Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meet the Composers!

My last homeschool class was such a success, that I was asked to squeeze in one more 4 week class before the end of the year.  This time 15 kids registered!  We had a fun and exciting time today at our first class!  I wanted to spin off the class we just had, but make it independent since I knew I would have some students who weren't at the last class.  So I put together a class I called, "Meet the Composers!".

Today we started with a look at Frederick Chopin.  I love the series, "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers".   The kids really seem to respond to them.  They are colorful, have funny little jokes throughout and really help make what could be "dry" facts come alive!

My friend, Becky (who I've mentioned many times on this blog) helps me with all of these classes as well as the camps.  She is a wonderful reader so I had her start out reading the book on Chopin.

Since Chopin was a child prodigy, we talked about what that meant and then I showed the kids a YouTube video of Umi Garrett playing Chopin's, "Fantasie Impromptu".  They were pretty amazed!

Part of what I wanted to accomplish with this class was to help them realize that any of us can be a composer - that you don't have to be dead, old or wear funny wigs! 

With that in mind, I did a fun game with them to work on rhythm and then I handed out a bunch of small cards with the letters of the alphabet on them.  After they got in groups of two or three, I had them put the two octave sets in order.  Then I had them connect them all together and showed them how the music alphabet kept going!  They really liked this simple activity.  I also played all the notes on the piano starting with the low A all the way to high C and named them outloud as I played just to reinforce that after A-G came A-G again. 

Now came the fun part!  Let's compose our own song together!
I had each student randomly pick 2 musical alphabet cards and give them to me.  I lined them up in a long line across the floor.  I then pulled out a diatonic set of boomwhackers and handbells and gave one or the other to each student.

After a bit of practice with them, we played our "composed" song.  They were very excited to know that it was the first time their "song" had ever been played!  They decided to name it the "Boom-a-Bell Song"!  Cute, huh? 

Well, we didn't stop there!  We then decided to play it backwards!  Of course, then they had to name it the "Bell-a-Boom Song"!  So funny! And so clever!  They laughed, giggled and got SO excited to do this activity!  After a few run throughs, I touched a bit on what harmony meant and rearranged the cards so they played two notes together.  I was very impressed at how quickly they caught on and how well they played.  We also played ALL the notes together (shaking the bells and rapidly whacking the boomwhackers on the floor) for the last note!  Of course that part was their favorite! 

This was the last activity we did in the class, so they all left VERY excited!  I plan to build on this composing activitiy as we practice more over the next 3 weeks!


Luke Bartolomeo said...

I had forgotten about the "World's Greatest Composer Series" of books. I used to love using those books when I taught group classes. They are the perfect introduction to the master composers for children.

Thanks for the great ideas for incorporating composition into group classes. In my opinion, composing really is one of those activities that is much more fun for the children in a group environment. They can really feed off of each others ideas.

Thanks again!

Luke Bartolomeo

Repertoire Review
The weekly audio podcast where you can listen to new piano repertoire for intermediate to early advanced level students.

Leanne Lee said...

Hi Sheryl,
I really enjoy reading your blog...thanks so much for sharing your ideas!

I'm exploring your posts on music history and becoming inspired (especially by browsing through the books you list!). One thing I'd love to have in my studio is a timeline of music history on my wall. I'd love to be able to have students pin up the names of the composers/performers they're learning about under the correct time period. Do you have any ideas for where I might be able to purchase such a timeline? I can't seem to find anything online.

Leanne Lee
Piano teacher & freelance pianist from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Sheryl said...

Hi Leanne,

Thank you for your comments. I'm glad some of what I post is helpful! As far as the timeline...my best suggestion would be to make your own to fit your needs or try typing "music history timeline" under Google Images. Several timelines pop up and give you the site address to purchase them. You may be able to find one that works well for you. I don't have the wall space for anything similar to what you are talking about so I've never made one. Hopefully that helps!