Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Instruments of the Orchestra Resources

We are very lucky in Colorado to have a well-established symphony orchestra who include in their programming many concerts for children. My husband and I have been taking our son to their Family Series of concerts for the past 3 years and every year I bring the 5th and 6th graders on a field trip to hear a Colorado Symphony Orchestra Youth Concert.

In addition to studying the program music we review the instruments of the orchestra. (In my district instrument families are included in the 4th grade curriculum.)
There are many wonderful resources out there. 

Here are a few of my favorites that particularly appeal to 5th and 6th graders:


The Composer is Dead

I love this book. It's got it all, murder (kind of), mystery, intrigue, and a dark, (but not too dark,) sense of humor.  I came to this book in a roundabout way. The illustrator, Carson Ellis, is the illustrator for the album covers and posters for the band The Decemberists, (she is also married to their lead singer, Colin Meloy.)  As a Decemberists fan, I've been on the lookout for her work in other places which led me to this gem. The CD is included and the narration and composed music is very well done. 

Each instrument family is interrogated by the inspector regarding the crime. Many stereotypes of specific instrumentalists are bantered about, (the confirmed-bachelor-tuba's alibi is his card game with his landlady, the harp, played while drinking warm milk from a small blue cup.) The writing style is witty and just jaded enough to capture the interest of 12 year olds. I was fortunate to see this piece performed by Colorado Symphony Orchestra live last year.

Here is a sample of the story:

Side note: I recently went to a reading/book signing of Carson Ellis and Colin Meloy's new book Under Wildwood, the sequel to their first book, Wildwood. I highly recommend both books for the 12-16 year old set interested in Narnia-like fantasies. (Wildwood was a bit too scary for my son, who is 7.)

If you are a music teacher reading this I hope you are saying to yourself, "Of course The Remarkable Farkle McBride, everyone reads this to the students!" If you are not familiar with this book then just go find it and read it to the kids. You won't regret it.

This was a recommendation from Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis when I saw them at the above mentioned book signing after I gushed about how much I loved Carson's work in The Composer is Dead. (Unfortunately, I was too nervous to mention my adoration of The Decemberists. I don't always say what I want when faced with people I greatly admire. Especially when my kids are pulling on my purse and asking for gum. Such is life.)

It's a fun book for the younger set (1st - 3rd grade) that shows the musicians getting ready for their performance. Then they come together at 8:30pm to make music and perform the concert. Be advised: there are partially naked drawings, (but no naughty bits.)
Students will giggle when they see people drying off after bathing but it's worth reading to them.

YouTube clips:

PDQ Bach - Beethoven Symphony No. 5
I live in a sports-obsessed town where the streets become nearly deserted during Broncos games, (a GREAT time to run errands, by the way.) 
If this captures the attention of my students and get them interested in the symphony, I'm showing all ten minutes and thirty four seconds of it. It's very entertaining and attainable for 9-12 year olds. (I do remind them that the audience expectations at the CSO concert are very different.)

Peter and the Wolf beatbox flute
My students listen to Peter and the Wolf in 2nd grade. This a wonderful connection and re-introduction to that piece. Greg Pattillo is slammin'!

Cello Wars, A Star Wars Parody
Cellos, Star Wars, what's not to love?
Parent have been letting me know that kids are making their whole family watch this video. Yeah, cellos are coooool!

Me and My Cello: Happy Together
Yes, more from The Piano Guys. I couldn't resist.
(And no, I don't play the cello.)

Radio Broadcasts/Websites

From the Top is a PBS radio show (broadcast every Sunday evening on Colorado's classical station.)
The show features excellent kid musicians performing and being interviewed about their day-to-day lives and interests. It's a wonderful "slice of life" view of normal kids passionate about making music.

It's great having so many mediums to feature professional musicians. 
(Don't you love living in the future?)
This short list barely scratches the surface of the quality resources available.

Did I miss your favorite book/video/website?

Let me know!

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