Sound Garden offers fantastic resources for the study of classical music and composers. Kayla Collingwood has created activity guides and courses for babies up through adults. Her goal is to, “Bridge the gap between those who have had the opportunity to develop an appreciation for classical music and those who haven't.” Her love for classical music and her experience as a mezzo-soprano classical singer are obvious throughout her website and studies.
Before you make any purchase, you can sign up for free to gain access to many free printables, lessons, and music playlists.
There are also a number of activity guides that you can purchase as PDFs. Currently, there are two activity guides for young children, ages zero to six about Franz Liszt and Wolfgang Mozart. These guides have information pages and activity pages for each featured piece of music. Information pages can be read to a child, and they conclude with a listening activity. Collingwood includes links to all the music needed for the studies. Children might listen to the music while doing an activity.
Each activity page has activities for two “stages.” Stage 1 activities are for those 0 to 3 years old and stage 2 activities are for those 3 to 6 years old. In the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Activity Guide, newborns, obviously, will only be hearing the music, but the guide does a wonderful job of including babies in the activities. For example, one activity is lightly tapping rhythms on the baby’s skin. While the focus at this age is on movement and art to increase appreciation and exposure for younger children, there is also a helpful handwriting (or scribbling) section. One example of a stage 2 activity is the creation of puppets (using popsicle sticks, paper, and craft items) and using them to act out scenes from “The Magic Flute.” It is worth mentioning that there is one lesson about Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony in this study that includes a story involving ancient gods.
Guides for ages six to twelve include one titled Classical Composer Profiles and two titled Classical Inspirations. One of the Classical Inspirations studies is on Sergei Rachmaninoff and the other features Amy Beach. I will focus on Amy Beach Classical Inspirations.
Amy Beach was an American composer who lived from 1867 to 1944. There is so much information in this study, that it could be a unit study for all subjects other than math. This study brings classical music to life, even for children who might not think they like classical music. Collingwood walks you through Amy Beach’s life from childhood through adulthood, bringing in interesting lessons in geography, history, art, science, vocabulary, poetry, and, of course, music. There are journaling activities where the student is directed to listen and create something, showing how it makes him or her feel while listening.
All activities and lessons are geared around specific musical pieces for which links are provided. One lesson uses a specific musical composition to dive into biomimicry in science and musical vocabulary. Collingwood uses Beach’s Three Browning Songs to connect the music to the poetry to which it was set. There is actually quite a bit of poetry in this study, and it correlates well with the history and biography of the composer, as well as the art activities.
Having the links to all the musical pieces is so convenient for the teacher or parent; there’s no searching needed! Also, most supplies needed for the activities are basic items you already have around the house. If you want more resources or activities, Collingwood gives you additional options and links to use. This guide is 37 pages, and it can be completed in a week or spread out in smaller segments over a month or more. The timing is up to you, and the layout is simple to follow.
The other guide for this age range, Classical Composer Profiles, contains 89 simple templates for students to research and fill in for composers of the past. There are also 10 templates for living composers and one blank template. You can print what you need.
Other products include Classical Sessions for Calm and Classical Sessions for Intentions, which are designed for teens and adults. There are also two online courses - Introduction to Classical Music Part 1 and Introduction to Classical Music Part 2. These appear to be aimed at students in about fifth grade and above and are completed online at the student’s own pace.
The Sound Garden website has many free resources, including curated content (e.g., classical music videos and podcasts) and helpful blog posts—all about classical music. Everything you need for any age to start a journey into learning about classical music can be found there.
(reviewed by Nikki Farmer)