Monday, November 22, 2010

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers - A Review

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

$29.95 - CD-Rom Book
$34.95 - Paperback Book

Melissa E. Craig and Maggie S. Hogan

Bright Ideas Press

To Purchase:
Guide to Composer's

Age Range: Grades 4-8

Other Products Available

Brief Intro:
This course provides a close-up look at famous composers, their music, and their times, with special attention to character traits and Christian testimony (or lack thereof). Even the musically challenged will enjoy this course! It’s perfect for grades 4-8 but is easily adaptable for younger and older students. Minimal teacher prep will return maximum enjoyment! (from the website)

For more information, click here. Sample pages are also available.

In-Depth Look:

When it came time for the TOS crew to review products from Bright Ideas Press, they gave us a few choices. I decided to review this book about composers. It was a topic that I feel my children could benefit from. So I decided to give it a go.

I have heard, as most of you probably have too, that exposure to classical music has an impact on brain development, especially in younger children. Some even suggest playing classical music while you are still pregnant with your baby. Recent studies show that taking music lessons improve brain development and memory. So, I wanted to make classical music more a part of our lives and our curriculum.

So far, I hadn't done much about it. I did buy a CD that introduces children to the classics. And every now and then, I turn on the classical station in the car. But not much more progress had been made. That is why, when this book was suggested, I picked it.

When the book arrived, I was glad to see it. It has a pleasing appearance: nice size, paper-back, two-tone pages, musical notes in the borders. Its appearance invites you to open it up and visit a while.

It is designed as a full year's curriculum, 32 weekly lessons. It is also designed to cover one composer over 3 days.

Day 1 -
*Listen to the recommended selections. (2 or 3 times the first day)
*Read the lesson.
*Fill in the note-taking pages or answer the Student Review Questions.

Day 2 -
*Listen to the recommended selections again.
*Fill in the Composer Info-Card.
*Color in the timeline.
*Match the composer to his place of birth.

Day 3 -
*Listen to the recommended selections again.

The composers are divided into the musical time periods, from Baroque to Contemporary. The composers bios are each a few pages long (most are 3 to 4). Students will learn about the composer's childhood, marriage, children, whose music they were influenced by, who was influenced by their music, what they were best known for, their faith in God, and other interesting facts.

Some examples:

- Chopin had this to say of England, "Their orchestra resembles their roast beef and their turtle soup; it's strong, it's famous . . . but that is all."

- Despite the fact that Verdi produced biblically themed operas, we know he did not have a good opinion of Christianity.

- A classmate of Debussy described him as "uncommunicative, not to say surly; he was not attractive to his friends."

So you see, you learn not only about the composers' music, but also about their lives. This adds interest and depth to the study, in my opinion.

I like the extra stuff, in addition, to just reading the lessons. It helps make it more interesting and helps the facts to stick.

Some of the extras:

- Links to YouTube videos of the composers' compositions.

- Review pages for each composer, usually 10 questions. Fill in the blanks, multiple choice, true or false, etc.

- Coloring sheets. Extremely nice, detailed pictures of the composers.

- Bingo and Jeopardy! game forms

- Directions for making a Folderbook. Kind of like a lapbook, but more simple.

- Lots of great resources for a more in-depth study of some of the individuals covered in the book.

- Useful websites for more information.

- Composer Cards. These are really cute and can be used in the folderbook.

- Illustrations for the composer cards.

So this book is so much more than just the lesson. It is a well-rounded classical music curriculum. I am impressed with it and plan to continue using it.

The recommended age is 4th - 8th grade. But I think it is a bit much for 4th. It is a lot of information ( dates, new vocabulary words, unfamiliar cities and names). I don't think my 3rd grader is going to retain much of it. But I think it is worth it to expose her to the information and then return to it again in a few years. My 6th grader will get more out of it now, and then will get a review in a few years.

Would you like to read more reviews?

Disclaimer: I received the Guide to Composers free of charge, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

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