2011-2012 Composers of the Month

30 Aug

Like last year, in preparation for a new school year and new composers of the month, here is an archive of the composers and resources we studied at Washington Elementary in the 2011-2012 school year. Be sure to check out the Composer of the Month page to learn about the 2012-2013 composers.

February/March: Antonio Vivaldi (March 4, 1678 – July 28, 1741).

Antonio Vivaldi composed hundreds of musical works in his lifetime during the Baroque period. Most of his compositions were written for the girls he taught at an Italian orphanage. Here are the podcast episodes from Classics for Kids about Vivaldi and his work. Vivaldi’s most famous compositions are his Four Seasons violin concertos. Each of the concertos was inspired by a painting and they were composed to musically illustrate four sonnets. Music that tells a story with no singing, acting, dancing, or pictures is called program music.


January/February: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January, 27 1756 – December 5, 1791).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the great master composers of the Classical Period. Here are some podcast episodes about Mozart’s life and work. Students in grades 1-3 will be reading Young Mozart, written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Here are some audio recordings and a brief biography of Mozart from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Kids website.

Mozart wrote over 600 pieces of music in his short 35 years, and 22 of those pieces were operas. One of his most famous operas is Die Zauberflöte, the German opera The Magic Flute. Below are two videos from the Seattle Opera’s 2011 production of Die Zauberflöte. The first video gives some information about how opera composers and singers use their voices to portray different characters and emotions. The second video is a preview of the opera, complete with costumes, sets, and the evil Queen of the Night.

December: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840 – November 6, 1893).

You will probably remember that we learned about Tchaikovsky around this time last year. The students love the music of The Nutcracker so much, we look forward to studying it each year around the winter holidays. You can listen to some podcasts about Tchaikovsky and his Nutcracker ballet here. We will be listening to some of these podcast episodes in class. Be sure to click on the “Read About the Show” links to take the quizzes and test your knowledge. Here is the Amazon link to the picture book version of The Nutcracker that first grade will be reading in music class.

Below are some great video clips of professional dancers rehearsing portions of the Nutcracker ballet. You can get a really close look at the physical demands of ballet dancing as well as the ballerinas’ use of their special pointe shoes.

BalletMet’s production of The Nutcracker is excellent every year and is performed at the historic Ohio Theatre in downtown Columbus. This year’s performances run from December 9 through December 24, and tickets start at $20. If your family is interested, tickets can be purchased online here.


October: Danny Elfman (born May 29, 1953).

Danny Elfman is a composer best known for his work writing the music (scores) for films, especially those by Tim Burton. A few of the more than 60 films and television shows for which Elfman has composed are Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, and Alice in Wonderland. Elfman’s music is often dark and creepy, using interesting instrumentation and ethereal sounding choirs.

Here are two clips from Corpse Bride. The first has background music by Danny Elfman. In the second, Elfman wrote the music AND sings the voice of Bonejangles.

To conclude our unit of study about Danny Elfman, students will be watching Corpse Bride or The Nightmare Before Christmas in music classes in the coming weeks. Both movies are rated PG for some scary images. If you do not wish for your child to watch one of these movies, please let me know, and I will find an alternate activity for your child.

September – Africa: Joseph Shabalala (born August 28, 1941) with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Here are some videos of Ladysmith Black Mambazo from their official website. You can also listen to recordings here. Here is their iTunes page. Here is a video of one of my personal favorites from my childhood.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is coming to Columbus! They will be performing at the Southern Theatre on Wednesday, February 8. If you’re interested, tickets can be purchased here.

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