What Is Maestro Classics?
Maestro Classics is a series of CDs that first and foremost tell stories with musical accompaniment. But the CDs go far beyond that. They also explain the how and why behind the classical musical accompaniment, which leads to a new depth of understanding. Maestro Classics is for children ages 5 to 12 and their parents.
The company, created by music director Stephen Simon and executive director Bonnie Ward Simon, began in 2004. The Simons have a deep love of music and created the company as a way to share that love with children worldwide.
What’s the Format of Maestro Classics?
Each Maestro Classics CD follows the same general format, though they do vary a bit.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
1. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (18:17). The opening track tells the story of Mike Mulligan with orchestra accompaniment. The narration is wonderful, and the music just helps to enhance the story. My kids listened, captivated, wondering what would happen next.
2. About the Author (03:37). This short track tells the story of Mike Mulligan’s author.
3. Mike Mulligan Song (01:34). Another short track, this is a catchy little tune that Stephen Simon created about Mike Mulligan.
4. About the Music (06:42). In this track, listeners learn about how the musical score for the CD was created. Simon explains why he made the decisions he did about what instruments and music to include as well as how noises like the steam in the machine was created.
5. Now that You Know a Little More (18:17). This time, the Mike Mulligan story is repeated, but because listeners know what went on behind the scenes and have learned more about the musical accompaniment, there is an additional depth of learning.
6. Want to Have Some Fun? Prepare to Perform (00:36). This track gives kids directions on how to sing the Mike Mulligan song themselves.
7. Mike Mulligan Song – Sing Along (01:41). The music for the Mike Mulligan song plays, and children can sing along.
In addition to the CD itself, the CD package also comes with a little workbook. In the Mike Mulligan workbook, there are several activities including:
- a connect the dots activity to create a steam shovel drawing;
- a mirror writing activity about recycling terms;
- a crossword puzzle;
- a musical puzzle code;
- word search; and
- maze activity
You can go to the Maestro Classics website and go to activity book answers to find the answers to all of the games in the CD activity book.
My Name is Handel: The Story of Handel’s “Water Music”
This CD was different than Mike Mulligan because rather than telling a story and adding music, this CD told the story of Handel’s life and interwove Handel’s music throughout the story. Also, the additional segments of this CD explained different types of music such as overtures and others that Handel created.
Than Handel CD followed the this format:
1. The Story of Water Music (38:09): This is Handel’s life story, and a very interesting one at that. Who would guess that the King would be so forgiving of Handel’s very long absence!
2. About Handel and the Story (3:34):
3. “My Name is Handel” Song (0:28): A song about Handel created by Stephen Simon.
4. About the Music with the Maestro (5:24): The many different types of music Handel created are explained.
5. Prepare to Preform (0:33): Instructions are given here so children can prepare to perform.
6. “My Name Is Handel” Sing-Along (0:29): Children get the chance to sing along with the orchestra.
Because this CD is targeting older children (ages 7+), the accompanying booklet is a bit different. While there is one activity (a connect the dot boxes activity), the majority of the booklet includes interesting historical information on the following topics:
- George Frideric Handel;
- The Orchestra in Handel’s Time;
- Important Churches in Handel’s London;
- My Name is Handel song;
- The Harpsichord;
- The Organ;
- The Barge Trip on the River Thames;
- Travel in Handel’s Day
Other Features of Maestro Classics
Each CD is a complete educational unit, in my opinion. Thanks to the Maestro Classics website, you can create an entire unit around one CD. For every CD, Maestro Classics has accompanying suggestions for history, science, geography, language arts, art, music, and math! There is A LOT of material here!
How We Used Maestro Classics
We listened to Maestro Classics in the car while we were driving to homeschool activities that are 30 to 45 minutes away. The Mike Mulligan CD is marked for children ages 5+, and that label was appropriate. PB & J Girl (5.5) and Cuddle Bug (4) enjoyed listening to the whole CD in one car trip.
My Name is Handel is marked for ages 7+. The girls tired of it after awhile (I think because the story was a bit advanced for them), but Bookworm (9.5) loved it and listened attentively.
In the future, I plan to buy more of these CDs and play them while we’re doing our art lessons. These CDs are of such high quality that I plan to have the kids listen to them over and over again throughout the next couple of years.
How Much Is Maestro Classics?
Each Maestro Classics CD package (there are currently 11 available) costs $16.98 for the physical CD package or $9.98 for an MP3 download. Considering the amount of material available for each CD both in the package itself and the website, I consider this a bargain. I’ll be asking relatives who want to purchase presents for the kids for Christmas to consider buying these CDs.
However, if you’re leery about investing the money, on the Maestro Classics website, you can play samples of each CD so you can get an idea of how wonderful these CDs really are.