20 Favorite Music Appreciation Lessons
The best thing about music appreciation is that there is a LIMITLESS supply of material to choose from! Once we begin exposing our children to beautiful music, it is just the tip of an iceberg - the beginning of a gift that will last an entire lifetime.
Now that I have been specializing in solely music appreciation for over 5 years (with 30 years of general music under my belt), I've gotten a pretty good idea of what kids enjoy. With 100 recorded lessons in the SQUILT LIVE! archives, it's been fun to gather data on which lessons have been the most well received and attended.
( Be sure to check out the Spotify playlist at the end of this post - each and every piece I mention here is in that playlist. )
One thing to note - there is a huge VARIETY of music here. We span the years 1670-present. There is music from many genres, music from women, music from people of color; music is a perfect vehicle for teaching our children about the diversity and great talent to be found throughout our world - which is just another reason I love it so much!
So, without further delay, here are the top 20 music appreciation lessons since the inception of SQUILT LIVE!. Let's treat this like a countdown - with the ultimate favorite lesson (so far) filling the number one spot.
20. Sounds of The Cicada (with music by Bela Bartok)
With the appearance of the Brood X Cicadas this past year, I decided to offer a lesson with the music of Bela Bartok - and his suite of piano, Out of Doors. Bartok (not exactly a mainstream composer) wrote the fourth movement, The Night's Music, with the sounds of Cicadas in mind.
Including nature study with music appreciation was the perfect combination in this lesson, and I think its popularity with the students speaks volumes!
19. Entry of the Gladiators by Julius Fucik
Part of a month of circus music, this iconic piece by Fucik appeals to children because of its speed and imagery of the circus it evokes. This piece is usually associated with the entrance of clowns at the circus and involves quite a display from the Brass Family of instruments.
We also followed a listening map in this lesson - these visual representations of a piece of music are always a hit!
18. Learn About Itzhak Perlman
In a month of learning about musicians with differing abilities we studied Itzhak Perlman, the violinist who contracted polio at the age of 4 and is now an advocate for those with disabilities - not to mention one of the greatest violinists who has ever lived!
We listened to him perform music by Paganini, John Williams, and more!
17. The Circus Polka by Stravinsky
Who can resist a piece that is written for 50 elephants and 50 ballerinas?
This piece, a collaboration between Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine, was so much fun to learn about. We also read Ballet of the Elephants along with this lesson - I always love it when we can find an engaging picture book that ties in with our lesson.
16. Finale from The Carnival of The Animals by Saint-Saëns
“One thing is for sure: classical music is not something that was ever meant to be locked into a concert hall behind a wall of stuffed coattails and shiny opera glasses. At a time when life seems to be challenging us more and more to think outside of a box we are unwillingly stuck inside, animation can be a wonderful medium to bring joy to music lovers of all ages and walks of life.”
- Laura Volpi
Our music and animation month was a BIG success.
In one of our lessons we learned about the intricacies of the Finale from Saint-Saëns' Carnvial of the Animals after watching the Disney animation from Fantasia.
15. Three Preludes by Gershwin
Another subject that grabs children's attention is Jazz!
George Gershwin is quite the colorful personality to study, and his music then reflects that personality. Students used music vocabulary from a word bank and matched those words up to each of his three preludes for piano.
These short, engaging pieces are always a favorite!
14. Juba Dance by Florence Price
Florence Price was the first African American woman to ever have her music performed by a major symphony orchestra. Juba Dance is from her first symphony.
This was another listening map lesson that kids really enjoyed - and hearing Florence's story makes it all the more interesting.
When our children know the struggles and hardships many composers faced, I believe they listen to their music in a different way.
13. Overture to The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky
The Nutcracker Ballet speaks for itself. (We've dedicated a couple of Decembers to studying The Nutcracker.)
In a recent lesson I teamed up with a chalk pastel artist to bring a combination music and art lesson. I taught the children about what an overture is and how it "sets the stage" for the work. Then, the children completed their own chalk pastel creation for The Nutcracker.
These collaborations are something our PLUS members enjoy several times a year.
12. The Roots of Rock & Roll
Speaking of special guests, one of the SQUILT LIVE! students' favorite guests in Matthew Sabatella, creator of Ballad of America. Mr. Sabatella always teaches us so much about American History and the role music has played in that history.
One of his most popular programs for us was all about the roots of Rock & Roll (I think the parents really enjoyed this one, too!).
11. Rondeau by Henry Purcell
A beautiful piece of Baroque music ALWAYS captures children's attention. I think they love the order and sheer beauty of the music.
Purcell's Rondeau from Abdelazer was the perfect way to teach children about the Rondo form and and the more sparse instrumentation of the Baroque Era.
Fun fact: this piece was used by Benjamin Britten as the basis for his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, which the children watched and learned about as well.
10. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Tchaikovsky
Another piece from The Nutcracker made it to the Top 20 Pieces!
The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy is the perfect way to teach children about rhythm, melody, and the celesta (that magical sounding instrument that plays the iconic melody we all know and love).
Following a listening map, the children could easily see (and hear!) the ABA form of this piece.
(And, my favorite teaching partner, Chilly Billy the Bear, helped me with this one, too. That bear - even my middle schoolers love it when Billy comes to a lesson!)
9. The Cat Concerto by Franz Liszt (Hungarian Rhapsody #2)
Another favorite from music and animation month was Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody #2 - otherwise known as The Cat Concerto.
Just watching the Tom & Jerry cartoon set to this music is enough to rope in any child. The rest of the lesson was a breeze - and so much fun!
8. Keyboard Sonata in D Minor by Domenico Scarlatti
In our month of Piano Pizazz! one of the central figures was Domenico Scarlatti. We explored the difference between a harpsichord and keyboard, and then took a deep dive into one of Scarlatti's Keyboard Sonatas.
And - if you've ever listened to the piece, the technique required to play it will astound you!
Something SUPER FUN about this particular month was that we had three online piano recitals, where our SQUILT LIVE! students could share their own piano talents with their peers.
7. Toccata & Fugue by J.S. Bach
I'm not surprised by the popularity of this lesson. This is one of the most recognizable pieces in existence, and it's quite fun to watch a skilled organist play both the Toccata and Fugue.
If you want some great music for Halloween with your kids, this is the piece!
6. Air on the G String by J.S. Bach
Many times we celebrate a composer's birthday. J.S. Bach's birthday is in March, and one of the pieces I chose to study was his Air on the G String.
We learned about what an arrangement is and listened to 4 different arrangements of this VERY popularly arranged tune!
Fun fact: Did you know that Bach wrote 1128 pieces of music (that we know of)?
5. Learn about Vince Guaraldi
Each February we explore Jazz! It's one of the students' favorite months.
Learning about Vince Guaraldi of course meant we needed to learn about some of his famous music from Peanuts. We analyzed the form of Skating and the kids got quite good at hearing the parts of the form without my help.
We're developing critical listeners, and with activities like this our children develop listening skills that transfer to areas OUTSIDE of music!
4. Learn about John Coltrane
Full disclosure: John Coltrane was a musician I didn't know a lot about, so this was a particularly fun lesson for me. It turns out it was wildly popular with the children, too.
This lesson came on the heels of learning about The Sound of Music - so we listened to Coltrane's arrangement and performance of My Favorite Things. Have you ever heard it?
John Coltrane took the boundaries of Jazz and pushed them to their limits, and this arrangement perfectly demonstrates how he did just that. This is one of my all time favorite SQUILT LIVE! lessons.
3. Newsies (Broadway Musical)
Learning about musicals is such a fun way to introduce music appreciation to kids. In SQUILT LIVE! we introduce musicals to kids each January.
Newsies is one of the most popular musicals we've studied. The other musicals in our archives include:
- Phantom of the Opera
- Mary Poppins
- The Sound of Music
- Hello, Dolly!
Coming this February we will be learning about Beauty & The Beast and Fiddler on the Roof. So much fun!
2. All Irish Lesson - The Music of Turlough O'Carolan
The popularity of this lesson was not only because of the music, but also because of the nature study and art integrations with our Luck O' The Irish theme.
I love to collaborate with other subject area experts, and in this lesson children received expert instruction in Nature Study, Music Appreciation, and Chalk Pastel Art.
Turlough O'Carolan lived in Ireland in the late 1600s. He was a blind traveling harper - much of his music survives today and it's really a treasure.
Again, we learned about the FORM of this piece and we also talked about the Celtic Harp. Take a look at the simple video I created so kids could follow along. They received the printable cards to go along with the video, so they had something tactile AND visual to help them during the lesson.
1.The Sound of Music (Broadway Musical)
This should come as NO surprise, right? The Sound of Music is one of the most beloved musicals of all time.
In this lesson we actually learned about the Solfege, the system of singing Maria teaches the von Trapp children about in Do, Re, Mi. The kids learned the hand signs and how to use them with the song.
It turned out to be the most fun music appreciation lesson in the history of SQUILT LIVE!
I hope you enjoy this playlist - I think it provides quite a bit of variety for your children!
Feel free to join us at ANY time in SQUILT LIVE! Plus - where our members receive access to all of the lessons listed above, and SO MANY MORE!
Members also receive a monthly listening calendar, two new live lessons each month, a fun volume (SQUILT Goes to the Movies), Instrument Matching Cards, and a special PLUS community, where parents connect with each other and share ideas.
We have SO MUCH FUN!
Let me take one thing off your plate and do the teaching for you!