France may not be the first country that comes up in a discussion of great composers, but it shouldn’t be overlooked, either. To introduce kids to great French music, consider two of the most famous French composers: Charles-Camille Saine-Saëns and Claude Debussy. Below you’ll find kid-friendly biographies of each as well as piano sheet music and other resources for learning about these pillars of French musical history.
Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns was born in Paris, France in 1835. His father was a government clerk who died 3 months after his birth. At the request of his mother, Camille’s great-aunt Charlotte moved in with them. She was the first to introduce him to the piano. Beginning piano lessons at the age of two, he came to be known as one of the outstanding child prodigies of his time. He almost immediately began to write music with his first composition for piano dated March 22, 1839. Read More/ View Full Printable Biography (Free)
One of Saint-Saëns’ most well-known pieces is also extremely accessible for kids. The Carnival of the Animals musically depicts a different animal in each of its 14 movements, and almost any of them would make a delightful introduction to the composer. Of course, the Romantic composer also wrote his share of successful concertos, operas, and more, but the Carnival of the Animals is most attractive to younger listeners and musicians.
To explore the life and works of Saint-Saëns further, try the following printables:
Camille Saint-Saëns | Word Search & “Meet the Composer” Job Application Worksheet: Review the biography with the help of these two worksheets, which ask students to read critically and pull main ideas from the text.
Kangaroo from Carnival of the Animals (Saint-Saens) | Listening Map: Students can enjoy the music and follow along with a pictorial representation of the music’s patterns with this free printable listening map.
Students wishing to try their hands and performing Saint-Saëns can download these free easy piano solos:
Claude Debussy was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, on August 22, 1862. He was the oldest of five children. His father, owned a china and crockery shop, and his mother, Victorine Manoury Debussy, was a seamstress.
To complement students’ reading of the biography, try Claude Debussy | Composer Word Search Worksheet and “Meet the Composer” Job Application Worksheet. Both worksheets require students to review the biography to draw conclusions about key words and apply what they learned.
Debussy is known for his contribution to the Impressionist Era, and his work truly stands out for its unique sound. His most well-known piece is likely the magical Clair de Lune, and sheet music for intermediate piano solo is available here:
Clair de Lune for Intermediate/Level 5 Piano Solo
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