Hi everyone! This is Jamie Parker. I am so excited to post my first entry today! I have already gained a lot of new ideas from the other contributors, and I hope you have, too.
I have recently been out of the classroom for a few professional development days, and I had to do what most teachers dread: write sub plans.
When I have a substitute in my classroom, I have to assume that he/she has no musical experience. I try to keep my plans as simple as possible. I love to incorporate children’s literature into the music room, and I have found that composer storybooks work great for days when I am gone.
Listed below are a few of my favorites. They are all wonderfully written and have beautiful illustrations. If you click on the picture, you will be directed to Amazon where you can view the book more closely.
You can certainly use these books as an extension of a listening lesson or with a composer study. I just like to save them for those times when I know I will be out of the classroom.
1. Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan
I found this book when I was in the gift shop after a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert. I took one look at it and had to buy it. It has beautiful watercolor illustrations and tells the story of creating the ballet, Appalachian Spring. I love how the story shares the importance of collaboration. Aaron Copland (one of my favorite composers), Martha Graham (the choreographer), and Isamu Noguchi (the set designer), had to work together to create their masterpiece. When I was looking at the book online, I also noticed that there is an audio version of the book available. I listened to the sample and noticed that they intertwined the music into the text, which I thought was a fantastic way of presenting the story.
2. I, Vivaldi by Janice Shefelman
This biography is told as if written by Antonio Vivaldi himself. He tells how his love of music helps carry him through his struggles. The author and illustrator both do a wonderful job of representing the historical and social atmosphere of the Baroque period. Pair the book with Spring from The Four Seasons for a great listening lesson.
3. Strange Mr. Satie by M.T. Anderson
The text and illustrations in this book are just as quirky and entertaining as the music of Erik Satie. Written poetically, the story tells of Satie’s struggle to fit in in a “world of black top hats and stiff, starched collars and gloves and bows and curtsies.” In addition to the great introduction to French culture, I loved how the book mentioned the collaboration of Satie and Picasso during the making of Parade. What a great starting point in discussing the relationship between the arts!
4. What Charlie Heard by Mordicai Gerstein
This book introduces another one of my favorite composers: Charlies Ives. It is a detailed biography of his entire life, and the author does a fantastic job of explaining how Ives received inspiration for some of his most famous pieces. The illustrations in this book are simply outstanding! Each page is colored from top to bottom with different sound effects. My favorite part is when Charlie hears two marching bands playing different tunes during a parade—perfect opportunity to listen to Country Band March (one of my favorites from Wind Ensemble). Again, this book can be purchased with an audio version containing the music of Charles Ives mixed with the text of the book.
5. When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky by Lauren Stringer
I’ve been looking for a good children’s book on Igor Stravinsky for a while, and I was so happy to find this one. Like Ballet for Martha, this book tells of a great collaboration between a composer and choreographer. I just love when books make it easy for me to be cross-curricular! The book is a very tasteful representation of the Rite of Spring, from its creation to the riot that occurred on opening night.
I hope you found some new composer books to use in your classroom! Do you have any other favorites? I would love to hear about them. Please share in the comments below.