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During my first ever trip to Dragon Con, I had the pleasure of attending a panel titled Women of NASA: We Do It All! The following description of the event grabbed my attention, “…It’s not just STEM that gets you a job–STEAM is just as important.” 


As music teachers, we already know and understand the value of arts in education. The fact that it’s being highlighted in a session with NASA scientists…well that just makes me giddy! So today, I’m returning the favor by adding a little bit of space into my lesson ideas. And that’s easy to do with Holst’s suite The Planets.

More specifically, I’ll be focusing on Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. My personal favorite. 

INTRODUCTION

The following video is an excellent introduction into this piece. It gives a quick overview of the different sections. It’s short enough to hold your students’ attention, while prepping them to listen for certain sections in the music.

TEMPO

As always, steady beat movement is an easy and purposeful way to incorporate art music in your elementary music classroom. For example, when I incorporated art music, I often started out by having students “move to the steady beat”. However, I also performed this action with them, modeling the expressive qualities of the music through my movements.

For example, I might show the heaviness of the strong beat by placing my arms in a circle in front of me (as though I was Jupiter) and heavily stomping with each strong beat. In this way, I’m not just moving to the beat, I’m showing the emphasis of the strong beat, accents, and dynamics.

After some time, I would drop out and observe the students. I was always amazed by how well they showed the expressive qualities of the music through their movements. When we consider how we want our future performing groups to “feel the music and not just play it”, this is what we’re talking about. And if we want students to feel the music, we must give them plenty of opportunities to do so.

 

TIMBRE

As shown in the intro video above, timbre is a great topic to explore with Jupiter. As students move to the music, tell them to think about what instruments they hear. Once they’ve moved through the entire piece, have them sit down and watch the intro video again. Ask them to name the instruments as they’re shown in the video. Then, ask them what family each instrument belongs in.

If you haven’t yet approached the topic of instrument families, here are some ideas for getting started:

  • Open the lid of your piano and show students how the keys, hammers, and strings work in conjunction. For those upright pianos, be sure to preface this demonstration with a safety warning about not touching or pushing on the piano. No tipping pianos in music class 😉
  • Ask a student who takes violin lessons to bring in their instrument (with parental permission). Then, have them go through the different parts of the instrument with the class. I find that some students are more perceptive to learning about instruments that their classmates play.
  • Pass out a variety of percussion instruments (rhythm sticks, hand drums, triangles, etc.) to each of your students. Have students do some simple call and echo patterns on their instruments. In between each pattern, discuss what makes each instrument part of the percussion family.
  • Bring a woodwind or brass instrument to class and play some popular tunes. Ask students to move to the beat as you play, and freeze when you stop. During each stop, describe a different part of the instrument. When you’ve finished playing all the pieces, have a class discussion about what makes that instrument part of the woodwind or brass family.

If you’re looking for other ways to teach instrument families, check out my post on the Instrument Scavenger Hunt. It includes a free answer sheet to use. Or you can save time by downloading the full Instrument Riddles Scavenger Hunt from my store HERE.

I hope these ideas give you a fantastic head start into incorporating more art music into your lessons. If you have additional ideas for using Jupiter, or if you’ve used this piece in class before, please share your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!