Alison Young talks classical music with students in the studio

August 7, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Classical MPR in the Classroom is a standards-based video series to assist elementary music teachers in the classroom. The videos and curriculum are available for free on the Classical MPR YouTube channel as well as here on

A radio host's job is to contextualize music for listeners through history, stories, and interpretation of meaning. At the same time, a host must transmit an engaging personality over the airwaves to motivate the audience to keep tuning in.

In this way, a radio host is similar to a music teacher in a classroom; teachers work hard to keep students interested in the material and curious enough to want to keep learning.

In Listening, Analyzing and Describing Music, Classical Minnesota Public Radio host Alison Young discusses the elements of classical music with students who visit her in the broadcast studio. Alison introduces the students to a number of classics including Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, Barber's Adagio for Strings and Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.

After listening to each piece, Alison and the students discuss what they think the piece meant based upon how it made them feel or how they used their imaginations while they listened; the students then use examples from the elements of music to support their opinions. They also compare and contrast the pieces, describing the similarities and differences between the elements of music that they hear.

An active imagination is always encouraged when listening to classical music, but sometimes the composer intended to convey a specific meaning or story through the music. To demonstrate this, Alison tells the story of the dedication of Eroica symphony.

By the end of this episode, Alison and the students have addressed several benchmarks of the Minnesota Music Education standards, including:

  • Identifying the elements of music (melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, tone color, texture, form and their related concepts);
  • Comparing and contrasting a variety of musical works;
  • Describing how music communicates meaning

Classical MPR thanks The Sunup Foundation for generous support of this music education initiative.

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