Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Music Appreciation Made Easy - and Thorough! {A Memoria Press Review}

Picture children listening intently to music, giggling as they act out a winter scene in response to what they hearing.  This is exactly what happened in my living room during Lesson 2 of
Music Appreciation I by Memoria Press, a curriculum we've been happy to review. 

What Is Memoria Press?

Memoria Press is a family-run publishing company that produces simple, effective, easy-to-use Classical Christian curriculum for all ages.  Since Memoria Press was founded by Cheryl Lowe in 1994, it has exploded with popularity among home educators and private schools and continues to develop new materials - like Music Appreciation I - which focus students on the rich tradition of classical education. 

Materials that
Memoria Press has developed in the classical style, my family has found, need not be pigeon-holed just for classical educators, however.  My family leans toward a more eclectic, relaxed style, and has found Memoria Press materials can dovetail with - and even direct - our studies beautifully at times.

What is Music Appreciation I?


Music Appreciation I is an easy, yet thorough, introduction to music appreciation that is targeted to grade 3-6, but can be used by older children and adults, too.  The curriculum comes as a 137-page softcover book and 2-CD set that takes you -mostly chronologically - through a series of pieces from the canon of Western classical music, offering historical context and introducing musical concepts including:

  • forms
  • melody
  • theme
  • rhythm
  • harmony
  • notes
  • syncopation
  • motif
  • meter
  • measure

and more.  In doing so, the curriculum guides you towards a fuller undertanding of the inner workings of select pieces of classical music.  It also offers an introduction to (or review of) specific composers and musical time periods, giving you an overview of the evolution of Western music.

To use the curriculum, you need no prior musical knowledge of musical theory since concepts are introduced little by little and you need not know how to read music nor play an instrument either, since all the musical scores contained in the book are available as audio files.  (If, however, you do know how to play an instrument, you an use the scores in the book to play examples instead of listening to them on CD!)

Each lesson in the book is typically ordered in the same basic format:

  • Listen: where you listen to select pieces offered as free links from Youtube or Spotify on the Memoria Press website and/or listen to portions of these pieces on the CD's that come with the curriculum.
  • A Little History: where you can read background connected to specific musical pieces, including details about about the lives of composers/musicians, the time period the piece was composed during, why the piece may have been composed, or what was going on in history that played a significant role in the piece.

  • Musical Concept: where you listen to specific tracks on the CD's (or play selections from the score included in the text), get introduced to vocabulary and concepts, and take baby steps in analyzing music.
  • About the Piece: where you learn even more details about a piece.
  • Music History: where you learn a bit about the period the piece was composed during.
  • Facts to Remember: where you find a quick numbered list to review what was taught in the lesson.
  • Listen Again:  where you listen to the music again with specific prompts of what to listen for.

Included in the back of the book are review tests (with answer keys) that can be completed after every four lessons.

How Did We Use Music Appreciation I?

 Music Appreciation I could not have come at a more opportune time for me as life circumstances have recently demanded that I spend fewer hours planning and preparing learning experiences for my children, while my desire to offer them a rich and deep bounty of truth and beauty has remained strong.

On the music front, the disparity between my time budget and the my ability to offer forays in quality music appreciation was becoming more and more evident before I was introduced to
Music Appreciation I.  For, between past family studies and an Art-Music-Poetry (AMP) club I have been leading for my children and some or our friends for several years, I had already offered all of the rudimentary knowledge of music I possess and had also cycled through a wide variety of favored classical music CD's and picture books.  Thus, in order to offer new or deeper music appreciation material to my children, I was finding myself having to invest more and more time, which, as I already said, just has not been there for me.

Thus, I was thrilled with the opportunity to begin
Music Appreciation I with my children.  It has made music appreciation so easy!  I simply get my laptop and the book and go with it!

We listen to key musical pieces using handy links on the Memoria Press website.  Then, we read the history narrative in the book - which we have found is helping us review past learning from our AMP club.   Then, we learn and chat about musical concepts listening to CD tracks that key us right into examples of the concepts.  We read a bit more, listen a bit more, sometimes dance or pretend to conduct, and, at other times, go off on tangents, making connections with the music and history, prior learning, and our own lives.
  And, we do all this without me having to curry about collecting resources, pre-learning concepts, etc. 

Music Appreciation I is truly open-and-go, and, thus, allows me to spend time learning alongside my children, connecting with them instead of planning and prepping.  I like that!  My children do, too.

My seven year old said:

I like all the different styles of learning in one - that you can read or listen to reading, hear songs, look at the music notes in the book all together.

My ten year old said: 

I liked this music appreciation curriculum, because I like how it comes with the CD and the books.  The CD's have sections of the songs they want you to hear.  I like that because it helps us focus.  For example, at one point, we were listening to the Four Seasons and could hear the instruments going back and forth almost like talking to each other.  It was really fun!  We were dancing to it.  Then, we heard the whole song with the links we got. 

I am learning new stuff about how music is put together and reviewing about composer and periods.

I also like how they took a simple song in the first lesson - Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star- and changed it into a lesson to find the beats and form.

I want to keep on using this.

When it was time to write this review, my twelve year old was not up for commenting, however, I can recall some of his comments over the course of time we have been using  Music Appreciation I so far:

At first, he looked at the book and said, "It is a boring old text book," or something akin to that, because he has an aversion to anything that appears textbook-y or workbook-y, which, the Music Appreciation book admittedly does.

However, once we began using the book, he found himself moving to music, and laughing, sometimes with friends, when we opted to share a lesson or two with our AMP friends. I also witnessed him catching onto concepts quickly.  The guided listening helped him - and all of us really - go deeper into the way music is put together, appreciating nuances and concepts more.

My oldest is also my voracious reader, so as we read narratives in the book aloud, he readily connected what we were reading to facts he had heard and read before.  This proved to me that the book makes as good an introduction as it does a review. 

All of my children and I have found ourselves learning concepts and coming to a deeper understanding of music even though we are not even a quarter of the way into
Music Appreciation I.  Thus, I do not hesitate it recommending this resource if you and yours would also like to go deeper into music appreciation but do not have a lot of time to invest.  With Music Appreciation I  you do not need to know a lot about music theory, nor do you need to dedicate time to prep.  Instead, uou can just get right into listening, reading, and learning - deepening your appreciation for the Western canon of classical music. 

Truly, the only complaints we had about the materials were my oldest son's initial aversion to the "schooly" look of the book (which I already mentioned and which he got over); my daughter's and my surprise that the CD's do not contain whole pieces of music, but rather key snippets which pertain to concepts taught (which we quickly realized was quite handy since having just select portions of music meant there was no fussing about trying to find the exact part of a piece to listen to as an example of a specific musical concept; plus, we could listen to whole pieces on the handy links offered for free to all on Memoria Press when we wanted); and my own confusion when I popped the CD's into my laptop and realized that the way my laptop numbered the tracks and the way they are numbered in the book were different (which was easy enough to work around).  These minor "issues" were far outweighed by the ease, expertise, and entertaining forays into music that Music Appreciation I offers!  Our family will continue to deepen our musical knowledge and appreciation using this Memoria Press resource. 

Learn More

Samples of
Music Appreciation I (which sells for $23.90) are available:

I typically include personal photos in my reviews and am sorry I could not this time due to a computer-camera glitch I was having as I wrote this review.  However, I know some of the other
80 Homeschool Review Crew families that chose to try out Music Appreciation I or one of the following Memoria Press curricula took and shared personal photos, so do take a peak at their reviews if you like to see snapshots of book pages and families using materials!



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