Does your family enjoy classical music? What about listening to much beloved stories? Our family definitely enjoys doing both. Maestro Classics’ blends classical music for children and stories for educational fun for different ages.
Maestro Classics: Mike Mulligan and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Maestro Classics takes classic tales and pairs them with music played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the Stories in Music™ series. Conductor Stephen Simon created family concerts with his wife, Bonnie Ward Simon, who is a music educator. From those concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC., the Stories in Music™ series was born. Narration for the series is provided by Yadu (the stage name for Dr. Konrad Czynski, professor of Humanities at Minnesota State University-Moorhead.)
Each CD offers not only the original production melding story and music, but a lot of behind the scenes features. You will learn more about the story or author, a lesson on the music, and the opportunity to play along with the music.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel features music composed by Stephen Simon to bring the classic story by Virginia Lee Burton to life. For those who might not have read this classic story, the premise is that Mike Mulligan is hired to dig out the basement for the new town hall in Popperville. He uses his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, who has become ‘outdated’ compared to the modernized shovel. Not only do they accomplish what they set out to do, but Mary Anne finds a new productive life rather than being relegated to a junk yard. The included activity book contains biographies of those involved in the production, lyrics and sheet music for the Mike Mulligan song, information on uilleann pipes (featured instrument), and a variety of activities. This particular CD is suggested for ages 4 and up.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice takes the familiar musical score by Paul Dukas and couples it with a narrated version of the classic story made famous by Disney. The story has a lazy apprentice trying to imitate his master to do his chores by chanting the magic spell and then taking a nap. However, he didn’t pay attention to know how to stop the magical brooms from carrying water into the well and pays the price when his misdeeds are discovered by the sorcerer. The activity book for this product includes a biographies of Dukas and Lucian (the Greek author who penned the original story), information on pitched percussion instruments heard in the performance, sheet music for the melody line of the well known March of the Brooms, a kitchen percussion play-along, and a few written activities to complete. This CD is suggested for ages 6 and up.
Both products are available for purchase on CD ($16.98) or as a mp3 download ($9.98.) A short activity booklet is included with purchase (print for CD and pdf file for the download product.) You can preview the products on the website as well as find different educational materials the expand their use.
Our Family’s Experience with Maestro Classics
A few years back, we had the opportunity to review The Tortoise and the Hare by Maestro Classics. So, we had a good idea of the format and what to expect with this particular review. And, it is no great surprise that this homeschooling mama with some training in music really LOVES these products.
We started with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in our van while driving on errands. I had my younger two boys in the vehicle with me (ages 4 and 10.) My youngest son was less interested in the story than my 10 year old which made sense given the recommended ages for that product. The nearly 12 minute telling of the story was engaging and you could paint the scenes in your mind’s eye easily with the score behind the narration. The only downside to listening in our van was having to continually adjust the volume to compensate for road noise covering up the more sedate sections of the composition.
What we found quite interesting for that particular product was that the original story had been changed to the more familiar form which inspired Dukas’ composition. Additionally, it was enlightening (even for me) to have aspects of the composition and the way the same ‘theme’ is found in different parts of the score to help tell the story and create characters.
Our first listening of Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel was done in our living room by myself and my 4 year old son. I had picked up a copy of the book from the library so he could see the illustrations while listening to the CD. I found that the combination of the story and having the book in hand helped hold his attention a bit longer. We also broke up listening to the different tracks rather than doing one long session as we had with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
I am thinking that it will be nice to use the different Maestro Classic products we own to do more formal unit studies in the coming years with my sons. I’m also planning to have my teenagers listen to the CDs, especially for the About the Music sections as they are more apt to appreciate the subtleties than the younger boys.
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Don’t just take our word for it! Check out what other reviewers have to say by visiting the Maestro Classics Review page.
What are some of your favorite ways to add music studies to your homeschool?
Do your children enjoy learning more about composers and the music they composed? What about the instruments used in the musical composition?