Showing Students How Classical Music is Relevant to Their Lives ~

When our students hear the words MUSIC APPRECIATION they most likely think “what a snore”. They most often will think this means listening to a lot of lectures and a lot of music they have never heard or will hear again. After all, who wants to sit and listen to someone talk about music of dead composers? Of course, as teachers we believe that just as current events are relevant to us so is the past as it has been part of the evolution that has made us who we are.

Sometimes, we are so busy preparing for the next performance and competition, we forget to talk about the global musical journey. Every great creator of music has studied the creators that lived before them and have been influenced by them in one way or another whether we believe that or not.

Have you thought of sharing an entire Beethoven symphony with your class lately? Why not? Would it require too much preparation time? Is there no room in the schedule? Might the students find it boring? The fine art of listening must be encouraged and cultivated as it’s an important element to our mental and spiritual growth. It’s critical that we help our musicians know how to articulate how the music makes them feel and why. After this, you may find that some of your students will experience classical music in a way they never have and some may be inspired to know more.

You can download entire symphonies from online sources like It is worth the time and money to print an orchestral score to share with each of them. After all, it may be the only orchestral score they ever see. It may also be the first in a long line of scores because you have inspired them. All kinds of mental floss can be exercised: really hear the music, conduct a search for which instruments have the primary theme, find where the sudden shifts in harmonic structure and tempo occur. What is the image you have in your mind when you hear this music? How does it make you feel?

Did you know the following scores can be found on and downloaded for free?

With score in hand or projected, you can study the overture to Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio. This can also be re-enacted in the classroom or viewed on YouTube. Your class will love it! Even though this opera has been around for a couple of hundred years, your students will find the story line relevant to their life. Since human behavior hasn’t changed much over the course of time, they may well find this story quite amusing while experiencing the exuberant, extreme writing that Beethoven gave us.

Fidelio: 7:05

There are countless free scores to download from including:

Mozart Symphony No. 44

Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1

Ives Symphony No. 2

After this great experience, I’m sure your young but mature musicians will want to know more about Beethoven and the other great composers that have contributed to our global musical heritage over the course of time changing all our lives without even realizing it.

Teaching German text to Chinese Singers

Teaching German to Chinese Singers

In some ways, it’s easier for a choir to sing a foreign language than it is to sing in its native tongue. The reasons may or may not be obvious. Every language has socially distinct varieties that will differ from its standard language.

In the Zhuhai Classical Children’s Choir, the children sing in Latin, English, and Italian. They are now preparing two pieces in German. The first is Beethoven’s Merkenstein for alto and soprano voices. The second is Schubert’s Psalm 23 for four-part treble voices.

The two select choirs named Elgar and Britten are capable of reading English. For the most part, they have been singing Latin and English for a few years. They performed the choral score of Madame Butterfly in Italian of course, with orchestra and professional soloists this past June.

Now, we are teaching them German. Just a quick note, many of the English sounds made for our language are not a part of the Chinese language. Imagine the confusion, when after having read English for a number of years the “w” is suddenly pronounced as a “v”. Then, there is the even more explosive ending consonant necessary in the German language. “Und” must be pronounced with an exploding “t”.  The final syllable “en” becomes an “un”. Let’s not forget that singers must suddenly remember to make an “sch” sound for what is an “st” sound in English. The umlaut has not been as big of an issue as expected even though they do not encounter this production in English or Chinese. For the most part, the greater issue is the brain making the switch as to how a certain vowel or consonant differs from English to German.

They are relieved to know that the “th” sound only appears in English. I have found this sound to be by far the most difficult blend for Chinese children to produce. Of course, I believe it is a difficult blend for English speakers as well. Even in well-rehearsed English singing choirs, the “th” often comes across as a lazy sound because the tongue is allowed to remain behind the teeth.

I have included two excerpts from a tutorial session with three of the boys that sing in both select choirs.

They have only been learning this piece, notes, rhythm and now text for three rehearsals.