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A Teacher Guide to

Dear Teacher: INSPIRATION ! delivers a fun-filled and informative experience for students and educators. We hope to excite your students as we explore music’s many inspirations, including nature, people and culture, and especially one’s memories, experiences, and personal values. Plus, we’ll pay special attention to how our brains connect with music — visually, physically, and emotionally. And your students will be introduced to different ways of listening to music. We offer three integrated resources that work together to help you prepare students for the concert:

1. The Cuesheet Performance Guide

contains information about the concert program and related activities for students.

2. The Listening Activities

provide activities relating to select works from the program, as well as musical excerpts from the concert.

shares ideas on how to bring the Cuesheet , the Listening Activities, and multiple online resources and creative activities to life in the classroom.

3. This Teacher Guide

National Symphony Orchestra Young People’s Concert 2015-16 Michael Butterman,

conductor (October)

Conductor, TBA (April) Marissa Regni,

NSO violinist & host

Enjoy the

concert !

Students (and their teachers!) will get more out of the NSO Young People’s Concert when they are prepared for the INSPIRATION! program in advance. Here are some tips for using these resources:

tips for using this guide

Using the Listening Activities The Listening Activities are designed for grades 3 and up. The activities may be presented by the classroom teacher or music specialist. Many students will require at least two opportunities to engage with the content. We suggest this approach to the Listening Activities: Engage Students > Play Track > Reflect > Repeat as Needed > Go to the Next Track

General Tips •L  isten for yourself. Spend some time alone with the Listening Activities and other resources. This prep time is invaluable as you bring these resources into the classroom. • Allow enough lead time. Some teachers introduce students to the material weeks before the concert. •P  repare not only for the music but for the event. For many students, this will be their first time at a concert with a full orchestra. They’ll be more comfortable if they know what to expect. •M  ost importantly, bring your own creativity to the process. Change these activities to fit your classroom and add your own variations. Check out the online resources we have provided to enrich your teaching goals. The Listening Activities connect to the National Content Standards for music, and other subject areas such as science, social studies, and language arts. For more about the standards, visit the ARTSEDGE Web site at

FYI There are many ways to connect and stay current with what’s happening at ARTSEDGE. Here are a few—including where best to interact with our team, our content, and others interested in arts education: Join our Facebook group to keep with news, insights and Facebook-only updates. This is a great place to connect with arts education supporters and other ARTSEDGE fans. The Thinkfinity Community is a great place to connect to a variety of interdisciplinary resources and conversations around content from across our Thinkfinity-partners— including other arts-focused partners like the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian American History Museum, and National Geographic Education. Our Twitter feed is where we share short news items, provide info-bites, and quick updates. We are a Featured Provider on iTunes, Apple’s tool for downloading music, podcasts, and apps for mobile devices. From our Publishers page, you can download and subscribe to our free audio stories, video clips and more. Our YouTube Channel features videos that we have produced. We have kept comments off to ensure the channel is safe for everyone. Flickr is a photosharing site; our photostreams push out pictures from in and around the Center.

Track 1

Summary Students are introduced to the role inspiration plays for composers and how ideas come from three main sources: one’s observations, memories, and imagination. Students learn that inspiration can sometimes come from within the composer or sometimes from the world around them, like stories, books, politics, nature, and even other people. They are also introduced to the “tools” composers use to create music.

The Big i dea




Direct students to pages 2–3 of Cuesheet. Learn where inspiration comes from for composers. Learn how composers make decisions about pitch, rhythm, melody, tempo, and musical dynamics. Point out that one of the most important decisions a composer must make is the instrumentation for his or her music.

During the concert, students will hear Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s foreboding music from the tragic tale of young lovers, Romeo and Juliet; Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi’s stirring concerto, “Summer,” from The Four Seasons; and Czech composer Bed˘rich Smetana’s The Moldau about a river that inspired him. They will also hear how a number of neighbors and a bulldog motivated British composer Edward Elgar to write the Enigma Variations; how a brutal dictator drove Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10; and how a two week vacation in Havana, Cuba encouraged America’s own George Gershwin in his Cuban Overture.

After Ask students to share their understanding of how critical inspiration is for composers. Discuss the concept of making choices from the composer’s toolbox.

GO DEEPER! Violin or viola? French horn or trombone? How does a composer choose an instrument? Maybe they consult the ARTSEDGE Instrument Spotter’s Guide: Or they play a game of Perfect Pitch: What’s the difference between tempo and pitch? For more on the composer’s toolbox and past NSO Young People’s Concert performances, go to: The New York Times called composer Jefferson Friedman’s music “impossible to resist.” Find out why on the composer’s official site: Inspiration really does come from ALL sorts of places. For more on James Hampton’s sculpture, (made entirely out of junk materials), that inspired Jefferson Friedman’s musical work, go to:

OR Better yet…encourage your students to visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. to see Hampton’s sculpture entitled The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly.

Track 2

Family F eud (8:43)

Summary Students learn how William Shakespeare’s tragic play about two young lovers provided the inspiration for Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and how the composer’s choice and use of the string family creates dramatic tension in the music. Students are also introduced to the connection between the brain and how we listen to music, as well as how neuroscientists have identified multiple ways in which the brain “hears” music (i.e. through visual images, movement, memories, and/or emotion responses, and mathematical patterns).

Before Direct students to pages 2–3 of Cuesheet. Read how Prokofiev was intrigued by Shakespeare’s story about two warring families and how their children were affected by their parents’ hostilities. Explain how the brain “works” when it listens to music. For example, recent neurological research has proven that the brain has different sections that are each dedicated to specific tasks. One part handles motor skills, another handles language, and a different part handles math, and so forth. Music, however, activates many parts of the brain, all at the same time. In other words, music gives listeners a total brain work-out!

Here’s how: 1. Visual Images When the brain hears music, it constructs visual images in response to changes in pitch and tone. Perhaps students have heard music that “sounds” like the ocean, or wide-open countryside. Some composers deliberately try to “paint” music to sound like a storm or a quiet day in the woods. Likewise, music can even sound like a crowded party—or a somber church service.

2. Movement Music can prompt the brain to send signals that activate a person’s motor skills. For instance, students might begin listening to a work of music and then suddenly find themselves involuntarily swaying or tapping their feet. Music can compel people to march, or clap their hands, or bob their heads to a rhythm. It’s not always the listener’s choice to bust a move— it’s the music that tells the brain to get up and dance.

3. Memories Music can link to memories stored in the brain. Ask students if they have ever noticed a particular melody that reminds them of a person, place, or event in their life? Maybe there was a direct link, like they had heard the song with that person, or it was playing while they were doing something. But it could be indirect as well. Music has the power to remind listeners of people, places, and events for reasons they can’t quite explain.

4. Emotional Responses In addition, music can trigger emotional responses in the brain. Happy music activates the brain to release chemicals that make us feel good. Sad music slows heartbeats and raises blood pressure, making listeners thoughtful and distant. Interestingly, the human brain is hardwired to emotionally respond to food, water, and shelter—but also to art forms, such as books, music, theater, paintings, and dance.

5. Mathematical Patterns As the brain tackles the task of simply hearing noises and sounds, other brain cells take on the work of processing the musical elements. Our brains are attracted to patterns, which is exactly what music delivers with pitches, rhythms, melodies, harmonies, and dynamics. When the brain processes music, it naturally tries to predict where these patterns are headed and what will happen next. But more on this subject in Track 6, “The Best Revenge,” featuring Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10.

During As students listen to the music from Romeo and Juliet, ask them to think about the ways their brain is reacting and responding to the music. Are their responses physical or emotional? Does the music bring any specific memory or image to their minds? And, can they hear a musical pattern?

After Ask students how they (and their brains) reacted to Prokofiev’s music and whether they could hear the “tension” between the two hostile families. Encourage students to identify a song or piece of music from their everyday life that they find provokes strong brain reactions.

GO DEEPER! They’ve been called “star-cross’d and starry-eyed.” Interested in learning more about Shakespeare’s famous young lovers Romeo and Juliet? Visit: Are you thinking about the brain and its amazing connection to music, then check out: Plus, these additional Web resources: How Your Brain Listens to Music How Do Our Brains Process Music? This Is Your Brain on Music: How Our Brains Process Melodies That Pull on Our Heartstrings Here’s a Surprising Look at What Music Does to Your Brain How Our Brains Process Music

Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953)

Track 3

A Summer Shower (6:48)

Summary Students learn that composers often turn to nature for musical inspiration. They examine Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi’s “Summer,” a concerto (another term they will learn about) from his series The Four Seasons. Students listen to how the string section of the orchestra can create a summer storm.

Before Direct students to pages 4–5 of Cuesheet and read about the meaning of “presto.” Also discover and discuss how the composer was inspired to create “Summer” by one of his very own poems—specifically its last two lines. Here is Vivaldi’s poem in full—remember to point out the last two lines: Beneath the blazing sun’s relentless heat Men and flocks are sweltering, Pines are scorched. We hear the cuckoo’s voice; then sweet songs of the turtle dove and finch are heard. Soft breezes stir the air…but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside. The shepherd trembles, fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead. His limbs are now awakened from their repose by fear of lightening’s flash and Thunder’s roar, as gnats and flies buzz furiously around. Alas, his worst fears were justified, as the heavens roar and great hailstones Beat down upon the proudly standing corn.

During Students listen to how the orchestra performs a “presto” tempo, and what effect this has in creating Vivaldi’s summer storm. Does it sound like thunder and lightning?

After Encourage students to share their thoughts on the music and what emotions they felt while listening to the piece. Discuss the composer’s important choice of the instrumentation. Would the music have sounded the same if Vivaldi had selected a different section of the orchestra for the presto tempo?

GO DEEPER! What’s so special about a sonnet? Invite your students to find out at: Maybe there’s a budding “Tony” Vivaldi or “Will” Shakespeare in your class. There’s only one way to find out. Have your students take turns at writing their own original sonnets. Here’s how: Be a Vivaldi fan ALL year long—not just in summer! Discover the composer’s three other seasonal concertos at:

Track 4

Summary Students are introduced to Czech composer Bed˘rich Smetana’s The Moldau, another musical work inspired by nature. Smetana was moved to write this music based on his observations, memories, and imagination—all three of which are big sources of inspiration for composers.


rolling on the river (7:28)

Direct students to pages 4–5 of Cuesheet. Read about Smetana’s love of country and how this music was a tribute to his homeland. Highlight for students that while both Vivaldi and Smetana use violins to portray aspects of nature, each composer took a different approach to their music. Alert students to listen for the changes they will hear in Smetana’s flowing river as reflected in the music. And, prepare them to listen closely for sections in the piece that might sound like hunters chasing deer, a polka performed at a wedding, and perhaps even some mermaids in the moonlight.

During Students listen to Smetana’s string section in The Moldau. While students are listening to the music, have them draw Smetana’s river as detailed in Cuesheet.

After Encourage students to share their drawings and articulate the emotions they felt while listening to the music? Have students compare and contrast the two selections they’ve heard by Smetana and Vivaldi. How did their reactions differ to each piece of music?

GO DEEPER! Think Vivaldi and Smetana are the only two classical composers to be inspired by nature? Not so. Here are a series of articles on music and nature: Focus: Nature and Music Classical Music Inspired by Nature

Track 5

Summary Students learn that composers can draw inspiration from the people around them. They are introduced to the Enigma Variations by British composer Edward Elgar.


friends forever (8:25)

Direct students to pages 6–7 of Cuesheet. Read about how the composer created and experimented with different variations to a single, simple melody. These variations began to take on the “personalities” of some of his neighbors and friends, creating musical portraits of them. There are a total of 14 variations—inspired by 13 people and one bulldog.

During Students meet the inspirations behind three of the musical variations: George Sinclair’s bulldog named Dan; an actor named Richard Baxter who often portrayed old men in theater productions; and Elgar’s own viola student, a woman named Isabel Fitton. Students hear how each of these variations became amusing sketches of Elgar’s friends, based on his instrumentation and musical phrasing choices.

After Encourage students to share their listening experiences of the Enigma Variations. Were they able to “see” the different subjects Elgar wrote about in his music?

GO DEEPER! To learn about the concept of musical variations, go to: Making Music Fun If your class wants to learn more about Elgar’s friends and their musical variations, check out all 14 at: Variations on an Original Theme

e Dan th g Bulldo

Edward Elgar (1857–1934)

Track 6

the best revenge (9:22)

Summary Students are introduced to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 and discover how a brutal dictatorship inspired the Russian composer to speak out through his music. Students will learn the definition of a motif—an often repeated, short series of notes. They will also gain understanding about the listening connection between a musical motif and a mathematical pattern.

Before Direct students to pages 6–7 of Cuesheet. Read about how Shostakovich was inspired to find a way to express his individual freedom under Joseph Stalin’s oppressive regime. Pay special attention to how the composer used his initials (D-S-C-H) to send a message of resilience to the Russian people. Point out to students that the words for certain notes in German are different than in English. The letters D-S-C-H translate to the notes D-E flat-C-B.

During Students listen to Symphony No. 10 and the four note motif that occurs often throughout the work. Help students to listen and identify these four notes. See if they can recognize the pattern and predict when the notes will occur.

After Encourage students to share their understanding of how a motif works and how the brain can predict patterns in music. Were they able to predict the musical patterns?

GO DEEPER! Want students to learn the difference between 2/4 and 4/4 time? Try this lesson on math and melodies and writing their own music: If you’re wondering how Beethoven could write music while going deaf, maybe math is the answer. Check out this TED Ed lesson at:

Dmitri Shos tako vi (1906–1975)


Track 7

Summary Students listen to George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, inspired by the sights, sounds, and culture of the small Caribbean island of Cuba. Students are introduced to Latin American rhythms and percussion instruments.


a trip to havana (8:22)

Direct students to pages 6–7 of Cuesheet. Read about the four percussion instruments used in Gershwin’s Cuban Overture—the bongos, gourd, claves, and maracas.

During Students listen for these four instruments and for the rhythm of the rhumba dance, which combines quick moves and hip actions. Students also compare authentic Cuban songs with Gershwin’s music.

After Encourage students to share their understanding of Latin American rhythms and instruments. Did the music inspire them to move to the rhythm? Did it make any students want to get up and dance?

GO DEEPER! Go online for Five-ish Minute Latin Dance lessons. There are two lessons for your students to enjoy at: For more information on Cuba, check out: Discover another artist inspired by Cuba, storyteller and playwright David Gonzalez. But rather than through music, his work is a stage performance about a boy and his family’s connection to Cuba:

Or make your own music by… Making Water Bottle Maracas Here’s another way to inspire your students and get them making their own music with this simple classroom activity: Supplies for one pair of maracas 2 small, empty plastic water bottles (8 ounces each) 2 toilet paper rolls Sturdy tape like colorful electrical tape Fillings for sound: dried peas, beans, or pasta, beads (large or small), salt, sand, birdseed, pebbles, buttons, or paper clips. For extra fun, use different fillers or a mix in each maraca. Making the maracas 1. F  ill each cleaned and dried water bottle with chosen fillings to about halfway. Place cap on bottle. Give it a shake to see if it sounds good to you. If not, add or subtract some filler. 2. C  reate a handle by taking the toilet paper roll and cutting a straight line from one end to another. Tighten the roll to about a 3/4 inch dowel. Starting at the cap, wrap the electrical tape all the way down the handle until all of it is covered. 3. Go ahead and play your maracas!

Before you depart: • Remind students that no eating or drinking is permitted in the Concert Hall. • Suggest students bring a light sweater or jacket in case the hall is cold.

When students arrive:

Preparing for the conc e rt

• Encourage students to visit the restrooms in the lobby before the concert begins. •R  emind students to sit still in their seats and not to reach between rows, kick the seat in front of them, or otherwise distract from anyone else’s concert experience. •T  he Concert Hall acoustics provide an opportunity to remind students to remain quiet during the performance—and to demonstrate how extreme sounds travels from musicians to audience.

During the performance: •S  tudents will know to clap hands and applaud the musicians when the conductor lowers his or her arms at the end of the piece and turns to acknowledge the audience.

The Concert Program At the concert, students will hear the following works: Prokofiev

“The Montagues and the Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet, Suite No. 2


“Summer” from The Four Seasons Presto (Finale)


The Moldau


The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly

Elgar Enigma Variations III. R.B.T. VI. Ysobel XI. G. R. S. Shostakovich

Finale from Symphony No. 10


Cuban Overture

All selections performed at the INSPIRATION! concert are provided online on the ARTSEDGE site. You’ll find additional resources to help you prepare for the concert by visiting

ncert NSO Young People’s Co ey Written by Doug Coon

nandez Narrated by Paige Her hard Paul Audio Produced by Ric

sgen Mastering by Steve Han by Jim Caputo Illustrations & Design

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NSO YPC: Inspiration! Teacher Guide  

Inspiration is what sparks a new idea. The music of great composers has been inspired by books, plays, poetry, travel, nature, politics, fri...

NSO YPC: Inspiration! Teacher Guide  

Inspiration is what sparks a new idea. The music of great composers has been inspired by books, plays, poetry, travel, nature, politics, fri...

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