Whatever is Lovely: Music appreciation


Recently I attended a concert and heard an incredibly gifted singer. I left the concert feeling inspired. I could never sing like she does. But it was an amazing experience to listen to someone who was both extremely talented and committed to working hard to develop her talent to the utmost of her ability.

I walked out of the concert hall feeling that whatever I do, I must do it with all my strength. Her excellency inspired in me a desire to be excellent in my own sphere.

This is just one reason why all children, regardless of ability, should be exposed to the arts. There is something in our hearts which thrills when we see or hear something lovely. The great masters like Bach and Chopin produced music that was beautiful and complex. Most of the modern music one hears on the radio (even Christian radio!) is not, strictly speaking, excellent from a musical standpoint.

Our children will benefit from learning to enjoy classical music. If they have been raised on a diet lacking in the classics, it may take awhile to develop their palate. You might begin with something like Peter and the Wolf. Read the story and then listen to the music. See if the children can imagine what is happening as they listen. Later, you can choose something like Carnival of the Animals, perhaps encouraging them to draw a picture of what they are listening to.

As in picture study, it can be beneficial to organize the works you study by composer, choosing one composer per quarter and thereby learning to recognize and enjoy several works from four different composers each year. Try to find a quiet time during the week when you can listen. My children enjoy listening to classical music as they are falling asleep.

Directed Listening

It is also helpful to take time for directed listening, when you can tell them the name of the composer and the piece being listened to. Afterward, the children can share how the piece made them feel, if they heard any particular instruments, if they liked the song, or if they imagined anything while they were listening. You can listen to lots of classical music for free on your computer. Try Classic Cat for over 5,000 free selections.

If you just want a broad overview of a particular time period, you might try Classical Archives. As of this writing, they are offering four free “one-click concerts” from the Baroque period, the Classical Period, the Romantic Period or the Modern Period. Each concert has about two hours of music selected from the best of the genre.

One to avoid…

The most important part of music appreciation is, of course, the music. Don’t spend so much time reading about composers that there is never time to listen to any of their works! Nevertheless, it is good to take time to learn something about their lives. Avoid or censor books like Krull’s Lives of the Musicians.

Children don’t need to know the unsavory details of a musician’s life to appreciate their music. In fact, that kind of information causes me to appreciate it less!

Learning about Composers

We enjoy uplifting biographies which help us to know something about how their lives were shaped or the motivation behind various works. If a biography tells my children how hard these musicians had to work to become truly excellent, that is even better!

I do not own any of the Opal Wheeler musician biographies, but I have heard they are good and they are on my wish list. We enjoy The Farewell Symphony by Anna Harwell Celenza. Her books come with a CD of the song, which is a nice addition.

We usually listen to books on tape in the car. I like the Classical Kids series for this, such as Beethoven lives upstairs and Mozart’s Magic Fantasy. These tales are one part history, three parts engaging story, with some of the composer’s best music showcased throughout.

My kids enjoy the cartoons and humorous quips in the Getting to Know the World’s Best Composers series by Mike Venezia.

I also look at garage sales and thrift stores for children’s classics videos with the musical score and some semblance of the story line intact. Often you can also find inexpensive classics compilations on CD. I prefer the ones that devote an entire CD to one composer, rather than mixing them, as it better facilitates the idea of learning one composer at a time.

If you are nostalgic and love the way the classics sound on old records, you might check out Kiddie Records Weekly. You can download the files or stream them straight from the computer, all for free. They have The Nutcracker Suite, Capital Music Appreciation Singles (which includes Peer Gynt Suites, Waltz of the Flowers, and Swan Lake), Peter and the Wolf and Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, in addition to some other music appreciation titles. Take a few minutes to browse this wonderful site. They’ve got Five in a Row titles The Carrot Seed and Madeline,
and so many children’s classics you won’t believe it! We have linked to most of these on My Audio School, as well, in a more child friendly format.

The next post in this Home Library Builders series will continue with the theme Whatever is Lovely, touching on Poetry, Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8


  1. Recently my kids recognized a selection from Peter and the Wolf on a commercial! Elmo introduced us to it with the BSO a few years back on dvd. Also, we love Carnival of the Animals. My kids love the excuse to act like animals in the living room. Lol.

  2. Thanks for contributing this post to the CM Blog Carnival.

    Grace & Peace,

  3. These are some good resources. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for all these great resources!

  5. I like the Opal Wheeler books and my kids like the Mike Venezia books too. Another good resource, (I don’t think you listed) is ‘An Introduction to the Classics’ c.d.s.
    They have story and music of one particular composer.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this resource list. It is excellent and inspires me.
    Many Blessings,

  7. We’ve slacked off on composer study lately, but we do enjoy it when we do it! Thanks for a bit of inspiration to get it going again. 🙂

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