I am a great fan of learning by exposure. There are definitely subjects for which you need a lesson plan and/or a teacher who knows their subject well, but there are also plenty of subjects for which the “Hey-look-at-this!” method works beautifully. Music appreciation is one of those subjects. I am continually surprised by how much material exists out there that helps introduce classical music to children. My biggest frustration is that I can’t just go out and buy all of it. (Libraries are such a blessing.)
Take a look at these CDs and books with CD that introduce kids to classical music (this is just a taste):
Bernstein Favorites: Children’s Classics (CD)
Recordings of Peter and the Wolf, Carnival of the Animals and Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra performed by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.
Classical Zoo (CD)
Itzhak Perlman narrates poems by Bruce Adolphe, accompanied by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra (audio CD) Garrison Keillor with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
A young man tries to decide which instrument is best suited to his personality.
Can You Hear It? by William Lach, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006
Art and music appreciation rolled into one book with CD. Each track of music is paired with a corresponding piece of artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as questions that are designed to point out musical details and images. Copland is paired with Remington, Vivaldi with Brueghel the Younger, Rossini with Currier and Ives. Includes an introduction to musical instruments and notes on both the art and music.
Carnival of the Animals: Classical Music for Kids by Camille Saint-Saens and Barrie C. Turner, illustrated by Sue Williams
The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, music composed by Nathaniel Stookey, illustrations by Carson Ellis, Harper Collins Publishers, 2009
This is a picture book with companion CD featuring Lemony Snicket and the San Francisco Symphony. The music and story are clever and imaginative, and introduce each instrument in the orchestra in much the same way as Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, giving listeners a chance to hear each instrument and learn something of its role in the orchestra.
Sergei Prokoviev’s Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokoviev, adapted by Janet Schulman, illustrated by Peter Malone, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004
The Remarkable Farkle McBride by John Lithgow, illustrated by C. F. Payne, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2000
A musically gifted boy grows disillusioned with each instrument he masters, until he finally finds fulfillment as a conductor.
Tubby the Tuba by Paul Tripp, illustrated by Henry Cole, Dutton Children’s Books, 2006
Tubby the Tuba is sad because he never gets to play the melody, until he meets a bullfrog who inspires him. This is a remake of a story for narrator and orchestra that was written in 1946. Definite vintage feel.