Middle School Lesson Plans
These lesson plans are created to support middle school band and orchestra directors as an extension of the Middle School Concert experience.
- After hearing the Houston Symphony interpret a piece that was orchestrated from the original piano music, take time to explore the element of orchestration – taking an original idea and exploring original ideas of the performers through changes in color, quality of sound, dynamics and other musical tools to make the unique musical intention of each student clear.
Ability to proficiently play through a piece of music
PROCEDURE (30 Minutes)
- Watch Associate Conductor, Robert Franz’s video and discuss ways that Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition differed from the original piano work.
- Take a melody that all of the students are comfortable with playing and see if the students can come up with their own interpretation of the melody with clear musical intentions about color, ideas, overall line/contour, etc.
- Reflect on this experience in writing or as a class. What ideas did each individual successfully portray, and what could help them convey this even clearer?
- This concert was all about the art of orchestration – using different instruments and textures to change the overall color and interpretation of music. Through this lesson template, the students can have context for how their instrument impacts the overall sound of a piece, considering colors and musical intentions.
- Black and white image – any image that could go along with the piece of music students are working on
4 copies for the class to fill in
Ability to manipulate color of image electronically on a smart board
- Some form of coloring utensils (or ability to manipulate colors on the black and white image electronically)
- Music with a prominent melodic line; transcription of melodic line for all instruments
- Speakers/Videos included in step 6 of the procedure
Ability to play through a piece with
PROCEDURE (45 MINUTES)
- Play through a short section of a piece the students know well. This 8-16 bar phrase should have a prominent melody.
- Ask students to consider the composer’s intention – what color was he/she looking for when they picked the instrument playing the melody.
- As a class, look at the black and white image and ask students to consider what color that image might be (both background and main subject) with the current instrumentation.
- With that original color in mind, select other instruments to play the melody. How do those instruments change the overall sound and color? Try playing four different versions and have students listen for the overall color changes with each – play multiple times as needed.
- Visually representing this through the color changes of the black and white image will help the students associate the nuances in changes with sound with color and develop a consensus to build ensemble interpretation.
- To build further on the listening, have individuals play the melody (with others playing the supporting lines). With the color already in mind, see if they can interpret the line differently to affect the shape. What visual representation is each student trying to represent in their interpretation of the melody?
- Listen to the piano version of the Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5Wt7j368K0
Followed directly by the orchestrated version, prompting students to think about the beauty within the black and white turning to color through the instruments in the orchestra. What colors did Ravel use in this orchestration? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5r8sa863Ts
- Reflect in writing individually or verbally as a class.