The great composers we know and love are not too different from all of us today!

Discover what sparked their love of music, who supported them along the way, and fun facts about the people behind the great music.

Listen to the episodes below and use the activity sheet to deepen your understanding.

Activity Sheet

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Meet the Composer!

As you learn about the composer, take notes on their life and music with the given questions in mind. With your notes, write a biography of the composer. Unlike other biographies, include your personal thoughts on their life and music!

Teachers/Parents:
The goal of this exercise is to inform the student about the lives of composers and what their music is like, and for them to realize great music was written by everyday people following their passions. After a critical listen to each episode and taking guided notes, students will use the gathered information to creatively write a biography, thinking about what stood out the most to them about the composer.
 

Episodes

  • An Unsung Heroine: The Life and Music of Fanny Mendelssohn

    An Unsung Heroine: The Life and Music of Fanny Mendelssohn

    Episode 66 May 31, 2022

    She was a composer whose music was wrongfully neglected and was sometimes attributed and published under her brother's name. Join Evan Keely and John Banther as they discuss the unique challenges she faced, her letters, late success in publishing, and more. 
  • Piano Transformed: The Life and Music of Frederic Chopin

    Piano Transformed: The Life and Music of Frederic Chopin

    Episode 63 April 19, 2022

    He was a different kind of composer than Mozart and Beethoven, and he transformed how we hear the piano. John Banther and Bill Bukowski talk about Chopin's early life, relationships, new styles of music he wrote, what set him apart, and more!
  • Clara Schumann: A story of stardom, passion, and courage

    Clara Schumann: A story of stardom, passion, and courage

    Episode 60 March 8, 2022

    She was a composer, prodigy, and was considered one of the greatest pianists of the 19th century. Linda and John discuss various aspects of her compositions, education, and complicated career. Also, we share a heroic story of Clara you likely haven't heard before!
  • George Walker: He wants you to play his music

    George Walker: He wants you to play his music

    Episode 58 February 8, 2022

    DC native composer, George Walker, was one of the great American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. His close friend and colleague, Dr. Mickey Terry, joins John Banther to discuss his life, challenges, and three works you need to listen to.
  • The life and music of Robert Schumann

    The life and music of Robert Schumann

    Episode 55 December 28, 2021

    His music helped define the sound and direction of the Romantic period of the 19th century across different forms; like music for piano, song, chamber music, and symphonies. John Banther and Linda Carducci talk about characteristics to listen for in his music, why he became a composer, and how literature played a part in his works. 
  • The life of William Grant Still

    The life of William Grant Still

    Episode 52 November 16, 2021

    Known as the Dean of Afro-American Composers, William Grant Still wrote a variety of music, from symphony, opera, ballet, to popular song, and more. Gayle Murchinson, Associate Professor of Music at William and Mary, joins John Banther to discuss Still's life and explore his music across three aesthetics that she describes as Ultramodern, Racial, and Universal. 
  • The Life of Sergei Rachmaninoff

    The Life of Sergei Rachmaninoff

    Episode 50 October 19, 2021

    Linda and John uncover details about Rachmaninoff's life, like early influences that stayed with him his entire career, his comeback story after a disastrous symphony premiere, and what led to him emigrating to the United States. Plus, we hear some recordings of Rachmaninoff himself at the piano from the early 1900s.
  • The Life of Leonard Bernstein

    The Life of Leonard Bernstein

    Episode 47 September 7, 2021

    How much do you really know about one of America's most treasured artists? There is a lot to explore in his early life in Massachusetts, his meteoric rise to fame in New York, and the unique characteristics we find all over his music.
  • The Life of Johannes Brahms

    The Life of Johannes Brahms

    Episode 43 May 18, 2021

    He's considered one of the greatest composers of the 19th century. But can you hum a tune by Brahms? We dive into the life and music of Brahms to better understand what set him apart from others, how his personality affected his music, and how he still appears in popular music and commercials today. 
  • The Life of Bach

    The Life of Bach

    Episode 38 March 9, 2021

    Today we know him as one of the greatest and most influential composers, but that wasn’t always the case. Learn how a teenager became responsible for Bach’s revival, how is music changed from job to job, and even how he wound up in jail for nearly a month!