Dive deep into some of the favorite pieces in Classical music!

From intimate music for solo piano to grand masterpieces for a symphony orchestra, discover your new favorite pieces, and the thrilling stories behind the music.

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

Activity Sheet

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Let's Go to the Symphony!

As you listen to your chosen episode, take notes with the given questions in mind. When you are finished, write a review of the piece, as if you are a music critic for a newspaper!

The goal is for the student to listen to the episode critically, all the while thinking for themselves and considering what their personal takeaway is from learning about the piece. More than absorbing facts, the exercise encourages the student to relate to the piece in a personal way, forming their own opinions, and letting the music spark their creativity.


  • Ravel's Bolero with Joshua Weilerstein: A conductor's insight

    Ravel's Bolero with Joshua Weilerstein: A conductor's insight

    Episode 64 May 3, 2022

    It seems simple on the surface, but there is a lot to discover in Ravel's most famous work (much to his dismay!). Joshua Weilerstein, one of today's in-demand conductors, joins John Banther to offer his perspective on the music and all the details that need to be addressed to pull it off in performance.
  • Louise Farrenc's Symphony No. 3: A hidden gem!

    Louise Farrenc's Symphony No. 3: A hidden gem!

    Episode 61 March 22, 2022

    Her final symphony is one that deserves your attention and is now performed more often. John Banther and James Jacobs discuss the challenges she faced with sexism and the French attitude towards symphonies at the time, what to listen for, influences, and her unique orchestration. 
  • The life of Florence Price

    Florence Price Symphony No. 1: An American Symphony

    Episode 59 February 22, 2022

    It was the first symphony of an African-American woman to be performed by a major US orchestra. John Banther and Nicole Lacroix talk about how she found time to write, a hidden motif to listen for, Americana aspects of the symphony, and more. 
  • Bach's Christmas Oratorio, what to listen for and know!

    Bach's Christmas Oratorio, what to listen for and know!

    Episode 54 December 14, 2021

    It's a holiday classic that is becoming more popular, especially in the Washington area. Bill Bukowski joins John Banther to explain everything we need to know in this masterpiece. From how it was originally performed, expected audience participation, and how Bach reused old music. Plus, we have some listener mail and a special Classical Breakdown challenge. 
  • Bernstein's West Side Story

    Bernstein's West Side Story

    Episode 53 November 30, 2021

    Here is what to listen for, know, and appreciate when it comes to West Side Story before you watch the 2021 movie remake!
  • Mozart's Clarinet Concerto

    Mozart's Clarinet Concerto

    Episode 51 November 2, 2021

    Composed in his final year, this concerto is one of Mozart's last and most enduring works. Nicole and John explore the origins of the concerto, which was originally for a slightly different and more obscure instrument. They also talk about what to listen for in each movement and even give a little music theory lesson to explore some unintended consequences in the music. 
  • The life of Tchaikovsky

    Tchaikovsky's triumphant Symphony No. 5

    Episode 48 September 21, 2021

    This symphony is one of the most popular and triumphant in the repertoire, and for good reason! It takes us on a journey using a simple melody that appears in every movement, transforming from the opening in E minor to the triumphant E Major finale. John and Bill go through Tchaikovsky's personal correspondence during the months he was writing the symphony, show you what to listen for, and teach you a compositional technique used still today.