what the composer pages look like.

Each composer page includes a place to write something about the composer or the music at the top, and a section along the bottom to draw as you listen.

For Classical Conversations CC Connected Subscribers:  Some great resources for Cycle 3 await you! My favorite method of listening to classical music is by using listening flowcharts. From the File Sharing Center drop-down menu, select category "Cycle " and "Fine Arts" and search for the following files:

Cycle 3 Files on CC Connected
Stravinsky Flow Chart-1 by Discarbunch
Debussy Flow Chart by Discarbunch
Tchaikovsky Flow Chart by Discarbunch
Orchestra booklet by Suzirsmith
CC C3 Composer Cards by lorigreene
C3_FineArt_wk01-24_a_starting_point by Knoxfamily

And that's just a few! There are currently around 30 or so files for Cycle 3 composers & orchestra, including vocabulary cards, composer and orchestra slides, and notebooking pages.

Cycle 3 Resources
Cycle 3 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet
Classical Conversations Orchestra Song (Free the Free Learning Center of CC Connected)

As a parent…

Time Periods of Classical Music Song and Game
Let's Go to the Symphony Video
The Orchestra Song
{Classical Conversations Orchestra MP3 Song (Free Public Library - CC Connected))
Printable Activities:
A study of Prokofiev and Peter and the Wolf
Periods of Music History Summary Page
Music Fun Facts Book
Free SQUILT Lessons to practice music appreciation
Orchestra Lapbook
See above Cycle 3 resource list
And some of the symphony websites for kids or interactives listed at the bottom of this post

If I were a CC tutor or co-op teacher…
Classical Conversations Orchestra Song (Public Library - CC Connected)
Instruments of the Orchestra Posters
OrchestraSeating Charts (Printable)
Musical Instrument Bingo & Flashcards
Online Interactive – Match the instruments to the sounds

Coloring Sheets:
My Musical Instrument Book
Extension activities - Pick and choose something to do!

Orchestra & Famous Composers: Weeks 19-24 of Classical Conversations
My Musical Instrument Book
Handel Biography on Artsalive website
Mozart Biography on Artsalive website
Mozart Lapbook
Bach Lapbook
Handel Water Music Activity Page
Mozart and Bach Coloring Page, Wordsearch, and Multiplication Connect-the-Dots
Bach Coloring Page
Let's Go Mozart pdf book by Artsalive- includes biography and so much more!
A-BACH-cadbra pdf book by ArtsAlive
Handel: His Life, His Times, and His Music pdf book by Artsalive
Mozart Study
Mozart Composer Study Resources & Printables
Bach Composer Study Resources & Printables
Handel Composer Study Resources & Printables

Cycle 1 Music:

Classical Conversations Orchestra Song (Public Library - CC Connected)
Musopen: offers free Classical Music MP3s and Classical Composer Bios
Handel Water Music MP3 or streaming audio
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-Flat video

Cycle 2 Biographies, Printables, & Resources:
Cycle 2 Fine Arts Notebooking Packet
Beethoven Coloring Page
Beethoven Printable Biography Page
Beethoven Unit Study & Lapbook
Brahms Coloring Page
Brahms Printable Biography Page
Dvorak Coloring Page
Dvorak Printable Biography Page
Beethoven Multiplication Dot-to-Dot
Beethoven, Brahms, and Dvorak Coloring Pages, Wordsearch, and Multiplication Connect-the-Dots
Beethoven: The Story of a Little Boy Who Was Forced to Practice (Booklet with Q&A)

Cycle 2 Files on CC Connected (not hyperlinked)

Beethoven Musician Flow Chart.pdf
Beethoven Cycle 2 Week 20 Revised.pdf
Brahms Flow Chart.pdf
Brahms Cycle 2 Week 21.pdf
Dvorak Flow Chart copy.pdf
Dvorak Cycle 2 Week 22.pdf
Composers Timeline.pdf

Cycle 2 Music:
Musopen: offers free Classical Music MP3s and Classical Composer Bios

These resources are not recommended or endorsed by Classical Conversations.  Classical Conversations recommends Classical Music for Dummies for composer study during Weeks 19-24, and a complete six-week guide (with schedule and activities) may be found in the appendix of the Foundations Guide 4th Edition.


  1. Thanks for all these fantastic resources!
    I am on the hunt for photos of composers/clip art, to put in our time line book. Do you know of any?

  2. I'm sorry! Somehow I missed this comment while on the road! You can try: or Also Homeschool in the Woods has a composer activity pack that includes wonderful Composer timeline clipart:

  3. woot! Thanks for including my free SQUILT lessons! I want to keep spreading the word to families on CC connected that they can download my plans for free there, too -- I love your notebooking sheets!

  4. I have the file names listed in the post (underneath the image of the composer pages), but these files are not under my username, they are under thegossards.  Here they are again:
    Beethoven Musician Flow Chart.pdf
    Brahms Flow Chart.pdf
    Dvorak Flow Chart copy.pdf


  5. Thanks so much, Brandy.

  6. Can I just say that I love you for putting CC Connected drop down instructions and specific searches??!!