What is Music Appreciation?
Music Appreciation I is designed for 3rd-5th students, and includes Music Appreciation Book I and the Audio Companion CD. The course includes 26 Chapters, each covering a different piece of classical music, and they are roughly in chronological order to show the progression of music. Then there are 7 Chapter Reviews. This gives you 33 weeks of material: enough wiggle room for the average school year of 36 weeks.
The course covers many famous composers and popular works, like Vivaldi and The Four Seasons (focus on winter), but it also covers a few cultural pieces like The Twelve Days of Christmas (Chapter 12) and The Star Spangled Banner (Chapter 26). A few composers are covered more than once, but there is a large variety, from Handel, to Beethoven, to Wagner, to Dukas and Gershwin. Going through this course will expose students to a solid variety of composers and music theory.
Each chapter is divided into six or seven sections, and I found that two or three sections at a time is a reasonable pace for us. My music background is limited to one middle school music elective and five years of clarinet. While some of the theory was familiar to me, we aren't an overly musical family and I haven't passed on anything to my kids. So for a 3rd and 5th grader with virtually no musical background, breaking the lesson up over a few days works better.
Listen - You listen to the selection, via a playlist on the Memoria Press website.
A Little History - This gives background information on the composer and the piece being studied. It's written in an engaging manner, which we liked.
Musical Concept - Form, melody, rhythm, are all concepts we learn in early chapters. By the end of the course, we'll be covering motif, tonal, meter and more.
About the Piece - This is where we find more specific information about the piece being studied, and how the musical concepts relate to the piece.
(The Audio Companion CD typically contains a few short tracks to help demonstrate the musical concepts being discussed; the scores are in the book and musicians are encouraged to play them if they wish.)
Music History - Sometimes we will find information about the progression of music, or how the composer we're studying began to try new things. Chapter five's information about the broad term of classical music and the more specific style of music that is classical was very interesting to me.
Facts to Remember - We review the major concepts covered in the chapter, such as the composer and title of the piece we've studied, and the musical concepts we learned. Important words are bolded in this review just as they are in the text, so these would be good "vocabulary" words if you stress that.
Listen Again - Finally, we're encouraged to listen to the full selection again. We're given the suggestion to listen for the melody, or for the instrument(s) used, or for arpeggios, or whatever we're studying. Essentially, the first listen is for pleasure and exposure to the piece, and the last listen is almost to train the ear to recognize everything discussed in the chapter.
How We Used Music Appreciation
The introduction section states that concepts are introduced slowly, so no musical knowledge is needed to use the book. However, those with knowledge of music theory can easily jump around between chapters. Since we received the curriculum right as it was time to switch composers, I decided to temporary pause our composer study and focus on using the book, so we just started at the beginning.
There really weren't instructions on how to use use the program or pace the course, but after I looked over the number of chapters and tests, and determined it was probably one chapter per week, we just did some trial and error through the first few chapters to find the pace that worked best for us. Listening to the piece each day that we do part of a lesson is a good idea though, to continue to listen for the musical concepts and become familiar with the piece if we're not already. I also found that asking for narration after each section is helpful.
There are Review Tests, and these are standard fill in the blank and multiple choice type questions. We don't "test" in this way, but I don't mind rewording the questions to encourage narration. The last question for each test is a listening exercise where the student is to listen to a portion of each of the pieces and identify them on a chart. I really liked this, and I think I'm going to tweak our regular composer study process in order to do this.
My kids don't play instruments or sing or have any particular interest in music theory right now, so they tolerated learning the musical concepts, but they did enjoy listening to the pieces and reading the historical sections. They like learning random facts about composers and one of their favorite lessons was in Chapter 3 on Bach and the harpsichord.
This was our first year really doing composer studies, and I think my kids needed another year or so to build a more solid appreciation of classical music before diving into music theory. Going forward, I still think this book will make a quality supplement to our composer studies. I intend to resume our composer studies, utilizing the relevant chapters from this course whenever applicable. The book will take longer to use this way, but I am fine with that. Although the book is intended for 3rd-5th graders, I found a large difference in what my 3rd grader and 5th grader were getting out of it, so using it a little longer as they are older will be fine. I feel the program is definitely rich enough for older students!
Memoria Press is well-known and respected for their classical curriculum. We have used (and are still using) their New American Cursive curriculum. More recently though, the Crew was given the opportunity to review a variety of subjects in addition to the music program, including Spelling and multiple levels of Latin. If you are interested in finding out more about what Memoria Press offers, I highly suggest you check out the reviews!
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