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Lessons from Beethoven

Lessons from Beethoven

At Loveland Classical Schools, Music is a special treat for our students. We study music theory, American Folk Songs, and explore Music through History – aligning with what the students are discussing with their History teacher.

One great example of this is the Beethoven Unit I taught to my 2nd Graders last Spring. As it is generally accepted that Beethoven was a transitional composer from the Classical style to the Romantic, it is a good question to consider to which style the composer most closely related. We studied closely the “rules” of the Classical symphony. Once those rules are understood and examples of Mozart have solidified the expectation, I have the students listen to Beethoven’s 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 9th Symphonies in their entirety (this unit is HUGE and is the historical focus of the 2nd Grade).

Generally speaking, my students determine that Beethoven’s 1st Symphony is “boring” after they have heard the others.  At first they are quite content to see that he has followed the “rules” we previously outlined and call his music “good”. When we get to the 3rd Symphony, the students get uncomfortable. They see where the rules are and the ways that Beethoven selectively followed many of them but ignored others. They are unsure whether or not to like the music. The 5th Symphony is always a crowd pleaser. The kids love the music but are very confused by the lack of “rule following” (a serious moral struggle for students who spend 45 minutes, 4 days a week studying Core Virtues). The 9th Symphony seals the deal, and finally the kids have made a decision: Beethoven first needed to master the Classical style, and his early works demonstrate his thorough understanding of the expectations. It is once he does this that he is able to progress beyond the expectation and really demonstrate his true potential by creating a new ideal. To my students (and I would have to agree), Beethoven was a Classicist who demonstrated prowess in the style and then had the fervor to take the risks required to move the musical world forward in time and make room for new artists with different ideals on the stage of Greatness.

Cassandra Lemmon teaches Music and French at LCS