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Investigate Music Composers

Students will conduct research to learn about one classical composer and one modern music composer. They will compare and contrast the composers' lives, careers and work. Then they will brainstorm ideas about how to make classical music more popular today.

PROCESS:

  1. As a class, discuss what a music composer is (someone who writes and arranges original musical compositions). Inform students that throughout time, composers have arranged original music in a variety of styles.
  2. Provide a few examples. Tell students that prior to 1400 A.D., there were few instruments. Because of that, early music-like Gregorian chants-was mainly written for the voice. But by the time the Baroque period began 200 years later, composers like Johann Sebastian Bach were writing concertos and sonatas that featured groupings of instruments. These were the first versions of the modern orchestra.
  3. Guide students to recognize that what they may lump together as "classical music" is actually as diverse-if not more so-than the music they listen to today.
  4. Instruct students to conduct research to identify and learn about one classical music composer. Challenge them to also identify and learn about a music composer from today. Encourage students to compare and contrast the composers' lives, careers and bodies of work.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share what they learned with the class. Challenge them to identify ways to make classical music more popular in mainstream culture today.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
As a class, conduct research to identify several classical and modern music composers. Have students vote to select one composer from each list. Then have the class conduct research to learn about each composer. Divide the class into small groups. Encourage groups to use the information collected to compare and contrast the two composers. Challenge each group to then come up with an idea about how to make classical music more popular in mainstream culture today.
Grades 5-6:
Divide the class into small groups. Instruct groups to conduct research to identify several classical and modern music composers. Encourage them to select one composer from each list. Give groups time to conduct research to learn about each composer. Encourage them to then compare and contrast the two composers' lives, careers and bodies of work. Challenge each group to come up with an idea about how to make classical music more popular in mainstream culture today.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Instruct partners to conduct research to learn about one classical composer and one modern music composer. Encourage them to take detailed notes on the composers' lives, careers and bodies of work. Challenge them to explore how factors such as time and location influenced each person's work. Then have students compare and contrast the two composers. Encourage them to use what they learned to come up with an idea that could make classical music more popular in mainstream culture today.
Grades 9-10:
Have students complete the activity in pairs, with one partner investigating a classical composer and the other a modern music composer. Challenge students to delve into the composer's life, career and body of work as well as how cultural and world events at the time may have influenced the music each person created. Instruct partners to compare and contrast their findings. Then encourage them to use what they learned to come up with an idea that could make classical music more popular in mainstream culture today.