Stories of Composers For Young Musicians by Catherine Wolff Kendalls makes for great bedtime reading. (I have been reading to my children since they were infants. We read before going to bed but we also read throughout the day.)
My children take violin and piano lessons and my goal is to make classical music a delight for them. As such, we play classical music during our meals and we read as much about composers as we can. I have invested in some CDs about composers’ lives but my children were still too small at the time – we are talking preschool age.
They are now 6 and 8 and these stories seem to go over better. It will be an interesting test, after reading this book with them, to re-visit the initial CDs and see if the kids have a better reaction to them.
Because they did enjoy this book. It was a bit boring for my six-year-old in the beginning, because the book has no pictures beyond a portrait of the composer. But she soon realized these composers fell in love and married – well, most of them did. She is in this phase of awakening to romance.
One night, as I started reading another story about another composer, she interrupted me by asking, “Mommy, when will he marry somebody?” Whatever it takes to peak their interest.
I have learned a lot from this book about people who otherwise would just be names to me, next to the title of the Suzuki piece my children are practicing. For instance, the Gavotte by P. Martini in Book 3 for violin. My son is polishing that piece to perfection these days. Well, now we know P. stands for Padre (“father” in Italian) because Martini was a priest. To my daughter’s disappointment, he never married, of course, being a Catholic priest.
Thirty composers from Bach to von Weber, whose lives were compressed to 4-10 pages each, can flash before your eyes in a week, making for a wonderful time of discovery and learning alongside your children. I have nothing bad to say about this book. On the contrary. I learned from some of these men’s mistakes in areas that have nothing to do with music. And I can tell the children’s awareness of life, situations, and how music came to be has grown.