This multimedia bibliography is primarily for teachers (classroom teachers and music specialists) who want to introduce classical music to children in lower and upper elementary school. These resources would also be useful to parents or anyone else interested in the topic, and a few of the resources have elements specifically for children (games, etc.). I have compiled a variety of resources including books, websites and electronic apps, educational programming resources within Austin, and educational and entertaining videos. For the user’s ease, resources are organized by medium. My goal was to create a bibliography that would help teachers plan, implement, and present lessons, and also provide opportunities for students to continue the study on their own. While the items listed vary a great deal in format and content, I believe that they will all be useful in introducing children to classical music and have the potential to inspire a life-long love of beautiful music.
1. Ganeri, Anita. The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Harcourt Brace & Company, 1996.
Medium: book (informational) and CD
Ages: 8 and up
Benjamin Britten’s orchestral piece, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, has been the classic introduction to the symphony orchestra for the past 65 years. Written to highlight individual sections of the orchestra and then weave them together, this piece not only has beautiful music, but also features narration that takes the listener on a tour through the entire orchestra. Anita Ganeri’s book is the perfect complement to the CD of Britten’s music, providing background information, and pictures of, each instrument along with historical background on the orchestra, musical periods, and famous composers. Ganeri also shares examples of different kinds of instruments used in orchestras around the world, gives the reader a peek into the day-to-day life of a professional musician, and includes a glossary of musical terms. The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is the quintessential introduction to classical music and is an excellent resource best used for children in middle to late elementary school.
2. Lach, William. Can You Hear It? Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006.
Medium: book and CD
Ages: 4 and up
Music often evokes vivid pictures in the mind of the listener, and Can You Hear It? pairs classical works with paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, using art to bring the music to life in a new way. Each musical selection on the CD is accompanied by a full-page image in the book, a brief explanation of the connection between the music and the art, and notes indicating specific things to listen for in the piece. At the end of the book there are notes about the works of art and the artists, as well as the composers. The book also contains descriptions of each instrument in the orchestra and pictures or works of art showing the reader what the instrument looks like. Can You Hear It? is a great tool for expanding on a basic knowledge of classical music and teaching children about the use of imagery.
3. Moss. Lloyd. Illus. by Marjorie Priceman. Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1995.
Medium: book (counting)
Ages: 4 and up
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin is a counting book in which readers learn about instruments in the orchestra. The story begins with one trombone playing a solo, then a trumpet joins in and they play a duet, and soon there is an orchestra of ten instruments all playing beautiful music together. The text is both creative, using adjectives that mimic the sounds of the instruments, and informative, using musical terms and telling the reader about different parts of the instruments. Colorful illustrations and clever text make this book an enjoyable lesson about instruments.
4. Ryan, Pam Munoz. Illus. by Brian Selznick. When Marian Sang. Scholastic Press, 2002.
Medium: book (biographical)
Ages: 4 and up
When Marian Sang is the story of Marian Anderson, an African-American contralto widely considered to be one of the most celebrated vocalists of the twentieth century. From singing in church as a child to her historic concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 to her debut with the Metropolitan Opera, Marian Anderson’s story is one of perseverance, triumph, and a remarkable talent and spirit. Pam Munoz Ryan’s text is captivating and moving, and Brian Selznick’s illustrations are rich and emotive. In addition to the story, the book also has notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of Marian Anderson’s life, and a selected discography of her works. This book would be a wonderful complement to any lesson about classical music in the early and mid-twentieth century, lending a personal and historical element to the subject.
5. Snicket, Lemony. Illus. by Carson Ellis. The Composer is Dead. Harper Collins Publishers, 2009.
Medium: book (fictional story) and CD
Ages: 4 and up
The Composer is Dead is a silly, yet informative, introduction to the orchestra. In this story, a composer dies and the investigating Inspector goes to the orchestra to find the murderer. He talks to each section – strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion – but they all have alibis. Will he ever solve this musical mystery? In his interrogations, the Inspector learns about the instruments and the role each plays in the symphony, along with other useful information such as musical terminology and a long list of already-dead composers. In classic Lemony Snicket style, the text of The Composer is Dead is clever and fast-paced. Carson Ellis’ watercolor illustrations are fun and full of quirky details. The accompanying CD features a dramatic reading by the author with orchestral accompaniment. With its combination of whimsy and educational information, this book would be a terrific addition to any young music-lover’s library. Read more…