More Info: Great Composers & Their Music sets

The Great Composers & Their Music is a flexible music history curriculum designed for use with private piano students, general music students, or homeschoolers.  I use this curriculum with my weekly Homeschool Music History Class as well as with my monthly group classes of private piano students.  I decided to use the lapbooking format for my curriculum because it is a visual, interactive way to learn historical facts and information.  It has been quite a success so far!  I am constantly impressed with how much information my students are able to absorb each week.

Below is an alphabetical listing of all the composers currently available in the Great Composers & Their Music curriculum series.  I have included brief descriptions of the terms and concepts that are covered in each study.  To purchase one or more lapbooks, please visit this page of the Color In My Piano shop.  Stay tuned – more composer studies are forthcoming!

BAROQUE ERA

Bach, C.P.E

CPE Bach gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss the evolution of the piano, from the clavichord and harpsichord all the way to the modern piano.  Another term we discussed was Empfindsamer stil – the “sensitive style,” which was a compositional style that was characterized by changing moods within a piece, in contrast to the single “affect” generally found in Baroque pieces before this time.

Bach CPE both

Bach, Johann Sebastian

In this composer study, students will learn about J.S. Bach’s duties at the various jobs he held throughout his life.  Some of the terms covered include: cantatas, Kapellmeister, Kantor, and the Well-Tempered Clavier.

Bach both

Handel, George Frederic

Studying Handel provides the opportunity to discuss popular Baroque forms such as the concerto grosso and the oratorio, and to learn the stories behind a couple of his famous works: Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks.

Handel both

CLASSICAL ERA

Beethoven, Ludwig van

We listened to Beethoven’s most famous compositions so that we would be able to identify them by name upon hearing them.  We also talked about sonata form and his three periods of compositional style.

Beethoven both

Haydn, Franz Joseph

When studying Haydn, my homeschool students learned about the popular music forms of the Classical Era (sonata, symphony, string quartet, concerto) and discussed the various places Haydn was employed as Kapellmeister (the Esterhazy palace, in particular).  My students loved hearing about Haydn’s poor and lowly childhood and how his hard work and determination enabled him to become a great composer.

haydn both

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus

Students are always excited to learn more about Mozart!  Terms that are covered: prodigy, Alberti bass, and melody versus harmony.

Mozart both

ROMANTIC ERA

Beach, Amy

Studying Amy Beach gave us the opportunity to discuss the challenges of being a woman composer.  We also learned about the MacDowell Colony and how Beach’s perfect pitch allowed her to write down bird calls in musical notation.

Beach both

Brahms, Johannes

Studying Brahms gave us the opportunity to talk about concertos, and the difference between monophony, homophony, and polyphony.  Since we had already studied Robert Schumann, we were able to connect the two composers and discuss the relationship dynamics between Brahms and the Schumann family.

Brahms both

Chopin, Frederic

Studying Chopin was the perfect opportunity to discuss various types of character pieces and listen to a variety of Chopin’s wonderful oeuvre for piano.  We also talked a bit about Chopin’s background as a Polish composer and his life in Paris, contributing as a musician during salon performances.

Chopin both

Holst, Gustav

We spent a lot of time listening to Gustav Holst’s most famous work, “The Planets.”  We drew a picture of each planet as we listened to each movement, and talked about how it turned out that Holst was correct not to compose a new movement for Pluto after it was initially discovered!  We also learned that John Williams was influenced by “The Planets” when he was composing the music for the Star Wars movies.

Holst both

Liszt, Franz

In this composer study, students will learn about Liszt’s popularity as a pianist as well as his generous spirit, particularly at the end of life.  Student will enjoy learning about how Liszt managed to “save the day” to erect a monument of Beethoven in Bonn, Germany.

Liszt both

Mussorgsky, Modest

Studying Mussorgsky provided the opportunity to learn about the group of Russian composers known as “The Mighty Five” and their Nationalist tendencies.  We also studied Mussorgsky’s well known work Pictures at an Exhibition. 

Mussorgsky both

Saint-Saens, Camille

The highlight about studying Saint-Saens was listening to all the movements from Carnival of the Animals!  My students loved learning about the musical jokes that are embedded in that work.

Saint-Saens both

Schumann, Robert

In this composer study, students will learn about Robert Schumann, as well as a little about his wife, Clara.  Among the terms covered are Romanticism, program music, and character pieces.

Schumann both

MODERN ERA

Cage, John

I mentioned the John Cage lapbook when I blogged about my October Piano Party.  This composer study is lots of fun to teach!  As an extension, my students and I explored the room to find “found instruments” and experimented with prepared piano.  (No, I didn’t bring screws or bolts anywhere near my piano…but we did try laying pieces of felt and tinfoil on the strings/dampers to see what sounds we could create!)

Cage both

Debussy, Claude

I think my students’ favorite part about studying Debussy was seeing some examples of Impressionist artwork and learning how it relates to Debussy’s music.  We also learned about the whole-tone scale.

Debussy both

Joplin, Scott

Our study of Scott Joplin brought about a discussing of ragtime music and syncopation.  We also listened to some of Joplin’s most well-known piano rags and analyzed their forms.

Joplin both

Stravinsky, Igor

Studying Stravinsky is the perfect time to discuss the terms “consonance” versus “dissonance.”  In this study, students will learn about 12-tone music, neo-classicism, and Stravinsky’s three compositional periods.

Stravinsky both

Have you already tried out one of these composer studies?  If so, please leave your review comments below!  You feedback may be useful to other teachers.

*Click here to return to the Great Composers & Their Music curriculum description in the Shop.*

15 Comments

  1. Rachel
    Posted 23 March 2013 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I’ve started using these with my piano kids, learning about a new composer each month, and they love them! So far we’ve learned about Mozart, and Bach. A couple have been asking over and over when the next composer is.

    • Posted 25 March 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      That’s great, Rachel! Thanks for leaving your comment – I’m so glad to hear the lapbooks are a success with your students so far!

  2. minjung
    Posted 24 April 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I live in South Korea, is a piano teacher.
    Saw your blog
    Thank you so much useful information.
    I’ll visit more often.

  3. Julie
    Posted 30 May 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Hi Joy! Just wanted to thank you for your terrific materials. I teach piano lessons part time in my Massachusetts home studio. I purchased your Beethoven lapbook and used it this past week with 15 students, ages 7 to 12, in one-hour group lessons (4-6 students per lesson). I love the engaging format (fold-outs and pockets)- very fun for kids to construct and they were excited to share with their families. The concrete “artifacts” (Heiligenstadt testimony, autograph manuscripts) bring the history to life for kids, the concepts become much more memorable, and they look great as color copies! For my groups, the hour felt rushed and in the future I will plan for 90 minutes. I also prepped quite a bit of the project in advance for students (cutting and organizing). I’m planning three optional history group lessons this summer and now the question is which lapbooks to do next! I’m thinking J.S. Bach, Schumann, and then a modern composer… maybe Joplin, Holst or Stravinsky. I’ll be ordering soon! Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your materials. They are a wonderful resource!

    • Posted 31 May 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for the feedback, Julie! I’m so glad to hear about your success with the Beethoven lapbook! :)

  4. Posted 4 June 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Hi Joy! My students and I fell in love with your composers scrap books. my students can’t wait till next group class to learn about a new composer.
    What a great idea! Please, thank your sister for wonderful pictures.
    Can we ask you to make books about Clementi and may be even Khulau? )):
    Thanks, Joy

    • Posted 4 June 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the requests for Clementi and Kuhlau, Larissa! I will see what I can do in the upcoming months! :) I’m so glad your students enjoyed making their own lapbooks.

  5. Fredda Rosenbaum
    Posted 4 June 2013 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Use the composer database in classicsforkids.com to supplement these lessons. It is the kids site for the Cincinnati Orchestra, and is has wonderful free resources!

  6. Rachel
    Posted 6 December 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    My piano kids still love these! I’ve had a few of them asking if there will be a folder for Tchaikovsky. Apparently they really want to learn about the composer who wrote The Nutcracker.

  7. Laura Eilers
    Posted 6 June 2014 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    How long would you estimate it takes to complete a lap book? I have a 2 hour block of time with kids age 7-9. Thank you for all that you do, your resources are amazing!

    • Posted 8 June 2014 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      It generally takes 45 to 60 minutes to complete a lapbook. You could stretch the lesson further if you listen to lots of musical excerpts or add your own extensions/activities to the lesson plan. Hope that helps, Laura!

  8. Posted 10 June 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Hi Joy,
    I was wondering if your composer lap books would work well with teenagers 13 – 17?
    They can be a hard group to pleases!
    Thanks,
    Denise Thompson

    • Posted 10 June 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Hi Denise,
      The oldest student I have had complete a lapbook was 15 years old, and he thought it was great. I did my best to write the biography booklet in such a way that would appeal to older students, while still being clear enough for younger students to understand as well. If you would like to view an example biography booklet, visit and then scroll down to where you see the Mozart biography booklet download link. Purchasing the complete Mozart lapbook means receiving a PDF that contains this booklet as well as the lapbook pages. There are enough advanced concepts in the biography booklet and lesson plan page that will be intellectually stimulating for teenagers, especially if paired with listening excerpts from YouTube. Please if you have more questions!

  9. Lynn dulak
    Posted 10 July 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Joy, thank you so much for sharing your wonderful resources! I am so thrilled you updated the lesson attendance for 2014-2015! I have taught piano for many years and this has saved me SO much time!

    I would be interested in purchasing all of your composers. What would the price be if I bought them all?
    Thank you! Lynn Dulak, red wing, minnesota

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