Building a Symphony with Oak Terrace School (2010-2011)

The Question

 What elements make up a symphony? How do composers utilize these elements to express themselves? How can we interpret and add to an existing symphony?


The Process

Through a partnership with Ravinia and with the help of Fifth House Ensemble, fifth grade students at Oak Terrace School learned about classical music and built their own symphony. Using Beethoven’s work as examples, students were guided through the basics of symphonic repertoire, such as instrumentation, movements and forms, theme/accompaniment, moods, and vocabulary. During activities like “Building a Musical Cheeseburger” and “The Singing Symphony Bee,” students were challenged to relate classical music to their lives and even create their own themes. Other musical interactions involved improvisation and playing percussion instruments.

The Final Project

For the final project, students worked as a class to add their own elements to existing Beethoven symphonies and also wrote a movement of a symphony to be played by Fifth House Ensemble. The performance included a parody of “Beethoven’s Wig” with voices and mallets, an ostinato from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony on recorders and chimes, a collaboration of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy melody including recorders, Orff instruments, and dance, and the “world premiere” of the students’ new movement. The performance was open to the entire school community, including students, teachers, administrators, and families