Introduction to the Modern Era

  • The Modern Era began in roughly 1900 and continues to this day.  The Modern Era encompasses so MANY styles of music. For a thorough understanding, reading this 20th Century Timeline will prove VERY helpful!

  • Modern music was greatly influenced by events in history... specifically World Wars I and II. Composers broke all previous musical “rules” and created many new and interesting sounds. You can see these trends in art and literature, as well.

  • Watch this video of favorite Modern composers


Lesson 1: The Entertainer by Scott Joplin

Required Links

Listen to The Entertainer (choose one of the following links for listening):

The rhythms in this piece (and Ragtime in general) are SYNCOPATED

Supplemental Links

Read about Scott Joplin at Making Music Fun

Listen to this show about Ragtime from Classics for Kids.

Watch the piano keys and graphic score for The Entertainer

The Entertainer performed on Classical guitar

How about The Entertainer performed on a pipe organ?

Finally, a performance of The Entertainer by an orchestra

What is your favorite Rag? Listen to these three famous Rags and decide which is your favorite!


 Lesson 2: Bolero by Maurice Ravel

Required Links

Listen to Bolero by Maurice Ravel. Choose one of the following links for listening:

Listen to the Flash Mob play Bolero

Supplemental Links

Read more about Ravel at Brittanica Kids

Another of Ravel’s famous works was The Mother Goose Suite

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Lesson 3:  Evening in the Village by Bela Bartok

Required Links

Listen to Evening in the Village – Orchestral Transcription

Supplemental Links

Evening in the Village (flute and piano)

Evening in the Village (played by an 8 year old pianist)

Evening in the Village (played by Bartok himself!

Bear Dance – another piece from Hungarian Sketches – this is a favorite of children!

Read about Bartok at Classics for Kids

Another biography at The Famous People

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Lesson 4: Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinksy 

Required Links

Read about Igor Stravinsky at Classics for Kids

Listen to the Opening from Rite of Spring on YouTube  (includes dancing – parents: please preview)

Listen to the Opening from Rite of Spring on YouTube (follow the music)

Supplemental Links

Read Hey Kids, It’s a Bassoon

Watch this video about the bassoon

Listen to this bassoon solo

Can you hear a bassoon in “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles?


Lesson 5:  I Got Rhythm by George & Ira Gershwin

Required Links

Listen to  I Got Rhythm performed by Ella Fitzgerald

Watch this Sesame Street video about Scat Singing.

Supplemental Links

Read about George Gershwin at Making Music Fun.

This song has been performed and arranged many, many times. Listen to these three versions – which strikes a chord with you?


Lesson 6:  Sabre Dance by Aram Khachaturian

Required Links

Listen to Sabre Dance via YouTube and the Berlin Philharmonic

Listen to Sabre Dance via YouTube and the Classic FM Orchestra

Parents:  Listen to this Morning Edition episode about Khachaturian – learn about this “one little rambunctious piece”.

Supplemental Links

Read more about Khachaturian and folk music at DSO Kids

There are MANY versions of Sabre Dance! Give each of these a rating between 1 and 5 stars (5 being the best):

Sabre Dance Boogie

Liberace plays Sabre Dance

Sabre Dance performed by a street violinist

Marimba Ponies performing Sabre Dance


Lesson 7: Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland

Required Links

Listen to Fanfare For The Common Man

Supplemental Links

Listen to another recording of Fanfare for the Common Man with added content from Emerson, Lake, & Palmer (this version includes something extra at the end – this is good supplemental listening!)

To learn more about the Brass Family, explore this site, where you can click on different families and learn about them.

Listen to these pieces and transport yourself to that place or time. Which is your favorite?

Learn more about Aaron Copland at Making Music Fun.

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Lesson 8:  Mambo from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein

Required Links

Listen to this fun recording of Mambo

Listen to another version of Mambo – lots of good shots of the instruments here!

Supplemental Links

Watch the Mambo scene from West Side Story below, then read about Bernstein at Making Music Fun!


Lesson 9:  Superman March by John Williams

Required Links

Listen to the Superman March

John Williams conducts the March from Superman - (this is good for watching the conducting and seeing the instrumentation)

Meet John Williams! 

Children might enjoy this television interview with John Williams.

Supplemental Links

Students may enjoy listening to just a few of his compositions:


Lesson 10:  Overture from Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Required Links

Parents/Teachers:  Read a brief synopsis of The Phantom of the Opera.  It is up to you whether or not to share this with your students – you be the judge based on their age and maturity.

Listen to The Overture from The Phantom of the Opera

Supplemental Links

More Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Which of these do you like the best?