Stories in Music {a TOS review}

Maestro Classics Review
I spent seven years of my youth dedicated to music.  One of the things I missed the most upon finishing school was the music.  I love that my dedication has trained my ear to easily pick up the rhythm of any song I hear, as well as easily hear background music.  Soon after deciding to homeschool one of my first thoughts of my children was this, "But they won't be able to take band!"  That was important to me because music enriches your life so much!
Of all the concerts I played in the one that I remember most was when we played The Nutcracker.  It should come as no surprise that I was very excited for an opportunity to review Maestro Classics.  Of course, for our house, I chose The Nutcracker - not only for my own purposes of walking down memory lane, but because my daughter is in her third year of ballet (she's 5) and loving it.  We received the mp3 version along with a digital version of the activity booklet that would be in the CD case.
Maestro Classics 
Maestro Classics takes classical music and pairs it with a story, narrated by a professional storyteller.  The stories include a brief biography of the composer, including time period and country, and also includes hints on what to listen for in the music - the rhythm, emotion or the actual instrument being played.  The narration may also include background information on the story itself.
Currently there are 13 musical stories by Maestro Classics.  Each story has a free downloadable curriculum guide that offers a unit study type lesson.  In addition the website has a wonderful section dedicated to music education, to help us integrate music into our everyday life.
The Nutcracker 
The Nutcracker (ballet) is based on a novella, written during the Romantic Period, by Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann.  From this story Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed his world renowned music.
The story of the Nutcracker takes place at Christmas time in the home of Clara and Fritz as they celebrate with a holiday party thrown by their parents.  The guest of honor arrives, the toymaker Herr Drosselmeyer, and he puts on a performance with life-size dancing dolls.   He hands out gifts to the family.  Toy soldiers to Fritz and a nutcracker doll for Clara.  After he party ends and the children are sent to bed and the tree begins to grow and mice come out.  The toy soldiers and Nutcracker come to life and battle the Mouse King.  Afterward the nutcracker turns into a prince and he takes Clara on a journey to the Land of the Sweets and to the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Nutcracker CD from Maestro Classics will introduce your child to the famous Tchaikovsky score, adapted by Stephen Simon, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  Along with the music is a phenomenal narration by master storyteller Jim Weiss.   The narration made me feel like I was blindfolded at the ballet sitting next to Mr. Weiss while he described to me what he was seeing and telling me any important tidbits I needed to know to fully understand the story.
How we used this
We were given the mp3 version of The Nutcracker.  I downloaded it to my computer and then transferred it to my iPhone in order to play in our van with the Bluetooth.  I chose a night we were running errands, which would be about a 30 minute drive to pick up groceries and then 30 minutes back again. 
The 21 "songs" are broken up into small bits that range from 1 minute to about 6 minutes or so.  I found this nice for a errand run because we could easily pause and then continue.
When we arrived at our destination we had just gotten to the 9th "song", Battle with the Mouse King.  My oldest, who is 8, was quite upset we had to pause to go get groceries.  He's never been so eager to get back in the van to go home!

I waited a few days then took an opportunity one night while Emma (5) was dancing and playing in her ballet outfit and I turned on the Nutcracker again.  Connor soon joined her, twirling her as the narration said.  They kept asking for more and more of the story and we ended up listening to the whole production again.

 We also used the CD insert activity guide, reading bits about Tchaikovsky and completing the crossword.  In addition we downloaded the curriculum guide and began to do a few things offered in the study, such as make a Mouse King crown (the mouse mask was found on our own). 
After the kids have heard Maestro Classics version of The Nutcracker the kids couldn't get enough of learning.  They sat down and watched the entire ballet on DVD which shocked me because it has no words.  They already new and loved the story and knew what to expect.  We also checked out a book about Tchaikovsky.
Our Thoughts
I think it goes without saying that we love Maestro Classics.  I had intended to listen with just my daughter.  The production of The Nutcracker exceeded my expectations.  I thought the kids would just like it and be okay with it and maybe then move on.  They adore it and beg to listen again as well as ask questions about the composer.  I had been always looking for ways to incorporate the love of music into our home and Maestro Classics has hit the mark.
I also didn't expect Connor to like it as much as he does.  In fact he's the most enthusiastic of us (well, maybe besides me).  His favorites to listen to over and over are the party, the battle with the Mouse King and the Russian Dance.
To see the other reviews of The Nutcracker and of Peter and the Wolf, click the banner below.
Maestro Classics Review

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