Friday, May 9, 2014

Classical Music for Children with Maestro Classics {A TOS Review}

Maestro Classics Review
Music, specifically classical music isn't something I spend a lot of time on with the children yet. When I was originally doing my Letter of the Week curriculum with the children several years ago I tried to find a composer whose name started with our letter and we listened to a CD featuring his music. But, in recent years they haven't been getting much music appreciation at all, besides songs from movies if you know what I mean. However, they do enjoy music and they enjoy books, both being read to and reading to themselves. When we had the opportunity to review a couple of CD's from Maestro Classics I jumped at the chance. We received both Casey at the Bat and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. These Stories in Music are a wonderful way for children to listen to stories and learn about music. Each CD also comes with an activity book.

Ironically, the CD I was more hesitant to try out became the children's favorite. I figured they would really enjoy Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel as we had read the story before, though it has been a couple of years. Yes, the girls did enjoy it, but not near as much as Casey at the Bat.
Maestro Classics Review
(CD: $16.98, also available in MP3 version for $9.98)
Casey at the Bat was a completely new "story" to me. I can't believe I had never heard of it before. It is actually a poem written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer over 100 years ago. It tells the story of the end of a baseball game taking place in Mudville. The Maestro Classics CD takes the listener to the baseball field where the mighty Casey is supposed to save the day for the Mudville Nine, trailing 4-2 at the bottom of the ninth. The music by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, along with the narration by Yadu and exciting baseball game sounds (such as cheering crowds) bring the poem to life. After listening to the entire poem with the accompanying music, sound effects and narration there is so much more on the CD to enhance your learning experience. Ten more tracks of learning to be exact. 
Here is what you and your children will be treated to:
  • Casey at the Bat- The story in music
  • About the Poem: Casey at the Bat- Includes some great trivia regarding the actual poem and Ernest Lawrence Thayer.
  • The Casey March: Michigan State University Band- A wonderful opportunity for the listener to get up and march around to the tune that is found throughout the story.
  • In a Cabin in a Wood: How to Listen to a Story in Music- Stephen Simon (the conductor and composer) goes into great detail showing how music can help tell a story, showing what different instruments are used and how they relate to the story or song, in this case, the song, "In a Cabin in a Wood." 
  • Flight of the Rabbit: A Very Short Story in Music- After learning the different instruments and arrangements in the above track we are treated to the composers instumental version of this song with all the drama he was able to bring with the different instruments.
  • Casey a la Suzuki- Young violinists playing the Casey March
  • Maestro Talks About the Music- Here Stephen Simon explains how the different instruments were used to tell the story of the poem. We learn how the Casey March is used throughout in different ways to help with the tone of the story, from solemn to upbeat depending on what is going on in the poem. 
  • Now That You Know a Little More...One More Time- We now listen to the same version of Casey at the Bat as shared in Track 1, but with new ears, trying to hear what the composer has done with the music.
  • Want to Have Some Fun?- An invitation to play along with the Casey Tango (music is provided in the activity book)
  • The Casey Tango: Play-Along
The total running time of Casey at the Bat is about 35 minutes long.

The 24 page activity book is chock full of fun information and activities. The text of Casey at the Bat is included so you can read along, plus the words to the song "In a Cabin in a Wood" are also included. There is a dot-to-dot, trivia questions about baseballs, a word jumble, a crossword puzzle, a recipe for a March Sundae, a word search and a maze. Also included is the music for The Casey Tango. You can also learn more about Stephen Simon (the conductor/composer), Bonnie Ward Simon (the Executive Producer and wife to Stephen Simon who also has a part on the CD), and Yadu (the narrator).

Maestro Classics Review
(CD: $16.98, also available in MP3 version for $9.98)
As I mentioned, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is a book we have read in the past, as part of a curriculum we no longer use. It is a really cute picture book by Virginia Lee Burton. In the story, Mike Mulligan works with his steam shovel Mary Anne who is as much a character in the story as the humans. They worked together for years until she became obsolete, yet was so well loved by Mike that she was in wonderful condition. Sadly, no one will give any work to them anymore, until Mike discovers a job in the newspaper. Together they work on digging a cellar for a new town hall in Popperville, attempting to finish it in a day.  
As in Casey at the Bat, the Maestro Classics CD brings the story to life with music composed by Stephen Simon and played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The story is told by narrator Yadu, who once again contributes to the life of this story with his expression-filled narration.
This CD has only 8 tracks, but it is a longer CD than Casey at the Bat because the actual story is 18 minutes long. Here is what you will be treated to on the Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel CD:
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel- The story in music
  • About the Author- Information about Virginia Lee Burton and her two sons, one of which was named Mike. It is thanks to her two sons that she became a famous children's author.
  • Mike Mulligan Song- composed by Stephen Simon
  • About the Music- Stephen Simon again explains how he decided what instruments and objects were going to be included in his composition. We learn a bit about the difference between Scottish and Irish bagpipes as Mr. Simon explains the inclusion of the bagpipes for Mike's tune, which is heard throughout the story. He explains how instruments imitate people and objects. We also learn which musical pieces are included and why.
  • Now That You Know a Little More- The listener is directed to listen for specific aspects that Mr. Simon shared about in the previous track as we listen to the story once again.
  • Want to Have Some Fun? Prepare to Perform- An invitation to sing along with the Mike Mulligan Song. The words can be found in the activity book on page ten (though the CD says p14). You do have to have a bit of musical knowledge to follow allow, as I found myself struggling to figure out what part we were supposed to be singing.
  • Intro to players for Mike Mulligan Song
  • Mike Mulligan Song-Sing-Along
The total running time of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is about 51 minutes long.

The Activity Book for Mike Mulligan is full of fun, though it obviously doesn't contain the entire text of the story as Casey at the Bat did. The words for the Mike Mulligan Song (written by Stephen Simon) are included as is the music. You will also find information about the Uilleann Pipes. The fun activities for the children include a coded puzzle that can be decoded by musical notes, a word search, a maze, a dot-to-dot and a little mirror writing activity about recycling. Again you will find information about Stephen Simon, Bonnie Ward Simon and Yadu. Others are also included, James Shaffran (tenor), Sebastian Simon (little boy) and Paul Brennan (piper).

I do have to say I wish purchasers of the CD's also had access to the PDF version of the activities as are available when buying the MP3 version. It is a little hard to let all the children enjoy the activities in the book. They would like to have their own copy of each activity.

We enjoy listening to these Stories in Music CD's when we are in the van. Living in this rural community it is usually quite the trip to get anywhere, so we have plenty of time to listen to at least one of the CD's in full. We even took them along on our trip to the Creation Museum to help keep us entertained. When we listened to them in our home we read along in the actual story books I took out from the library. Listening at home also gave us the opportunity to focus better on the educational aspects that may have been going over their heads while listening in the van, plus we could march around with the Casey March.
The children's favorite part is actually listening the the story. They weren't quite as interested in learning about the author/story information on Track 2 of each CD; however, I found the information quite intriguing. They usually wanted to skip this part and move on to the other tracks. They seemed to be interested in learning about how the composer created the songs. After listening to the CD's all the way through the first time and learning about the music I found they could just as well listen to the story itself one time and still get a lot out of it. In other words, they didn't really want to listen to the story twice each time we listened to the CD. This was especially true with Mike Mulligan as it is such a long story as compared to Casey.
Though it was quite enjoyable to listen in the van, the sound quality was better at home in our DVD player. In the van we had to keep fiddling with the sound as sometimes the narration was so low, but then the music was too loud. We were pleased to discover that this is not the case when listening inside.
These CD's contain a wonderful lesson in music. But that is not where your learning need to stop with Maestro Classics. There is much educational information to be found on their website. I am extremely interested in the FREE Homeschool Music Curriculum Guides. You can build an entire unit study based on these CD's, integrating them into many subject areas (History, Science, Geography, Language Arts, Art, Music, Math). Though not all of their titles have available Curriculum Guides, you can click on the previous link to see which ones are included. If you enjoy lapbooking with your children you will be pleased to know that A Journey Through Learning has lapbooks created specifically for 7 of the Maestro Classics titles. Though we haven't had time to do so yet, I can see including these in our more relaxed summer learning. You can find all this information and so much more on the Maestro Classics website.
You can also find Maestro Classics on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Maestro Classics truly do bring the stories to life. These CD's can be enjoyed by children from about 4 or 5 years old and up. I have to say the CD's can be enjoyed by adults just as well.
The Schoolhouse Review Crew has the opportunity to review several different selections from Maestro Classics. Don't forget to stop by the Crew blog to check out the other reviews.
Click to read Crew Reviews
Crew Disclaimer


  1. that looks so cute. I'm going to have to check this out a little more. i bet it would be perfect for my daughter.

  2. We are right now trying to spark the kids' interest in music. This would be a great help! thanks for the intro

  3. I think it's awesome that your little ones are listening to Classical music. We don't listen to Classical music as much as we did when my children were younger but we still enjoy it. My SIL bought them the Baby Einstein classical music CD's when they were little and it has stuck with them.

  4. What adorable CDs my children love music. I think they would enjoy the story book as well.

  5. This is such a treat for children who love music!


Thank you for visiting my blog today. I love to read your comments, so please leave me one if you have the time.

Related Posts with Thumbnails