Music appreciation is a subject that is not bound by age-groups but can be enjoyed by everyone. Use these ideas and resources to begin your preschool music appreciation adventure.
Charlotte Mason, a 19th century educator who has influenced our family's style of homeschooling considerably, said that education is a science of relations - a child needs to be introduced to a wide range of subjects and allowed to make her own relations with them.
This is the idea behind a 'generous' education and the teacher or parent's role is to help the child to make these relations.
After some reading about Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education, I realised that I wanted to expose myself and my children to some of the 'finer' things in life, including art and music appreciation - the works of famous artists and musicians.
(Read about our Art Appreciation.)
Charlotte and Zenda would agree that music appreciation gives great joy and adds interest to the life of all children.
(Karen Andreola, A Charlotte Mason Companion)
You, yourself, do not have to be musically talented or even very knowledgeable about music for your children to develop an appreciation for fine music.
Charlotte Mason found that "music appreciation has no more to do with playing an instrument than an appreciation of Shakespeare has to do with acting, or the enjoyment of pictures has to do with painting."
In Charlotte's music appreciation programme, the music of one composer was played every week for about half an hour.
Zenda Nel, who researched music in early childhood education for a doctoral degree, using a programme she has developed and used in South African townships, says that music appreciation should be much more than just stories, songs and rhymes.
Instead, she says that when storytelling, dramatization and creative dance movements are integrated into the listening process, it proves to be "a powerful tool that could be used to lead young children towards the appreciation of many different musical styles, especially western classical music."
Music stimulates brain development
The Benefits of Preschool Songs and Nursery Rhymes
Find out why seeming nonsense verses about fanciful characters offer many benefits to children and opportunities to learn key skills for effective communication and success in adult life.Also read why memorization is an essential Preschool Language Activity and the importance of developing Auditory Perception
I think it is almost common knowledge these days, that classical music played to babies and toddlers helps to stimulate the development of the brain. Apparently, Baroque music in particlar, stimulates the development of nervous connections in the developing brain of young children and it is believed to enhance mathematical and language skills in particular.
It is interesting to note that much of the music of the Baroque era was written for God's glory!
Knowing the above, I invested in some classical CDs of composers such as Bach, Mozart and Handel, as well as some compilations of various composers of the Baroque era which was compiled for this purpose. The complex and high-pitched violin music of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is especially recommended as well as Handel's Water Music Suite and The Messiah and music by Bach is also highly recommended for stimulating the brain!
As my children have grown past baby- and toddlerhood, I have tried to build a collection of what I call child-friendly classical music as an introduction to classical music, as well as a few CDs of other genres. We have also enjoyed watching musical videos, such as The Sound of Music, The King and I and others which are listed below.
The beauty of music is that it can be appreciated by all ages and so the whole family can enjoy it together. My children currently range in age from teens to tiny tots!
Our Music Appreciation Activities
In our home, we don't have any planned music appreciation lessons, per say, rather we just play the music or listen to one of the stories of the great composers when we feel like it, while doing chores, doing puzzles or while the kids draw and colour in.
Sometimes the children dance, march or move to the music, if they feel so inclined. (My girls love the ballet music of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake!) Sometimes they just listen to the music, but already they can recognise the pieces they know when they hear them elsewhere!
In summary, here is a list of music appreciation activities that we have enjoyed:
1. Listening to classical CDs for kids - listed below
2. Watching movies of famous musicals or listening to their soundtracks eg. The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera (soundtrack only, the movie is not suitable for kids as it contains a gruesome murder!)
3. Watching ballets or ballet videos/DVDs eg. The Nutcracker, Peter and the Wolf.
5. Live musical productions - check your local theatres and see if there are any ballets or other musical shows suitable for children.
6. Building a family collection of music of various genres besides classical, including praise and worship music, light opera, instrumental and various compilations.
Music Appreciation CDs and DVDs
These are some of the classical music CDs that we own and that I recommend as an introduction to classical music appreciation for children. You can listen to sample excerpts of most of them at Amazon.com.
If you are going to buy just one CD to start music appreciation, I suggest this one. This CD includes Prokoviev's Peter and the Wolf - a simple, narrated musical story that is an introduction to the instruments of the orchestra for children. I loved it as a child and now my children do too!
The CD also includes Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens' in which music is used to 'describe' animals like elephants, bees and others! Also included is Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra which introduces children to the four classes of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. (75 minutes)
The Classical Kids' Collections
This boxed set includes the following four CDs which are also available individually and are described below.
Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery and Mozart's Magic Fantasy.
Wonderful stories with carefully selected pieces from each composer are combined bringing biography, storytelling and music into a delightful music appreciation harmony that will entertain both young and old over and over again!
Classical Kids Collection Volume 2
Once you've listened to the first four in the Classical Kids series, like us, you'll probably want the rest!
This is the second collection of music appreciation stories about some of the world's most famous composers that combines facts, fiction and their music to create entertainment for all ages, while familiarizing listeners with carefully chosen pieces of music.
This set includes Song of the Unicorn, Mozart's Magnificent Voyage, Tchaikovsky Discovers America, Hallelujah Handel, which can also be purchased individually (below).
The Story: After the dramatic send-off of his music into space aboard Voyager II, Mr. Bach, along with his magic orchestra and choir drops in on a little girl as she practices the piano.
The Music: Over two dozen excerpts, including Jesu, joy of Man's Desiring, Brandenburg Concerto #5,Flute Sonatas and Badinerie, Air for the G-string, Goldberg Variations, piano minuets and preludes, organ music and Choral Cantata #78.
The Story: An eccentric new boarder turns a young boy's life upside-down. Ludwig van Beethoven has moved in upstairs! Young Christoph exchanges letters with his uncle about the chaotic arrival of Mr. Beethoven and learns to appreciate and understand the great composer and his music.
The Music: Over two dozen excerpts including Moonlight Sonata, Symphonies #5-9, Fur Elise, Pathetique Sonata, Flute Serenade, Violin "Spring" Sonata and Minuet in G Major.
The Story: Katarina, a young violinist, arrives at the orphanage where Antonio Vivaldi was music director. Aided by Giovannie, the gondolier, he searches throughout Venice for clues to her mysterious past.
The Music: Over two dozen excerpts, including Vivaldi's best loved Four Seasons and also many violin pieces that are played by young violinists today.
The Story: In this music appreciation fantasy, with magic bells and a flute, Sarah and the dragon find their way from the Queen of the Night's realm to Saratro's castle. Together they help Prince Pamino find Princess Pamina and the bird-man Papageno find his Papagena.
The Music: Features Mozart's best known arias, originally translated and freshly record with child-appropriate lyrics which are included.
The Story: When a young queen falls mysteriously ill, her children are sent into a deep forest in search of her only cure, the legendary unicorn. The great magician, Merlin, helps them on their quest. with riddles and the unicorn's song, the children travel to the magical isle of Avalon. There they must decide what can truly cure their mother - King Arthur's powerful sister, Morgan-le-Fay or the healing touch of the unicorn.
The Music: More than two dozen excerpts of pre-Baroque music, including traditional English songs like Greensleeves and Early One Morning, Gregorian Chant, Celtic songs, wild Medieval dances plus a journey into the future of music with Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and beyond.
NEW! This enhanced music appreciation CD features colourful graphics, musical activities and teacher resources for the PC or Mac.
The Story: The Dream Children are about to be written out of Mozart's most famous opera. In the hopes of changing their fate, they enlist the help of the composer's young son, Karl. Together the children embark on an incredible music appreciation journey that takes them back in time to Mozart's childhood and ahead to the future. Along the way, Karl comes to understand his father's legacy of timeless music.
The Music: More than two dozen excerpts of Mozart's music, including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the Clarinet Quintet, Flute Quartet, Horn Concerto, Symphony no.1, Ave Verum Corpus, Piano Sonatas, Concerto K.467 and "Twinkle" Variations plus several excerpts from Mozart's best-loved operas.
The Story: In 1750, George Frideric Handel gave music history's greatest gift - his Messiah - to an orphanage in London. From that city's dark lanes comes Thomas, a boy who sings like an angel but will not speak. Finally, the boy is healed with the help of Maestro Handel, Katarina (from Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery) and the power and the glory of the music.
The Music:In this music appreciation CD more than two dozen excerpts of Handel's music, including the Sarabande in D minor, Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks, Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, Harp Concerto, oratorios, operas and of course, Messiah.
The Story: Tchaikovsky arrives in New York for the grand opening of Carnegie Hall in 1891 and goes on a fun-filled music appreciation adventure to Niagara Falls. During his trip, the composer shares stories with a young family about his music, his life ad his fear of conducting. In the end, both the composer and the family discover something about courage and about themselves.
The Music: In this music appreciation CD more than two dozen excerpts of Tchaikovsky's music, including The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, the First Piano Concerto, String Serenade and 1812 Overture. Also included is a musical mosaic of well-known American music of the time, including ragtime, spirituals and popular folk classics.
We don't own this music appreciation CD yet, but it is on my 'wishlist'.
What appeals to me about this CD is that it consists of 11 classical tunes with fun, child-friendly lyrics added, so that kids can sing along to these famous compositions.
It includes pieces such as the Can-Can, Fur Elize, Hungarian Rhapsody #2,1812 Overture, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Beethoven's 5th Symphony and more.
The Phantom of the Opera
I bought this soundtrack before I had children, but they have all enjoyed the music from Andrew Lloyd-Webber's broadway musical, the Phantom.
My eldest daughter and I enjoyed the movie by the same title which was released just recently, but it is not suited for preschoolers.
Musical DVDs for Music Appreciation
The Sound of Music
This is a musical classic that is, to me, a most worthwhile investment. In spite of being 3 hours long, this music appreciation movie has delighted my all children.
Set in Austria at the time of World War 2, a young woman goes to work as a governess in the home of a widower, who has seven children. Being a military man, he runs his household like an army, allowing little time for fun and laughter. While he is gone, Maria, teaches the children, to sing and allows time for play, causing pandemonium on his return.
This musical is also about a governess, this time a widow who accepts a job as a teacher of the King of Siam's children.
Mrs. Anna Leonowens and her son Louis arrive in Bangkok only to find that the home they were promised is no longer available.
They are immersed in a culture that is strange to them but Anna falls in love with the children and they stay. With their British background and different ideas it is not easy...there is some light romance and a good ending!
This musical from 1964 is also one that has become a classic. A misogynistic and rather snobbish professor of languages agrees to a wager that he can take a common flower girl and make her presentable in upper-class English society.
Elize Doolittle is his pupil. This is a humorous story that young and old will enjoy. Your kids may learn something about phonics and language as well as develop music appreciation!
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