Working with Giants

Posted on: March 21, 2012 in: Uncategorised

Our Education Manager Gillian, explains how music educators help students to tackle Mozart.

Many of you will have heard of the ‘Mozart effect’ – the popular belief that ‘listening to Mozart makes you smarter’. Indeed, there has been academic research which indicates as much, and this coupled with vast amounts of anecdotal evidence, has parents and teachers switching over to Classic FM in an effort to increase children’s brain power. All this can only be good news for those of us tasked with teaching classical music to children.Young children are innately curious about where music comes from and are fascinated by meeting live musicians and seeing orchestral instruments being played up close. In the orchestral outreach sector, we teach from a starting point that all children should have the opportunity to see and hear live professional musicians and we are passionate about exposing children to ‘real’ orchestral repertoire.


The breadth of Mozart’s work makes it incredibly straightforward to expose children to his music, live. Musicians who visit schools often, without prompting choose to play a Mozart excerpt to illustrate their instruments. From his horn concertos to the violin sonatas, Mozart was a master of writing for a specific instrument. His melodies let the instrument they were written for really sing and illustrate brilliantly what makes a flute’s sound different from that of an oboe.

When learning about classical music, there is often a dichotomy between the enjoyable act of listening to the music and the often perceived ‘dry’ nature of studying and analysing its style and form. As with understanding Shakespeare, we must ensure that the experience of the opera (or play, or symphony) is intertwined with the understanding of its form and meaning. Additionally, we can deepen this understanding by further integrating the study of the composer – or playwright himself. Mozart’s playful ‘Presto’ movements, for example in his chamber works and symphonies, are so easy to engage with when we imagine the playful nature of Mozart’s character. Understanding Mozart’s relationship with his father makes the plot of his opera Don Giovanni all the more gripping. In short, integrating the ways in which we teach and learn Mozart (and indeed Shakespeare), not separating the musical from the historical, the listening from the analysing, the drama from the form, is a positive way forward to making the topic exciting and relevant.

To read the full article visit the Teaching Shakespeare website