When music is just second nature to everyone in your household, a chance to review Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades from Zeezok Publishing LLC is something that we get excited about. While there are seven different composers to study, we chose to begin with Schubert. From the biography book to the workbook to the lapbook we completed, it has been filled with bits of information and character study that encourages the continued study of additional composers.
Zeezok’s Music Appreciation Book 1 covers seven composers from the years 1685 to 1828. The composers come from the Baroque period through part of the Romantic period. These composers are
- Paganini, and
Each composer’s life, from childhood through death, is covered. Musical training, family life, and some of what is going on in the world makes for a pretty full study of each composer. Add to it the music excerpts included and the lapbook to create and there is a lot of information to cover with each composer. For our study, we received the complete set. This included the biography books for each composer, a student activity book, a set of CDs, and the lapbook CD for printing.
Our family completed the study all together, one student doing the writing in the student activity book where required, taking turns pointing out various items in the biography, and each completing a separate piece of the lapbook. This worked well for us, since some of the activities were of a higher ability level than others. Miss J, age 7, was able to do things within her ability level and Miss E, at age 12, was able to do a lot more and worked pretty hard with the musical notation and theory. Miss L was right in between and enjoyed a number of the writing activities. We were able to use all of the activity suggestions and have multi-leveled discussions. Everyone was included and everyone learned together – something that is a huge bonus for us in curriculum.
The main composer we studied during the review period is Franz Schubert. We read the book Franz Schubert and His Merry Friends out loud. This biography by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher covers the life of Franz Schubert from his birth through most of his adult life. Throughout the biography, there were excerpts of music that related to the story in some way. We listened to those at the end of each chapter, going back and talking about why it related and discussing some of the musical notation that we had covered in the student activity book.
After each chapter, we worked in the student activity book for a bit. We always immediately covered the comprehension questions for the chapter. Then, we would talk about the character qualities from the activity book. Each one related to a specific occurrence in the biography and had page numbers so we were able to revisit that specific event if we needed. These were really good discussions because both the questions and the character qualities made the girls think.
The activities for each chapter varied quite extensively. One activity was looking a map Austria and then researching more information on the country. Another had us learning about the hackbrett. (This actually led to additional study on this instrument and other closely related instruments. We even pulled out our hammered dulcimer and we learned a bit about playing it.) We studied about the Vienna Boys Choir, though back them it was called The Convict, and talked about a concert we had gone to a couple of years ago when we were able to hear the Vienna Boys Choir perform.
One of the largest parts of the study in the Schubert portion of the Music Appreciation book was music theory. This study was done a little bit at a time, covering a bit more with each chapter read. From notation to solfege to dynamics and more, there was a whole lot of musical notation covered. It was done fairly well, in my opinion, with a decent explanation for each part. Notation is hard to cover without the application of it to actual performance. While this didn’t include the performance of it by the students, there was a very good job done of referencing specific examples of the musical excerpts in the book. The girls learned quite a bit through this study. As best I can tell, this is the only composer study in the book that includes musical notation.
In the middle of this study, we were given an opportunity to go hear a performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. This opera was given locally but it gave us the opportunity to use another portion of this curriculum, as well. We did not read the Mozart biography but we did use the Activity book to learn a little bit about him, referencing the character qualities and other tidbits that are there. We also used the lapbook to learn about opera.
There is a small portion of the lapbook for Mozart that discusses opera. We printed out those pieces and, working together, the girls completed those. We talked about the types of opera and some of the terminology that is specific to opera. We also discussed some of Mozart’s most famous operas. This gave us a preliminary introduction to opera and Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
One thing that I would love to see changed is the quality of the recordings. There is a nice variety of samples and excerpts included. However, most if not all of the excerpts that we listened to were done on an electronic device of some sort. While it shows the dynamics and melody, it isn’t very true to form for showing the depth of sound for a symphony or the extensiveness of expression with a piano. More often than not, I found a separate recording of the piece that was being showcased or played it myself on the piano. The music of these composers is so rich, so deep, so emotional that it is a shame to minimize it with electronic recordings that don’t do it justice. Perhaps in the future better recordings can be used. Until then, I will continue to find recordings to supplement our study.
Overall, this is a very good and engaging curriculum to use for music appreciation. Zeezok Publishing LLC has created a product that is able to be used by families and to include multiple age levels with the same study. Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades has allowed us to take a different approach to study Schubert and we plan to study additional composers during the summer months, where we won’t work a diligently on core subjects every single day but still want to continue to feed our brains.
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