Maestro Classics {review}

Husband and wife team of Stephen Simon (music composer, arranger, and conductor) and Bonnie Ward (arts director and music educator par excellence) have created Maestro Classics™ which is the CD version of their popular Stories in Music series that premiered at the Kennedy Center and where they performed child-parent concerts with the Washington Chamber Symphony. Their mission with this CD version of their series is to give audiences (young and old) the opportunity to experience the art form in new and exciting ways. By making their music mobile, learning about the music can happen in the car, on a school bus, in the classroom, and is not limited to the walls of a concert hall.

Offered series selections include Juanita (also in Spanish), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Peter and the Wolf, The Story of Swan Lake and original compostions by Stephen Simon of Mike Mulligan, Casey at the Bat, and The Tortoise and the Hare. The series performances are conducted by Maestro Simon with orchestral and musical performances by the likes of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Michigan State University Band and more.

THE SERIES
We had the opportunity to review Peter and the Wolf. Yadu, the narrator, walks the listeners through with a great introduction giving them an opportunity to prepare themselves for a different story and musical experience. Although Prokofiev wrote a story version of Peter and the Wolf, we are now to turn on our ears and open our minds to hearing the music and listening to a story being told through the music.

Students learn a different way to interpret a story. Rather than with the spoken word, interpretation is done through the “musical word” of a single instrument (when listening to the individual characters) or many instruments (when listening to the action occurring in the story). If you are familiar with the story of Peter and the Wolf, then you know each character is represented by a musical instrument.

Peter – strings
Cat – clarinet
Grandfather – bassoon
Wolf – three French horns
Bird – flute
Duck – oboe
Hunters – woodwinds
Shooting of the hunter’s guns – Kettle drums

Each character has its own musical theme and depending upon what is happening in the story, the theme is presented in a different manner in the story. Maestro Simon explained that when a single character appears in the story, their original theme is played. When there is interaction with another character, a variation of that theme is played. He gave an example of when the bird is distracting the wolf for Peter, then a flute is used to play Peter’s theme. Another example that is given is when the duck is being chased around the pond by the wolf. The music for the duck’s character becomes faster and faster showing his distress and attempt at eluding the wolf. If you listen really closely, then you can see the panic of the duck before he is gobbled up by the wolf.

This is a fun and entertaining way to introduce young people (and adults too) to classical music, some of the great classical composers and their compositions, as well as some familiar literary classics put to music. Also included with the CD is a booklet with history about the musical composer, the narrator, other notes of interest regarding the series piece, and some fun activities that children can complete.

OUR EXPERIENCE
We enjoy music, especially classical music and attend a few concerts every school year. Although my children were already familiar with Peter and the Wolf, it was such a pleasure to listen to it all over again, and again, and again. I turned the CD over to them so they could play it on their on player. I know I am going to have to listen to it a few times in the car before they tire for the moment.

It was fun guessing which characters were “on the scene” at different times in the story and what was happening in the story at that time. Even though most of the series performances are recommended for ages 5 and above (some 8 and above), my four year old also enjoyed listening to the story. He can growl just like a wolf. Sometimes they would listen to the music while doing other activities and other times they would become so engrossed in the story that they would act out the parts.

The history of Sergei Prokofiev was very interesting especially learning that he composed his first piece of music at the age of five. I couldn’t tell you what I was doing at the age of five. He also completed the story and piano score for Peter and the Wolf in one week and continued the following week by finishing the orchestration of the music. That is a fine job for two weeks worth of work.

MY THOUGHTS
We enjoyed listening to the CD and found the background information regarding the composer and his music very insightful. I thought about renting the DVD of Peter and the Wolf, but then decided not to. My children do get to see movies, etc. on DVD, but I really liked that their minds were able to tap into the story and visualize what was happening each step of the way without having everything placed before their eyes. I decided to let this story be one that continues to be interpreted by music.

There is one part I wanted to mention to prepare anyone for possible discussion beyond the scope of the music. There was an attempt to make good of Peter’s disobedience because it led to the capture of the wolf. I can appreciate the good that came at the end of the story, but the fact remains that Peter was disobedient. This point probably could have been left out of the story notes. On the other hand, I guess this could open the door for another learning opportunity through conversation with your children about disobedience. Since my children did catch this point, we did discuss Peter’s behavior and other ways that Peter being obedient could have ended in the same result with the wolf being captured.

PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
Peter and the Wolf, as well as the other CDs in the series, are available for $16.98 plus shipping and handling. Also included on the Web site for Peter and the Wolf are links of downloads for the sheet music for some of the music.

You can read more reviews of this item by fellow crew members on The Homeschool Crew Blog.


The product featured in this review was provided to me free of cost by the manufacturer or representing PR agency as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced by monetary compensation.
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One Response to “Maestro Classics {review}”


  • Comment from Maestro Classics

    Thanks for the wonderful review of our Peter and the Wolf CD this winter. I just wanted to let you know that since you reviewed our CD we’ve made a Facebook page so that our fans can participate in monthly giveaways (June was Peter and the Wolf, as a matter of fact) and get coupons. We’d love to invite you and your readers to join our page and thanks again for the lovely review!

    Ruth
    Social Media Coordinator
    Maestro Classics


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