music history playlists printables

Listening Homework; Bach

Students will be learning about concertos for a bit in my piano studio. We will be using this book (pictured) and picking pieces therefrom. To start, we will be listening to the Bradenburg Concertos by J.S. Bach. There are six concertos, so it’s a fairly long listen, but some of them are quite short. Notice the use of the harpsichord instead of the piano as well as other instruments common at the time of composition.

The Concerto by Michael Steinberg

Below, you can read about the Brandenburg Concertos, listen to a playlist of the complete set, and download a general listening sheet for students of the intermediate level.

Excerpts on Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto from Steinburg’s The Concerto.

Performances by the Freiburger Barockorchester from Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.

And here’s an accompanying listening worksheet that I give to students of the intermediate level. I would recommend filling one worksheet per piece concerto.

Listening Worksheet – General

Let me know in the comments if you used this worksheet or have any thoughts or questions about anything related to this!

music education music history music theory

Check out this great explanation of Trap music on PBS!

PBS has more to offer than you’d think.

In this video, you learn the components of a trap beat (and how to emulate) as well as the genre’s history. Great ten minutes to spend!

music history news

Google Doodle on Bernstein!

Reprinted from Google Doodles:

Happy 100th birthday to American music icon Leonard Bernstein! The youngest conductor ever to lead the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, he was also the first U.S. conductor to gain international renown, leading a 1953 performance of ‘Medea’ at La Scala in Milan, Italy’s foremost opera house.

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Bernstein discovered music around age 10 and overcame his parents’ resistance to his passion for the arts. His creativity and talent spilled over from one artform to the next, and throughout his life, the most persistent criticisms of his work were that he did too much. “I want to conduct,” he wrote late in life. “I want to play the piano. I want to write for Hollywood. I want to write symphonic music. I want to keep on trying to be, in the full sense of that wonderful word, a musician. I also want to teach. I want to write books and poetry. And I think I can still do justice to them all.”

Today’s Doodle celebrates Bernstein’s life set to one of his  most iconic works—the score to West Side Story. The tale, following the turf war between two rival gangs and star-crossed lovers in the west side of Manhattan, was brought to life through Bernstein’s gripping score. The original 1957 production was nominated for six Tony Awards including Best Musical. Explore the history and legacy of the iconic musical by visiting Google Arts & Culture.

A larger-than-life personality, Bernstein held the baton with emphatic mannerisms, reacting to the emotion of the music mid-performance. As Director of the New York Philharmonic, he exposed generations of young people to musical programming on television. Before Bernstein’s tenure, no widely-aired television show existed to educate youth through musical performances. In this way, and as a popular commentator about music on radio and TV, he made intellectual culture more accessible to the public at large.

Bernstein was also a skilled lecturer—winning a Grammy in 1961 for Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording (other than comedy). He published books about music and lectured on poetry at Harvard University.

His legacy endures as a musical polymath, a creator of culture, and an example that sometimes more is more.

Happy Birthday, Leonard Bernstein!

Here are some articles celebrating Bernstein from around the web:

Life With Leonard Bernstein

Jamie Bernstein watches her father, Leonard Bernstein, conduct the New York Philharmonic at a rehearsal for one of his Young People’s …

Here’s a fun example of Bernstein’s compositions performed by Kristin Chenowith:

Here’s an example of Bernstein as both a conductor and pianist:

And here is an example of Bernstein as an educator:


music history piano performances

How to Kick The Blues, or, A Chance Meeting with a Living Louisiana Music Legend.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for me and, I think, for a lot of people.  One day recently, I had a meeting that was really demoralizing and left me in a total funk where nothing would spark my interest.


Fortunately, the next morning, I had my own piano lesson (a two-hour workout on a Bach fugue, not much time to think about much else) and after the lesson, I decided I would go piano shopping, something I’d been meaning to do for months but just never actually had done. I think I was mainly trying to keep myself busy to distract myself from the doldrums.


At the second store I went into — where I fell in love with a grand piano that I probably can’t afford but very well might buy –there was just the owner, a man I’d known since middle school, and an elderly gentleman hanging out in the corner.  (I knew the owner because he had sold my parents their piano and because he used to let us use his store to rehearse five and four piano arrangements back in high school.)  Anyway, I’m talking to the owner and looking lustfully at pianos that cost more than my car, when the owner introduced me to the elderly gentleman in the corner as a two-time Louisiana Music Hall of Fame inductee(?).  The man, who introduced himself by his real name, not his stage name, told me about his music and after a minute, I asked if I could record him to share with my students and to preserve a little music history, and he said yes.


Unfortunately, I really wasn’t prepared to do a full-on interview, but I learned a good bit talking to him and managed to have sense to film at least a little of it.  His stage name had been Roy “Boogie Boy” Perkins and he was a singer and pianist in the ’50s.


Here’s a few samples of his music from back then:

Not bad, right? I have a particular weakness for this era in music, so needless to say, I was thrilled.

Here’s what Perkins had to say about his place in music history:


Sadly, I didn’t keep filming because he told me that when he was young, he lived nextdoor to his grandmother who had an old player piano that no one played. One day, he heard Lloyd Price on the radio and decided to try to replicate the sound and found out that he could just play. So his grandmother gave him the piano and that was his start. He didn’t mention ever taking any formal music instruction, just learning from the radio.


He told me his stage name was given to him by some country musician he was playing with (I’ve forgotten the name) and he later added the “boogie boy” part to make it go more with the style of music he enjoyed playing. Over the years, he made music, he also worked as a draftsman, worked offshore on oil and gas rigs, and at some point, became a minister. And, man, did he hate the term “swamp pop.” Now, I’ll think twice when I use it 🙂 [Side note: This man knew Elvis and Cossimo Matassa and other amazing artists of his day.  He didn’t care much for Elvis’ dancing, I think, but said he appreciated Elvis’ gospel recordings.]


After a little prodding, he agreed to play for me, even though he said he hadn’t much played in years. Fortunately, I had enough sense to record it (even if I did record vertically (oops)). Interestingly, he didn’t play his own song but played Lloyd Price, perhaps because talking about his early days playing made him nostalgic?  Hope you enjoy:



I nearly fainted with happiness, so I hope this also lifts your spirits like it did mine!

music history vocal performances

Best thing I’ve seen all day. Flash Chorus!

Not to overly spoil the surprise, but the following video depicts a random group of people bursting into “Va Pensiero” at a mall.  Well-worth watching.

Couldn’t stop smiling. Who knew there were flash choruses?  I NEED to participate in one ASAP.

In other news, this is the article from which I got the video.  Apparently “Va Pensiero” only became a rallying cry for Italian unification some years after its publication, contrary to common lore.

The image of Verdi as a “revolutionary” composer . . .  became standard in the early 20th century; it was encouraged during the Fascist years (the state-sponsored 1941 Verdi celebrations were a high point), and was sustained post-war by a continuing adherence to the “heroic” aspects of Italian nationalism.

In spite of all this latter-day boosting, there is, alas, no evidence that the chorus excited patriotic fervour in its early years (a often-repeated tale about it being encored on opening night by enflamed patriots is a blatant invention).

music history printables

Free Beethoven Composer Quiz

My students have been learning about Beethoven in lessons recently and I’ve had several of them read the short Beethoven biography from

To accompany this lesson, I’ve created a little quiz on Beethoven based on the bio the students were given above.  I’ve used it at a lesson the week following having them read the bio to make sure that the students pay attention.  It could also be used with the bio as a reading comprehension style worksheet.

Here’s a snapshot of the quiz.  The full text is available at my website here.  Beethoven Composer Quiz for piano students

music history performances

Van Cliburn, RIP

van cliburn

Van Cliburn died this morning of bone cancer.  He is most well known for winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the age of 23 (in 1958) at the height of the Cold War.

Here he is performing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1:

Here is the media coverage of his 1958 win of the competition:

Here is news coverage of Van Cliburn playing at the Reagan whitehouse for Mikhail Gorbachev:

miscellaneous music history

New Portrait of Mozart Identified

I thought that I had posted this article a week ago, but I found it today, sitting in my draft photos.  So here we go.

Researchers have confirmed that an 18th century portrait is that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  The portrait is notable because it depicts him gazing directly at the viewer and sans white powdered wig.

new mozart painting found

music history

One of my piano students is learning the Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata first movement.  This is one of those “classical pop” hits that I never wanted to play when I was studying, considering them a little too plebian somehow for me.  So it’s as thought I’m learning it for the first time too as he learns it.  And who knew that I would actually learn something, albeit about Chopin, as a result!

As a consequence of Beethoven’s instructions to play the opening movement– “”Si deve suonare tutto questo pezzo delicatissimamente e senza sordino” (“One must play this whole piece [meaning “movement”] very delicately and without dampers.”). — I gave the student a quick lesson about the history of the piano as an instrument and explained to him that Beethoven’s piano was different from those one which we play today.

Later that weekend, he emailed me these photos:



So I learned something new.  Chopin apparently favored the pianos by this particular manufacturer.

From Wikipedia:

The firm provided pianos to Frédéric Chopin,[2] and also ran a concert hall, the Salle Pleyel, where Chopin performed his first – and last – Paris concerts. Pleyel’s major contribution to piano development was the first use of a metal frame in a piano. Pleyel pianos were the choice of composers such as Debussy, Saint-Saëns, Ravel, de Falla and Stravinsky and of the pianist and teacher Alfred Cortot.[3]

music history performances

Stream Purcell’s The Fairy Queen for free!

Here’s the link.  Streaming is available for free from now until August 17!

From Glyndebourne’s website:

Purcell’s intoxicating combination of words and music alternates elements of the plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a variety of musical interludes. A magical brew has been concocted by director Jonathan Kent in inventive collaboration with designer Paul Brown.

The glass-fronted cases of a 17th-century cabinet of curiosities disgorge the black-winged inhabitants of a fairy world who make it their business to daze and confuse the poor humans who have accidentally strayed into their kingdom. The mixture is quintessentially English – one moment pastoral and elegiac, the next pure end-of-the-pier slapstick.

Baroque specialist Laurence Cummings will lead the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment from the harpsichord in this revival of a production that enchanted audiences on its first outing in 2009. The Daily Telegraph called it ‘an absolute riot, but executed with taste and style’ while The Observer said that ‘it is hard to imagine a more brilliantly creative approach to the work’.

When it was first produced at the Dorset Gardens Theatre in London in 1692,The Fairy Queen featured stage effects that nearly bankrupted the theatre. There were elaborate costumes, swans gliding over lakes, grottoes, woods and 12-foot high fountains. At Glyndebourne there will be dazzling singing and dancing, flamboyant cross-dressing, a flying horse and a warren full of rampant rabbits!

A revival of the 2009 Festival production

Sung in English with English supertitles

Co-Production with Théâtre National de l’Opéra-Comique

Supported by The Fairy Queen Syndicate

New edition for The Purcell Society by Bruce Wood and Andrew Pinnock. Performed by arrangement with Stainer & Bell.