Favorite Audiobooks to Teach Children About Composers & Culture

I've written before about the many beautiful picture books for children about composers and music. Having a variety of books in your home builds a sense of curiosity and interest in your children.

What happens, however, when our children get older?

Finding quality literature (in any subject area) can be a bit of a challenge. You need to look a bit harder and be a bit more discerning, don't you?

Over the past few years I have been on the hunt for quality books - specifically audiobooks - that teach children about composers and culture.


As with any of our homeschooling endeavors, I'm finding myself learning equally as much as my kids. (Don't you love that?)

Here are just a few to get you started. These are MEATY - you can not only listen to the audiobook, but you can also then seek out additional music or information about the specific composer. 

You could maybe turn each book into its own unit study - with geography, history, music, science - the sky is the limit!


Echo by Paul Muñoz Ryan

This book is a sweeping story that begins between World Wars in Germany and moves to more modern times in Pennsylvania and California.

One harmonica makes an appearance in each of the main characters' lives, in the most moving and unique ways. 

The very best thing about this book is the AUDIO RECORDING - the gorgeous music and the performance of the story as a whole is simply entrancing. 

Pull out the map, get out your history book, and maybe even become inspired to learn to play the harmonica, too. 


Echo gets two thumbs up from us!

(I would recommend this for ALL ages - some mature themes, of course, occur because of WWII)


Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

This book is a favorite in our house. 

As I look at it through the lens of a music teacher I see that it is a perfect story to read aloud (or listen to) if you want to learn more about and incorporate Jazz into your child's life.

This is a story of determination and grit - and a boy who never gives up. 

Incorporate this if you're learning about the Great Depression in your history studies, or during February, Black History Month.

It's perfect for middle grades.


Who Was Louis Armstrong? - the Who Was? Series

Who Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? - the Who Was? Series

These books are great for younger kids - and even your bigger kids can listen in! 

You could listen to a book and then search for the composer/performer's music and create a playlist. 

They are a wonderful introduction to the personalities of Armstrong and Mozart.



Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

Last year we spent two months exploring Russian music in our SQUILT LIVE! lessons. I was reminded of how rich, passionate, inventive, and heart wrenching Russian music can be. 

This book, narrated by the author (he does a great job), takes us through the life and times of Shostakovich - as he was struggling against Stalin and the Russian government in the time surrounding World War II.

The story will impress upon your children just how much a composer's music can influence a nation - and in Shostakovich's case - threaten the leadership of a nation. 


Once again, beautiful music is included in the audio recording. This book is a beautiful history of and introduction to The Leningrad Symphony.

(This book is best suited for older children - it is technically a Young Adult book.)


I hope one of these audiobooks strikes your fancy.

Use that time in the car, during quiet time in the afternoon - or whenever works for your family - to listen to an engaging story, and learn a lot about music in the process! 


Do you have a favorite audiobook that teaches about music?

Let me know in the comments below!

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  • “Famous Composers “ an audio book by Darren Henley available at some libraries as an online download. It is FABULOUS! it tells the stories of several composers for the ears of children including their music and fun dramatized audio skits from quotes and biographical info

    Nancy Balsiger
  • Ooohhh! We will have to try some of these! Thank you for the recommendations! Just a note, the author of Echo is Pam, not Paul.

  • Great list! Thank you!! I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Echo! Definitely one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to!

  • Thank you for the recommendations. We are driving 5 hours to a music camp on Monday. Perfect time to try a recommendation!

  • Thanks so much for the audiobook recommendations. We just finished listening to Echo and we LOVED it!


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