Tag Archives: Composer Biographies

More American Music Composers | Free Printable Biographies, Sheet Music and Worksheets

Today’s post is a continuation of the American Music Composers post which explored the lives and music of great American composers. The three composers featured below make great subjects of study anytime, but especially nearing the end of a year of lessons. Their music is just plain fun to listen to and to play, and even kids who are staring out of classroom windows or slacking on their practice time will be engaged by it.

scott-joplin.jpg Scott Joplin, the second of six children, was born sometime between June 1867 and January 1868 in eastern Texas. His father was a slave, while his mother was born a free black woman. After 1871 Joplin and his family moved to Texarkana, Texas. It was then that young Scott taught himself music on a piano in a home where his mother worked. Get complete free printable biography.

Joplin’s rise to musical success, just one generation removed from slavery, is certainly remarkable. Review his story with Scott Joplin | Word Search Worksheet and Meet the Composer Job Application Worksheet, and put a face to the name with Scott Joplin | Coloring Page.

Seldom does one man define a musical genre like Scott Joplin defined ragtime. Recordings of his work make for enjoyable listening activities and are fun to play, too. Young pianists and other instrumentalists can try their hand at some of Joplin’s greatest hits with these sheet music selections:

The Entertainer for Intermediate/Level 3 Piano Solo
The Entertainer for Intermediate/Level 3 Piano Solo – Play and Learn™
The Entertainer for Intermediate/Level 5 Piano Solo
The Entertainer for Intermediate/Level 5 Piano Solo – Play and Learn™
Maple Leaf Rag for Intermediate/Level 3 Piano Solo
Easy Winners for Intermediate/Level 3 Piano Solo
The Entertainer for Easy Flute Solo with Piano Accompaniment
The Entertainer for Easy Clarinet Solo with Piano Accompaniment
The Entertainer for Easy Alto Saxophone Solo with Piano Accompaniment
The Entertainer for Easy Trumpet Solo with Piano Accompaniment
The Entertainer for Easy Trombone Solo with Piano Accompaniment
The Entertainer for Easy Violin Solo with Piano Accompaniment
The Entertainer for Easy Viola Solo with Piano Accompaniment
The Entertainer for Easy Cello Solo with Piano Accompaniment

gershwin.jpgGeorge Gershwin was born as Jacob Gershowitz on September 26, 1898 in Brooklyn, New York. George, the second of four children, was born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents Morris Gershowitz and Rosa Bruskin. His father changed the family name to Gershwin after immigrating from Russia. Get the complete free printable biography.

His is another story of a fascinating rise from high school dropout in a Brooklyn apartment to brotherly partnership and worldwide fame. Free resources for reviewing Gershwin’s biography include George Gershwin | Word Search and Meet the Composer Job Application Worksheet.

Gershwin composed a number of hits that have stood the test of time, often accompanied by his brother’s lyrics. Here are a few favorites arranged for easy/ intermediate piano.

Rhapsody in Blue  for piano solo
Summertime for piano solo
They Can’t Take That Away from Me for piano solo

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John Williams was born on February 8, 1932, in Floral Park, New York. In 1948 John moved with his family to Los Angeles, California. He later attended college near his home in Los Angeles where he began to study composition. After college he was drafted into the United States Air Force where he had the opportunity to arrange music for, and conduct the Air Force band. Get complete printable free biography.

From show tunes with Gershwin to movie magic with Williams, the stage and the silver screen have inspired some memorable American music. After reading Williams’s biography, review with John Williams | Word Search Worksheet and
Meet the Composer Job Application Worksheet. Then, get on with the show to enjoy the many classic film scores that Williams has composed.

Since his works are recognizable and accessible, they lend themselves well to listening activities for kids of all ages. Guide their listening experience with the following listening glyphs, customized for some of the most well-known Williams pieces. Glyphs allow students to record what they are hearing with color, helping them learn what to listen for and giving them vocabulary to describe music. star-wars-listening-glyph-worksheet.jpg

John Williams | Film Score Music Listening Glyphs
Star Wars (John Williams) | Music Listening Glyph

Jurassic Park (John Williams) | Music Listening Glyph
Indiana Jones (John Williams) | Music Listening Glyph

Besides for the films listed above, Williams is also known for ET, the Harry Potter films, Superman, and Schindler’s List. Kids can make their own soundtrack with the piano sheet music selections below.

Star Wars Main Theme for intermediate piano Solo
Hedwig’s Theme from the Harry Potter films for student (easy)/ teacher duet
Raiders March for intermediate piano solo

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American Music Composers | Free Printable Biographies, Sheet Music and Worksheets

You won’t find Americans on a list of great Baroque composers due to the simple fact that the United States wasn’t quite a country yet during the Baroque Era. The young nation isn’t terribly well known for its Classical or even Romantic Era composers, either. But when the Modern Era dawned, it was time for Americans to shine.

Several revolutionary American composers helped define the Modern Era and are considered among its greatest talents. Get to know these American musical legends with free printable composer biographies, intermediate and easy piano sheet music, and worksheets. Two will be featured in this post, and additional composers will be showcased in an upcoming post.

leonard-bernstein.jpgLeonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1918. His father, Sam Bernstein, did not support young Leonard’s interest in music at first. Despite this, his father took him to many orchestra concerts. At one of these concerts he heard a piano performance that captivated him. It was then that he began to learn to play the piano. Get the complete free biography. Then, review the biography with Leonard Bernstein Word Search and Meet the Composer Job Application Worksheet.

Bernstein stood out as a performer, conductor, and composer, but may be most readily recognized as the man behind West Side Story’s memorable musical score. Intermediate piano students can try their hand at “Somewhere” from West Side Story.

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Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 14, 1900 to Jewish parents who immigrated from Russia. His first experience with music came from his older sister who taught him how to play the piano.

By age 17, Aaron decided that he wanted to be a composer, so he began taking composition lessons from a respected private music instructor in Manhattan. During this time, Aaron attended many music performances at the New York Symphony and Brooklyn Academy of Music where he listened to the music of contemporary and classical composers. Following his passion for European music, Aaron left New York for Paris. Get the complete free biography.  Review information from the biography using Aaron Copland Word Search or Meet the Composer Job Application Worksheet.

Copland was a truly American composer, incorporating jazz influences and folk songs in his works for orchestra, film score, and ballet. One of his most well-known works was his ballet score Appalachian Spring. The Shaker song “Simple Gifts” is featured prominently in this piece, and although Copland himself did not write it, he ensured that it would be performed and recognized for years to come. Here’s an arrangement of “Simple Gifts” for level 3 piano solo.  The lyrics to the original song are available on this page as well.

Bernstein and Copland aren’t the only great American composers. Watch for another post featuring more outstanding American composers’ stories and works.

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French Music Composers | Free Printable Biographies, Sheet Music and Worksheets

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:

Royal March of the Lion for Easy/Level 2 Piano Solo
Egyptian Dance for Piano Solo by Camille Saint-Saëns

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.

 Claude began piano lessons at the age of seven with an Italian violinist named Cerrito. His musical talent was quite evident, and by the age of ten Claude began studying music at the Paris Conservatoire. During his time there he studied composition, music history, piano, organ, and solfége. His experimental approach to composing music was problematic to his teachers however, as he did not like following the strict rules of the Conservatory. Read More/ View Full Printable Biography (Free)

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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