2nd Grade Lessons

Our lessons are based on recommended Core Knowledge Curriculum by grade. However, these lessons are suitable for a wide range of ages, so we encourage exploration across grades. A few lessons, such as "What Is Sound / Music" overlap between grades, and may have similar content, but are useful to reinforce and expand learning.

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Holiday Lessons
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    Lesson 1 - What Is Sound?

    Core Curriculum

    "What is sound?" Objects that vibrate make sound. Sound always comes from a sound source that is vibrating. Vibration is a kind of motion. It is a fast back-and-forth motion. When the vibration stops, the sound stops.

    Objects can be made to vibrate by plucking, hitting, blowing and much more. When an object vibrates, it moves the air next to it. Air is made up of tiny molecules so small we can’t see them without microscopes. Sound moves by these molecules bumping into each other, which carries the sound to our ears.

    Sound and Vibration Slides (PDF)

    Sound and Vibration Slides (PowerPoint original)

    The following video is a look at how vibration produces sound:

    The above video is a further discussion of the nature of sound.
    Sound moves in waves like when you throw a rock into a pond and the waves ripple out from the rock in all directions. Waves come in all different sizes and shapes. This affects how loud and what kind of sound we hear. The more energy put into a sound, the more vibrations are created. More vibrations will make the sound louder and go farther.

    Pitch is the word used to describe whether a sound is high or low. Frequency = pitch. Frequency is how often or frequent a sound wave moves up and down. The more frequent a wave moves up and down, the higher the pitch. Generally, the longer or bigger the object the slower it vibrates, meaning the pitch will be lower too. The opposite is true for shorter / smaller objects.


    1) Guitar oscillations captured with phone. Oscillations are back and forth movements, such as those caused by the vibration of a guitar string.
    2) Sound waves in water glass. Rubbing a wet finger on the edge of a drinking glass can vibrate the glass causing a sound. If the glass is filled with water, the pitch may change as well as vibrating the water. Real glass that isn't too thick and has a stem is preferable. Food coloring doesn't change the sound, but helps you see the movement of the water.
    3) Beethoven's Für Elise on glass harp - Drinking glass music. Using the technique shown in the previous video, the musician can play a song. The pitch (how low or high the note is) depends on the size and shape of the glass and how much water is in it.
    4) "Orange Colored Sky"
    - Nat King Cole - 1950 - Big Band
    5) "Mexican Hat Dance (Jarabe Tapatío)" - Jesús González Rubio - 19th Century - Jarabe tapatío is the national dance of Mexico. It originated as a courtship dance in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Female dancers traditionally wear a china poblana outfit, while the male dancers dress as charros.
    6) "The Star-Spangled Banner (U.S. National Anthem)" - Francis Scott Key (lyrics) - 1814 - John Stafford Smith (music) - 1773 - The lyrics come from amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory.


    Play the animal sounds below. Animals commonly communicate via sounds. Sound travels differently in the air vs. the water. Echolocation is used by animals like sonar, to bounce sound waves off of objects to see how far away they are. Bats are practically blind and use echolocation to "see" by hearing. Note the similarities in the "clicking" sounds used by bats and dolphins.

    Play the video above and have students attempt to guess the sounds.

    Recommended site for free sounds: freesound.org

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    Here are two popular line dance songs. "Cupid Shuffle" has similarities to the previous song "Cha Cha Slide". If you go back further, these songs can be compared to the 1994 song "Tootsee Roll". Line dance songs in country are also common. Musical styles and dances constantly borrow from each other going back to the origins of music.
    "Cha Cha Slide" - DJ Casper - 1998
    "Cupid Shuffle" - Cupid - 2006

    Lesson 2 - What Is Music?

    Core Curriculum

    What is Music? That's both an easy and difficult question. Music is a combination of sounds made in a way humans recognize as a purposeful pattern. People have likely made at least basic music since they first walked the Earth. Beat is something we feel very early on, and even babies respond to music.

    Why do people make music? People make music to have fun, communicate, worship, express their feelings, share in a way that goes beyond words, and so much more. Music begins with beat and rhythm. They are the foundation and structure of music. 

    Intro to Music (PDF)

    Intro to Music (PowerPoint original)

    The following video is a look at the difference between beat and rhythm:

    The video above is an introduction to musical notes.
    On top of the foundation of beat and rhythm, music typically includes a series of notes played together and separately. Each note has a pitch, which is how low or high the note is. A scale of notes includes: A, B, C, D, E, F, G and returns to A. This is known as an octave.

    A melody is a sequence of single notes that is musically satisfying. It is the tune; the part that you can hum or sing along with, and is likely the part you recognize most. Harmony is the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect.


    1) "Do-Re-Mi" - Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music - 1965
    2) "Blowin' in the Wind" - Bob Dylan - 1962 - It has been described as a protest song, and poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war, and freedom. The refrain "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind" has been described as "impenetrably ambiguous: either the answer is so obvious it is right in your face, or the answer is as intangible as the wind".
    3) "Buffalo Gals" - John Hodges - 1844 - A traditional American song performed here by Kate and Maggie O'Connor. When violins are played in this style they are typically called fiddles.
    4) "I've Been Working on the Railroad" - 1894 - An American folk song first published as "Levee Song" in Carmina Princetonia, a book of Princeton University songs.
    5) "Spring Song from Song without Words" - Felix Mendelssohn - 1832 - This music is light and airy. One can imagine spring in the country with birds awakening for their day.
    6) "Mr. Bach Comes to Call" - The Children's Group, Classical Productions for Children - 1990 - This is the first in a series of recordings where we imagine the famous Johann Sebastian Bach visits a young pianist to teach her about music.


    As a class, start beats and rhythms together. Use "Hickory Dickory Dock" (see Intro to Music PDF) or another song to illustrate the difference between beat and rhythm. Try speaking the song without the melody and clapping to the rhythm. Each clap goes with a syllable of a word. If you have rhythm sticks, bring them out to create patterns together. 


    Singing without musical accompaniment is known as a cappella. In addition to singing, the voice can produce percussion, often known as beat boxing. Pentatonix is a well known example of an a cappella group. Each member of the group has a special vocal range. When blending low and high notes, as well as beats, the combined sound fills the range a person can experience, which is generally more satisfying.

    Play the video above to hear the a cappella group Pentatonix sing the evolution of music.

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    "Shake, Rattle and Roll" - written by Charles E. Calhoun first recorded by Big Joe Turner - 1954 - Bill Haley and His Comets helped further the hit with their more uptempo version. This audio recording is actually Elvis Presley (1956) with some amazing dancing clips from Whitey's Lindy Hoppers from 1941 and others.
    "Best Day of My Life" - American Authors - 2013

    Lesson 3 - Ancient Civilization Music and Percussion

    Core Curriculum

    The first ancient instruments (excluding the human voice) were likely simple drums. Drums can be found in history predating 6000 B.C. By the time of the Greeks and Romans, stringed instruments were being created such as the Greek lyre. Flute-like wind instruments also have an early history, such as the pan flute and aulos. Materials such as reeds and bamboo could be used for the pipes.

    Cultures all over the world have rich musical history often with similar roots or at least a shared humanity. Ancient musical traditions in some cases have been carried through to modern times. For example, singing and percussion are important aspects of traditional Native American music. Vocalization takes many forms. Percussion, especially drums and rattles, are common accompaniment to keep the rhythm steady for the singers. Like in other world cultures throughout human history, Native American music plays a role in history and education, with ceremonies and stories orally passing on ancestral customs to new generations.

    The following video shows a variety of examples of Native American instruments:

    A Look at Percussion

    The first drums were simple, involving any items that could be hit to make a sound. Slowly, drums changed and became more detailed. With a strong connection to sacred and ceremonial celebrations in Africa, percussion instruments often symbolize tribal royalty, and they have also been used to send messages over long distances. During the Renaissance period in Europe, drums played an important role in the military, enabling soldiers to send coded messages and instructions to each other across many miles.


    Percussion instruments produce sounds by scraping, plucking, striking, or shaking. Thus, all drums and bells are percussion. Within the percussion family, instruments are subdivided into those that can produce a pitch and those that don’t. Percussion instruments include bongos, snares, pancake drums, buffalo drums, and more. Other members of the percussion family include cymbals, maracas, rain sticks, woodblocks, castanets, triangles, bells, and shakers.


    Ancient Instruments:
    1) "Pausis" - A demonstration of an ancient greek lyre, a bendir (type of ancient drum) with a vocalist singing in tones similar to that time period.
    2) "Hellenistic Aulos" - A demonstration of the ancient greek aulos. The ancient Roman equivalent was the tibicen. An aulos like this, with double pipes, is challenging to play as the musician must control essentially two instruments simultaneously.
    3) "Over the Rainbow (on pan flute)" - The pan flute (also known as panpipes) is a musical instrument based on the principle of the closed tube, consisting of multiple pipes of gradually increasing length. The pipes are typically made from bamboo, giant cane, or local reeds. The pan flute, first used by the ancient Greeks, is named after Pan, the Greek god of nature. (The pan flute is also seen with the character Peter Pan.)

    Percussion Examples:
    4) "Toccata for Percussion Instruments" - Carlos Chávez (Mexican Composer) - 1942 - Written for six musicians playing a number of percussion instruments.
    5) "Top Secret Drum Corps" - Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2012 - Demonstration of a modern marching precision drum corps.
    6) "STOMP" - suspended by ropes, an urban performance with metal objects - STOMP is a percussion group, originating in Brighton, United Kingdom that uses the body and ordinary objects to create a physical theater performance using rhythms, acrobatics and pantomime.


    Have the students create their own beats (safely) using their bodies, desks, pencils and other common objects around them. See if they can get into a beat as a class together. Also, try starting rhythms and see if they can mimic them.


    Rhythm sticks are a great way to learn and practice beats together. The video shows a New Zealand version called E papä wairi (Maori Stick Game). If you have sticks (or even just pencils) try following along or come up with your own rhythms.

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    Want an extra challenge? See if you can perform the cups rhythm in the video below.
    "We Will Rock You" - Queen - 1977
    "Cups" - Anna Kendrick - 2011 - "Cups" is a version of the 1931 Carter Family song "When I'm Gone", usually performed a cappella with a cup used to provide percussion, as in the cup game. The song became popular after it was performed by Anna Kendrick in the 2012 film Pitch Perfect.

    Lesson 4 - Sound Dynamics and Orchestras

    Core Curriculum

    Dynamics is critical to expressive and enjoyable music. The dynamics of a piece is the variation in loudness between notes or phrases. Dynamics are indicated by specific musical notation.  Terms are given to express this. For example, playing softly would be "piano" or "pianissimo", well loud would be "forte" or "fortissimo". These terms are in Italian as much of classical music finds its origins in Europe. A piano's full name is actually a pianoforte, given its full dynamic range, but people call it just "piano" for short.


    One of the ultimate expressions of dynamic range can be found in orchestras. Orchestras contain families of instruments such as percussion, strings, brass and woodwinds.


    The following video is a look at the instrument families in a typical orchestra:

    The above video is a brief introduction to how orchestras can create different sounds and make us feel different emotions. Take a look at the 3rd grade lessons to discover more about each family of instruments in the orchestra.

    Orchestral music is incredibly diverse in the sounds it can create and thus the feelings it can move in us. It has provided entertainment through history, whether from a live concert, a recording to enjoy at our leisure or the background for movies and TV. It has been the foundation of many other musical styles as well.


    1) "The Four Seasons, Spring (La Primavera)" - Antonio Vivaldi - 1716 - The Four Seasons is a group of four violin concerti each of which gives musical expression to a season of the year. They were a revolution in musical conception: in them Vivaldi represented flowing creeks, singing birds, a shepherd and his barking dog, buzzing flies, hunting parties from both the hunters' and the prey's point of view, frozen landscapes, and warm winter fires.
    2) "Flight of the Bumblebee" - Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - 1899 - It is intended to musically evoke the seemingly chaotic and rapidly changing flying pattern of a bumblebee. Can you picture it?
    3) "The Lord of the Rings: Prologue" - Howard Shore - 2001 - This powerful and dramatic piece was created for the movie series "The Lord of the Rings" based on the famous books by J.R.R. Tolkien. The use of orchestra combined with a chorus can be used for great emotional effect.
    4) "Carnival of the Animals, Elephant" - Camille Saint-Saëns (French Romantic composer) - 1886 - The Carnival of the Animals is a lighthearted musical suite of fourteen movements each representing a different animal or animals.
    5) "Carnival of the Animals, Swan" - Camille Saint-Saëns (French Romantic composer) - 1886
    6) "America, the Beautiful" - performed here by NYO-USA - published in 1910. (See also the Ray Charles version under 3rd grade lessons.)


    Sound dynamics from a human voice can be controlled by how you project your voice. Singers can best control sound by breath control, getting a full breath into their lungs and using their diaphragm. Singing is comparable to air escaping a balloon. Ideally, the air should be allowed to come out of the balloon with a steady pitch—slowly. When it is forced out with a squeeze, however, the balloon produces an unpleasant and irregular tone. Bring a balloon as an example and have the students practice proper "belly balloon" breathing.


    Overcoming disabilities: Beethoven was deaf when he wrote one of his most famous pieces: "Ode to Joy". (See the Beethoven lesson for details.) Andrea Boccelli is blind and is known as one of the top opera singers ever. 


    Music builds and shifts into other music, and has since the first caveman struck two rocks together to form a beat. Orchestras led to big bands which formed Jazz. Jazz later morphed into Rock and Roll.

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    Overcoming disabilities: Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles are both blind and are famous singers, songwriters and musicians.
    "For Once in My Life" - Stevie Wonder - 1968
    "Shake a Tail Feather" - Ray Charles & The Blue Brothers - 1980

    Lesson 5 - Traditional American Western Folk Music and Counting Beats

    Core Curriculum

    Music is so diverse that it is difficult to categorize. When we talk about "western" and "folk" music in the U.S., it can mean a lot of things to many people. Here we're referring to an older period where the U.S. was expanding westward and dealing with the Civil War. This would be considered traditional music as opposed to contemporary or modern folk music. Traditional folk music has a heritage that grows in meaning over time. 


    Western music is a form of country composed by and about the people who settled and worked throughout the mid to western part of the United States. It celebrates the lifestyle of the cowboy on the open ranges, Rocky Mountains, and prairies of Western North America. It is directly related musically to old English, Irish, Scottish, and folk ballads. The Mexican folk music of Northern Mexico and Southwestern U.S. also influenced the development of this genre. Western music shares similar roots with Appalachian music (also called country or hillbilly music). The music industry of the mid-20th century grouped the two genres together under the banner of country and western music, later combined into the modern name, country music.


    This video is a set of photos taken during this time to give us a glimpse of this period:

    Switching from how we categorize music, to how we count it--this video gives an overview of how music is written to indicate how long a note is held. In music, notes follow a beat. A beat in music sets the tempo (time), or pace of the song. We write notes in different shapes to indicate how long the note is supposed to last. Musical time is repeated after a certain number of beats called a measure. A time signature of a song tells us how many beats to count in a measure. Each song can have its own timing to give it a certain feel. Three example are  shown in the picture below. "3/4" time would mean there are 3 quarter-note beats per measure. The measure is separated by a vertical line. As you listen to the songs, see if you can tell which time signature is used. The bonus section gives the answers and more details.

    Time Signature


    1) "Home on the Range" - Brewster M. Higley and Daniel E. Kelley - 1872 - This is a classic western folk song sometimes called the "unofficial anthem" of the American West.
    2) Oh My Darlin' Clementine - Percy Montrose - 1884 - This is a classic American western folk ballad.
    3) "Erie Canal (Low Bridge, Everybody Down)" - Thomas S. Allen - 1905 - sung here by Bruce Springsteen. It was written after Erie Canal barge traffic was converted from mule power to engine power, raising the speed of traffic.
    4) "Dixie (I Wish I Was in Dixie)" - Daniel Decatur Emmett - 1859 - It is a song that was popular in the Southern United States through the 20th century. It is one of the most distinctively Southern musical products of the 19th century. The song likely cemented the word "Dixie" in the American vocabulary as a nickname for the Southern U.S.
    5) "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" - Patrick Gilmore - 1863 - This is a popular song from the American Civil War that expressed people's longing for the return of their friends and relatives who were fighting in the war.
    6) "Goodbye Old Paint" is a traditional Western song that was created by black cowboy, Charley Willis, in the late 1800s. Willis was a former slave who became a cowboy and rode the Wyoming trail. He was in demand on cattle drives because his voice was reportedly calming to the herds.


    The songs above follow different counting patterns which change the feel of the songs. In the beginning of the lesson we introduced beats and time signatures. When we count music, we listen for the moment it repeats (the beginning of a new measure), and start our count over. For example, we may say 1,2,3,4...1,2,3,4... and so on. Let's look at each song.

    For "Home on the Range", we hear three beats per measure. Like a waltz, we'd count it like this 1,2,3...1,2,3...
    For "Clementine", we are also in 3/4 time. It also uses what's called trochaic meter. That means there is a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. Oh my DAR-ling, oh my DAR-ling, where "DAR" is emphasized.
    "Erie Canal" has a four beats per measure rhythm (4/4) which is typically the most common time measure, although in this sample of songs the three-beat country "waltz" with its soulful, cowboy style makes a strong showing.
    Both "Dixie" and "Johnny" have a march-like 2/4 time. This gives a speedy feel of double-time and a strong, structured beat to the song. 1,2...1,2...1,2...
    Finally, "Goodbye Old Paint" is also 3/4 time or three quarter-note beats per measure. The tempo itself is slower to give a bittersweet, thoughtful feel.

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    Try your hand (or feet) at line dancing with these hits:
    "Cotton Eye Joe" - Rednex - 1994
    "Achy Breaky Hearty" - Billy Ray Cyrus - 1992 - featured here as a kids dance-along. "Achy Breaky Heart" and the Brooks & Dunn version of "Boot Scootin' Boogie" are credited with having sparked a renewed interest in line dancing throughout the United States.

    Lesson 6 - Tall Tales and Telling Stories with Music

    Core Curriculum

    A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were factual. Some tall tales are exaggerations of actual events, while other tall tales are completely fictional tales set in a familiar setting, such as the European countryside, the American frontier, the Canadian Northwest, the Australian frontier, or the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.


    The tall tale is a fundamental element of American folk literature. The tall tale's origins are seen in the bragging contests that often occurred when the rough men of the American frontier gathered. The tales of legendary figures of the Old West, some listed below, owe much to the style of tall tales.


    The following video is a quick look at tall tales:

    Musical Storytelling

    Telling a story with music enhances it, and it is often easier to remember words set to music. Many cultures throughout history have used stories and music to pass down history, culture and knowledge to future generations. Writing in a structured way, such as a poem, repetition (like in a chorus to a song) or rhyming is more memorable than standard speech (prose). Adding music makes it even more catchy, especially considering how music can move us emotionally.


    1) "The Ballad of John Henry" - John Henry is an African American folk hero. He is said to have worked as a "steel-driving man"—a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing a railroad tunnel. The story of John Henry is told in a classic folk song, which exists in many versions, and has been the subject of numerous stories, plays, books, and novels.

    2) "The Ballad of Casey Jones" - Eddie Newton - 1909, sung here by Johnny Cash - A traditional American folk song about railroad engineer Casey Jones and his death at the controls of the train he was driving. It tells of how Jones and his fireman Sim Webb raced their locomotive to make up for lost time, but discovered another train ahead of them on the line, and how Jones bravely remained on board to try to stop the train as Webb jumped to safety.

    3) "The Ballad of Pecos Bill" - Roy Rogers - 1948 - Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers sing about the life and times of Pecos Bill.
    From the 1948 animated feature 'Pecos Bill'.

    4) "Old Dan Tucker" - Dan Emmett - 1843 - sung here by Grandpa Jones - A song of boasts and nonsense, the lyrics tell of Dan Tucker's exploits in a strange town, where he fights, drinks, overeats, and breaks other social taboos.

    5) "Yankee Doodle" - American Patriotic Song - 1780s - Yankee Doodle is a well-known American song, the early versions of which date to before the Seven Years' War and the American Revolution. It is often sung patriotically in the United States today and is the state anthem of Connecticut.

    6) "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" - Wallis Willis - 1865 - African-American spiritual sung here by Etta James - Sometimes performed slowly and solemnly, this version is more upbeat gospel style. Composer Wallis Willis was a Choctaw freedman in the old Indian Territory in what is now Choctaw County, Oklahoma. He may have been inspired by the sight of the Red River, by which he was toiling, which reminded him of the Jordan River and of the Prophet Elijah's being taken to heaven by a chariot. Some claim that this song had lyrics that referred to the Underground Railroad, the freedom movement that helped black people escape from Southern slavery to the North and Canada.


    Tall tales are not just relics of history. We continue to follow this tradition in modern times. For example, you may tell a friend an over-the-top story about your basketball game or camping trip. Certain genres of music today, such as rap, often involve exaggeration. Songs can be a contest to describe how one is the best through outrageous bragging, but like tall tales of the past, these are often not to be taken overly seriously.


    Sometimes it helps people feel better about their situation to put on an air of confidence. Looking at the dance party songs below you can see similar examples. "Good Feeling" isn't necessarily bragging that they can literally do all the things they sing about, but more enjoying a feeling that everyone would like to capture. A moment of confidence and happiness where anything seems possible.

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    Here are two modern songs to dance to following the song tradition of exaggeration (clean lyrics). See the Bonus section for a discussion.
    "Uptown Funk" - Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - 2014 - sung here by Kidz Bop
    "Good Feeling" - Flo Rida - 2011

    Lesson 7 - Composers: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Core Curriculum

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers.


    Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood in Salzburg. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security.


    The following video shares a brief biography of Mozart:

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

    During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death. The circumstances of his early death at age 35 have been much mythologized. He was survived by his wife Constanze and two sons.

    Mozart learned voraciously from others, and developed a brilliance and maturity of style that encompassed the light and graceful along with the dark and passionate. His influence on subsequent Western art music is profound. Beethoven wrote his own early compositions in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."


    1) "The Marriage of Figaro (Overture)" - Mozart - 1786  (Note that 10 years prior the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.)
    2) "Rondo Alla Turca (Turkish March)" - Mozart - 1784  (A common piano piece for students all over the world.)
    3) "Symphony No. 40 in G Minor" - Mozart - 1788
    4) "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" - Mozart - 1787 - The German title means "a little serenade", though it is often rendered more literally as "a little night music".


    The next songs are not Mozart related and are just for a change of pace in the lesson.
    5) "L.O.V.E." - Nat King Cole - 1964
    6) "It Starts in the Heart" - Jack Hartmann - 1997


    During Mozart's life, he was like a rock star. Royalty fought to have him perform, people swooned at his music and he was admired and envied. People didn't have recordings to listen to or large concerts open to the public. You usually had to be privileged to even hear it. Talk about how this has changed today, and how music is so available to most of us in many forms. Compare Mozart to a rock star today and the attention that they receive.


    Mozart remains famous even after hundreds of years. Here is a movie trailer from a 1984 movie simply called "Amadeus". It chronicles Mozart's dramatic life tragically (and mysteriously) cut short.

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    "Rock Me Amadeus" - Falco (Austrian singer) - 1985 - Sung in Austrian as a rock tribute to Mozart, it was a #1 hit both in the U.S. and U.K.
    "Turkish March" - Jake Faun performing Mozart's famous "Turkish March" in Rock/Metal guitar style - 2019 - Note the switch from electric guitar to acoustic guitar.

    Lesson 8 - Composers: Ludwig van Beethoven

    Core Curriculum

    Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) was a German composer and pianist. His music is among the most performed in the classical genre, and he is one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music. His works span the classical period to the romantic era in classical music.


    His career can be viewed in early, middle, and late periods. The "early" period in which he forged his craft is typically seen to last until 1802. His "middle" period, sometimes characterized as "heroic", showing an individual development from the "classical" styles of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, covers the years 1802 to 1812, during which he increasingly suffered from deafness. In the "late" period from 1812 to his death in 1827, he extended his innovations in musical form and expression.


    The following two videos provide brief biographies of Beethoven. While there is some overlap, each provide an interesting perspective:

    Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

    Ludwig van Beethoven's most popular pieces are his Fifth Symphony, Für Elise for piano solo, and his Ninth Symphony, which includes the melody Ode to Joy. Some of his greatest works were created while dealing with the loss of his hearing--providing an inspiration to all of us. He is remembered as an important composer in the transitional period between the Classical Era and Romantic Era in music and continues to be one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.


    1) "Symphony No. 5 in C minor (Beethoven's Fifth)" - Beethoven - Written between 1804 and 1808, it is one of the best-known compositions in classical music and one of the most frequently played symphonies, and it is widely considered one of the cornerstones of western music.
    2) "Für Elise" - Beethoven - The score was discovered and not published until 1867, forty years after the composer's death in 1827.
    3) "Symphony 6 (Pastoral) Allegro Ma Non Troppo" - Beethoven - 1802 to 1808 - This clip is from Disney's "Fantasia". Beethoven's work has been used in many movies, songs and other creative works.
    4) "Ode to Joy (fourth and final movement of his Ninth Symphony)" - Beethoven - 1824
    5) "Ode to Joy" - Movie clip from "Immortal Beloved" about Beethoven's life. An actor portrays Beethoven as we may imagine he feels during a performance of his music while at this point likely completely deaf. He thinks back to a moment in his childhood where he runs to a lake in the moonlight, and floats with the stars reflecting in the water.
    6) "Moonlight Sonata (Piano Sonata No. 14)" - Beethoven - 1801 - Beethoven was a musical genius who still knew which notes sounded good together without hearing them. He could also feel the vibrations, and had a better sense of the lower range of notes, which shaped his later works.


    In this scene from"Immortal Beloved", loved ones are listening in secretly, hoping his rumored hearing loss isn't too bad. At first they are saddened to hear his limitations until he plays the gorgeous "Moonlight Sonata". They approach him carefully in the room. Thinking he is alone, he is surprised and angered to see them. It is beyond difficult for him to face the reality of his hearing, he tries to keep it a secret for as long as possible as he fears for his career.


    Back at lesson one, we learned about how vibration created sound, and how the frequency of the vibration changed the pitch. In this video, a musician uses glasses of different sizes and filled with different amounts of water to create different pitches. Rubbing the top edge of certain glasses will cause them to vibrate and make sound. Do you recognize Für Elise? Ask the students to share any experiences they have had with Beethoven's music.

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    "Roll Over Beethoven" - Chuck Berry - 1956
    "Symphony No. 5 (Rock Version)" - Beethoven performed on electric guitar by Behimo - 2007 - What might Beethoven think of this? What could he accomplish with today's modern instruments?

    Lesson 9 - Composers: John Williams

    Core Curriculum

    John Williams (born 1932) is an American composer, conductor, and pianist. Regarded by many as the greatest film composer of all time, he has composed some of the most popular, recognizable, and critically acclaimed film scores in cinematic history in a career spanning over six decades. Williams has won 25 Grammy Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, five Academy Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards.


    With 52 Academy Award nominations, he is the second most-nominated individual, after Walt Disney. In 2005 the American Film Institute selected Williams's score to 1977's Star Wars as the greatest film score of all time. The Library of Congress also entered the Star Wars soundtrack into the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


    The following videos share brief biographies of Williams:

    John Williams (born 1932)

    Williams has composed for many critically acclaimed and popular movies, including the Star Wars Skywalker saga, Schindler's List, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones, the first two Home Alone films, the first two Jaws films, the first two Jurassic Park films, Hook, and the first three Harry Potter films. Williams has also composed numerous classical concertos and other works for orchestral ensembles and solo instruments. He served as the Boston Pops' principal conductor from 1980 to 1993 and is its laureate conductor.


    He has been associated with director Steven Spielberg since 1974, composing music for all but five of his feature films. Other works by Williams include theme music for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, NBC Sunday Night Football, "The Mission" theme used by NBC News and Seven News in Australia, the television series Lost in Space and Land of the Giants, and the incidental music for the first season of Gilligan's Island. Williams was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl's Hall of Fame in 2000 and the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2016. He has composed the score for eight of the top 25 highest-grossing films at the U.S. box office (adjusted for inflation). His work has influenced other film composers and contemporary classical and popular music.


    1) "The Imperial March from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" - Williams - 1980 - This powerful theme is sometimes referred to simply as "Darth Vader's Theme." In the movies (except for the original Star Wars), the march is often played when Darth Vader appears.
    2) "Hedwig's Theme (from Harry Potter)" - Williams - 2001
    3) "Indiana Jones (Main Theme)" - Williams - 1981 - Notice how Williams captures the adventurous spirit of these movies in his music.
    4) "Superman (Main Theme)" - Williams - 1978 - Williams builds beautifully to the moment where we all take flight with Superman. The music evokes a feeling of soaring through the sky and being invincible.
    5) "Schindler's List (Main Theme)" - Williams - 1993 - Showing that in addition to lighter, spirited music, Williams can construct emotionally moving themes. This movie deals with an extremely difficult topic--the Holocaust.
    6) "Force Theme from Star Wars: A New Hope" - Williams - 1977 - One of the most musically iconic moments in movie history, the importance of Luke Skywalker's future is suggested with the rising action of this orchestral piece.


    Music has a huge impact on the scenes we watch in movies and shows. It can create suspense, drive the action and bring us to tears, among other things. Movies with big budgets hire composers and orchestras to write and perform music. The music is carefully edited to match a movie scene as well as balance with sound effects and voices. With the improvement of digital equipment, some movie music is now created by synthesizers instead of live musicians.


    This video is a humorous look at what the iconic Throne Room scene from Star Wars would feel like without music--awkward. What other shows have you really noticed the music while watching? Do you have a favorite theme song or movie-music moment?

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    "Cantina Band from Star Wars: A New Hope" - Williams - 1977 - Note the steel drums, a musical instrument originating from Trinidad and Tobago, used to create a more "exotic" feel.
    "Jaws (Theme Song)" - Williams - 1975 - OK, not really a dance song, but didn't want to leave out this suspenseful classic. Pretend you're a predator and slowly move about the room ready to attack like a shark--only, remind everyone to have fun and not actually attack anyone! 😉

    Lesson 10 - Composers: Johann Sebastian Bach

    Core Curriculum

    Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a composer of the Baroque era. Although he was admired during his life as an outstanding harpsichordist, organist, and expert on organ building, Bach is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time and is celebrated as the creator of the Brandenburg Concertos, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Mass in B Minor, and numerous other masterpieces of church and instrumental music. Bach was able to bring together the principal styles, forms, and national traditions that had developed during preceding generations and enrich them all.

    The following video shares a brief biography of J.S. Bach:


    Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)

    Bach enriched established German styles through his mastery of counterpoint, and his adaptation of rhythms, forms, and textures from abroad, particularly from Italy and France. Bach's compositions include hundreds of cantatas, both sacred and secular. He wrote extensively for organ and for other keyboard instruments. He composed concertos, for violin and for harpsichord, and suites, as chamber music as well as for orchestra.


    1) "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" -  J.S. Bach - 1723 - Often performed slowly and reverently at wedding ceremonies, as well as during Christian festive seasons like Christmas and Easter.
    2) "Minuet in G Major" -  J.S. Bach - 1725 - Piano students commonly take on this piece. Have students try to follow the notes with the sheet music.
    3) "Toccata in D Minor" -  J.S. Bach - 1704 - Famous classical organ piece. Popular around Halloween for its minor "spooky" sounds.
    4) "Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1" -  J.S. Bach - 1722


    The next songs are not Bach related and are just for a change of pace in the lesson.
    5) "This Little Light of Mine" - Harry Dixon Loes - 1920s - Gospel song written for children.
    6) "This Little Light of Mine" - Bruce Springsteen version - 2006 - Talk about how multiple, very different versions of a song can be made.


    The 1965 pop song "A Lover's Concerto" by the group The Toys, of which millions of copies were sold, is based on Bach's "Minuet in G Major." Compare this recording here to Bach's version above. The Toys early black and white video began by showing a statue of Bach.

    Keyboards come in many shapes and sizes. In Bach's day, the harpsichord was more common as well as organs in churches and cathedrals. Pipe organs can be many stories high and produce massive sound. Electronic keyboards today can play just about any sound. Discuss the difference between a piano and an electronic instrument. Have students share their experience with them.

    End of Lesson Dance Party Songs

    "Take On Me" - A-ha - 1984 - This song's music video has over a billion views on YouTube and was considered an innovative music video in the 80s for its creative animation mixed with live action.

    "The Loco-Motion" - sung by Little Eva - 1962 - by famous songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin, and notable for being in the top three U.S. songs in three separate decades. 1962 #1 hit for Little Eva, 1974 #1 hit for Grand Funk Railroad, and 1988 #3 hit for Kylie Minogue.