This is our second year on the Crew and we have learned that you don't always get what you want...but you do tend to get what you need. Well, that has been proven to us many times over these two years. Last year we really needed math, as the funds were not available to invest in the math curriculum we needed. What reviews did we get assigned? Five different math programs!! This year we discovered Khan Academy, which is an excellent math program, and best of all, it is FREE! so the need for math program reviews is gone. This year, we decided we really wanted to expand our learning to include more art and music. So what did we get to review this time? Music! Just what we needed...a chance to get back to the classics.
What is a Maestro Classics cd like??
We were sent a cd of Maestro Classics' The Story of Swan Lake performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Tucked inside the cd cover is a small 24 page booklet which has information on the ballet, the composer, and the music, some fun activities, and the lyrics to the Swan Lake sing-a-long. Each cd is about an hour long (ours was 54:02 minutes long) and includes the story behind the music (the plot), information about the composer, alternative (but related) musical examples (for example, our cd has "Speed Metal Swan," a rowdy, but fascinating version of Swan Lake by Joe Stump that Tex LOVED), information about the music, and a memory-jogging sing-along (plus a karakoe style performance track).
Each cd is available for $16.98 on their website, or you can order an MP3 dowload of the product for $9.98. The company says the product is geared towards 6-12 year olds, but I think the appreciation range is much wider than that. There is not one individual in our home, Hubby included, who did not enjoy this product. In fact, Hubby wished his cd player in his car worked because he wanted to borrow it to listen to on the way to work. We will definitely be keeping this one in the cd changer in the house, or else in the cd player in the car, for a long time. Not one of us is tired of it yet (the narrator's voice is actually very soothing. I liked playing it while I prepared dinner).
Here is what the website has to say about the music cds, or rather (in my opinion), musical experiences:
Experience had convinced [the Simons] that if you educated as you entertained, were sophisticated enough to interest the parents as well as children, and offered only the finest musical performances, all children could appreciate symphonic music.
Together the Simons created their signature format, alternating music with talking, and explanations with musical adventures. The title track is always a work for narrator and orchestra, where the music is just as important as the story. This is followed by background information about the life and times of the work and/or the composer. Then a new musical genre is introduced, taking a theme form the title track and transforming it into jazz, folk, Dixieland, heavy metal, or other style. This is followed by the conductor talking about what to listen for in the music with musical examples. You are then invited to listen again, sometimes with the narration, sometimes without, and people are always astounded at how much more they hear with their new “educated” ears. Finally, each CD ends with a play-along, sing-along, or dance-along track, because participating in the music making is always fun.
The comment about "listening with new educated ears" struck me as funny, but particularly astute because my Amigos (ages 2, 4, 6, and 8) all LOVED this product and every time it would come around in the cd changer, they'd shout, "That's Tchaikovsky!!" or "He wrote the Nutcracker, too, didn't he Mommy?" Even Boo, who is just two, would say, "What's that noise?" and perk up when he heard the familiar strains of the music (we must have listened to it a dozen times). His "well-educated" siblings would all shout, "Tchaikovsky!" or "Swan Lake!" I love it.
During the review period, the girls got very into dancing, and would flit and float around the kitchen while this cd played on my kitchen under-counter cd player (I love that thing!). They would sometimes run upstairs and put on one of their ballet leotard/tutu outfits, or a princess dress, and perform for me. They even got Cowboy to dress up in his King/Prince get up ("chain mail," cape, crown, sword, sheild) and dance with them. They certainly acted out hero-rescue scenarios more often, thanks to the inspiration of the story.
The only potentially negative thing I saw with the product (this one in particular, not the company in general) is that this story ends a bit tragically. Both the Prince and the Swan Princess die in the end, and are reunited in the heavens. Tenderhearted children might be disturbed by this, though I consider mine to be tenderhearted, and once we'd discussed the specifics of the plot, and the sometimes tragic endings of traditional fairy tales in general, they were fine with the ending. Besides, I told them the story had many alternate endings throughout the years, so they could decide how they wanted it to end when they chorographed their own performances (which was always that the two star-crossed lovers were victorious over evil and triumphantly went back to the castle and lived happily ever after...awwww).
What can you do to turn your listening experience into an all-around learning experience?
- Check out Maestro Classics' curriculum suggestions for Swan Lake. This helpful collection of links and information includes ideas for using the Swan Lake cd to initiate interest in History, Science, Language Arts, Music, Art, Math, and Geography...can you say, "UNIT STUDY!!"?
- Watch a performance of Swan Lake on youtube. Or, even better, attend one at a local theater! If you get to attend a real ballet, read about ballet performance etiquette before you go.
- I am not into metal music, but this metal version of the ballet performance is interesting. I put this up for Tex. ;-)
- Buy and complete a Swan Lake lapbook at Journey Through Learning.
- Color this picture of a swan as you listen, or try one of these.
- Read about the history of the Swan Lake Ballet.
- Color one of these pictures of ballerinas, or try this watercolor ballerina project.
- Learn about ballet and dance to the music. One dvd my girls like is Creating Ballet Dreams. It talks a lot about arm movements and expression in ballet.
- Dress up and act out the story of Swan Lake. Change the ending if you want to!
- Read about Tchaikovsky at Classics for Kids or Wikipedia, then complete one of these notebooking pages about him.
- Listen to more Tchaikovsky music online.
- Read about the ballet's plot, its alternative endings, and its characters. A shorter plot summar can be found HERE.
- Watch The Swan Princess, an animated version of the story and compare it to the actual ballet.
Okay, you convinced me. I LOVE this idea. Now what?
- You can purchase Swan Lake and other titles from Maestro Classics HERE...there are nine excellent performances from which to choose OR you can splurge and buy the complete 9 cd set. That's what I wish I could do!! Other titles in the set include Handel's Water Music, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Peter and the Wolf.
- Learn more about the company's philisophy and beginnings HERE. I am certain you will be impressed.
- You can read some informative articles by Co-Creator Bonnie Simon about the importance of music HERE. I have read several and they are excellent.
- Like Maestro Classics on Facebook HERE to recieve coupons and giveaways.
- Check out the TOS Review Crew blog to see what others had to say about this product HERE.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the Swan Lake cd to enable our family to review this product on our blog and share how our family utilized it in our homeschool. I am sharing our honest opinions and experiences with this product. If you have questions about this review, please feel free to contact me or comment here.
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