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Composers for the Piano Unit
I designed this unit for use with my middle school general music classes. You could also use it with high school, as well, although they will probably get through it a bit faster. For each composer I also have a recording and a listening guide – you could develop your own based on the recordings you have available to you. (I can’t really “sell” you recordings on Teachers Pay Teachers!)
The unit includes: Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Debussy, and Joplin. I was not trying to exclude female composers or 20th century composers or contemporary composers when I wrote this unit. My goal instead was to highlight composers from the past who did something specific for the piano that changed how the piano was played or how the instrument was made. You are welcome to add modern composers (John Cage might be one with his prepared piano, for example) as you see fit. I really wanted to focus on the instrument, not so much on the composers.
When I teach this unit, I pair it with practice time at the pianos: students complete the listening guide and the listening activity together, they work independently on the reading and the worksheet and then they go to the electric piano lab for practice and to have me listen and sign-off songs. Of course, your own teaching schedule dictates how you’ll plan to use the unit.
I included the composers’ pictures so that you could add them to a powerpoint or smartboard.
A fun additional item for this unit is the DVD, “The Art of the Piano: Great Pianists of the 20th Century” published in 2002. It’s too long and dry to use as a whole lesson, but there is some fabulous old footage of famous pianists that are fun to watch. In addition, you could probably find many performances on YouTube or the like. I also like the DVD “Piano Grand! A Smithsonian Celebration” published in 2000. I have found that middle schoolers are pretty interested in this DVD, especially since they recognize some of the performers. Again, it’s a bit long for a whole lesson. I like to give my students the option of watching a bit of it or practicing at their piano. I find that they like to go between: watch the concert a bit and then go to their piano, etc.