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15 March 2014

Yeah, You Can Teach Kids about Mahler! (+Freebie)

Hello again! So nice to see you. I've got another wonderfully nerdy teacher post for you today.

As I mentioned before, I've been trying to gear my teaching towards an engaging, exciting, and self-motivating way, to really get my students involved in the music. At the last Christmas party I gave all of my students a sort of composer calendar that I made, which gave one composer for each month, facts and pictures about them, and a small activity to complete.
(this is the cover to the "calendar")

WELL, everything was going fine and dandy. I taught them about Tchaikovsky (we listened to, made stories about, and derived rhythms from the Nutcracker), we learned about Schubert (we talked about how music can tell a story). Then February 27th rolled around and I looked at the composer for the month.....

.......Mahler........
(duh, duh, duuuuuuh)



Mahler is known for his extraordinarily complex and hefty, not to mention LONG works. I started to fret. How could I let the kids (keep in mind, the youngest is SIX....) have a positive experience with Mahler?

Then I took a step back, and I thought, "well, how can I have a positive experience with Mahler?" Because really, I'm not all that different from them. What is it about His music that engages and excites me? I realized that his music captivates the listener in a story that is so wonderful and engaging in and of itself--I didn't really have to do anything, it was all there in the music.

So, I turned on his Symphony no. 3, movement 3, handed out a piece of paper, and before I told them what Mahler said this movement was about, or what I thought this movement was about, I asked them to write down what they heard--what was happening? How did the music help tell a story? How does instrument choice assist in the characters of the story? I played about 1/2 of the movement, then paused and asked them to share their responses.

I was amazed! They came up with the most brilliant ideas, ideas and understanding that we talk about all the time in my college level classes! This was yet another moment when I truly recognized the infinite potential of a child. I handed out the Mahler booklet I made my family to help them get through one of my concerts back in my BYU Philharmonic days, and I shared with them the story that Mahler told about this movement.

I told them that even thought that is what the music told Mahler, the music can say something different to you. Music says something different to everyone who hears it. We talked about the value of truly listening and not just hearing the music. It was such a special moment.
Here's the book for you to listen along with. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, you can access his symphony on Spotify, etc! PLUS! The booklet download is free for personal use! Huzzah!

Have a lovelee day!
-Lee

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