Studying composers in a homeschool setting provides the opportunity to explore the connections between music and history. It helps students place music into its larger context and learn what makes each composer’s contributions unique. A study of composer’s lives can also open up discussions on character. Each composer walked a different road to greatness with their own struggles and successes, allowing students to explore the different ways goals can be pursued.
Finally, and most obviously, the study of a composer can be used to increase students’ musical appreciation and literacy. Being familiar with great composers’ most well-known works establishes cultural literacy, and it also gives them an opportunity to experience the pure enjoyment of listening to great music. You can also give students the tools to listen to and discuss music intelligently.
One doesn’t need to be an expert in music to guide homeschool students through such a study. The resources below provide a great start to a study of the Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
An approachable biography of a composer is a great place to begin. Consider MakingMusicFun.net’s Hey Kids, Meet Johann Sebastian Bach. This brief biography lays out the basic facts of the composer’s life and work. If you’d like students to dig in further to his life and times, this biography provides enough background knowledge to help them generate questions for further research.
Once students have read the biography, they can deepen their comprehension of what they’ve read with the “Meet the Composer” Job Application | Worksheet. This worksheet asks students to synthesize their knowledge of the composer’s experiences and works and apply them in the context of a job application. Higher level thinking skills are also exercised in the Johann Sebastian Bach | Word Search. This activity differs from the typical word search in that students have to generate their own word list by determining the keywords from the biography above. (The keywords are provided for the instructor’s use and guidance.)
Some additional ideas for writing and listening can be found at Johann Sebastian Bach Homeschool Lesson Plans, and this page also includes a list of Bach sheet music for students who wish to tie their piano playing to their studies. To work Bach into another subject, try the Johann Sebastian Bach Multiplication Connect-the-Dot. Just for fun, you can also use Johann Sebastian Bach Coloring Page.
Anchor any composer you study more firmly in their historical context with this comprehensive Music History Timeline, featuring world history events that impacted composers’ lives. Bring Bach’s time to life with the movie Bach’s Fight for Freedom using this movie guide.
To delve more deeply into Bach’s works, consider using Bach Listening Glyphs available on Teachers Pay Teachers. These worksheets guide students to graphically represent what they hear when they listen to Bach’s music, such as the Brandenburg Concertos or Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Once again, you don’t have to be a music teacher to listen with your student and follow the prompts to record what you hear.
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