Sunday, December 13, 2009

Maestro Classics, A TOS Crew Review

I homeschool a child with auditory processing challenges. I look for ways to help her grow her auditory processing.

Maestro Classics' stories set to beautiful classical music may be one unique way to do that.

I was thrilled to see Bonnie Simon on the presenter list at a homeschool convention I attended in April. The information provided in the convention materials explained that Simon would be talking about growing listening skills. I wanted to hear what she had to say, to ask her if she knew if her stories combined with classical music had been used with children on the autism spectrum, and had they made any differences.

I had absolutely no idea who the Simons are -- that's something I learned in Simon's presentation at the homeschool convention -- and you can check out the bios HERE. Wow. I realized quickly that I was in the presence of an "insider", an expert, a lover of classical music who desires to share this love with children. What impressed me more than the education and experience of the Simons is Bonnie Simon's heart, her passion for bringing classical music to children, all children, and especially young children.

Simon also stresses the importance of listening *together* to create "musical memories". Anyone who spotlights the "between you and me" value is way up there on my list!

Bonnie Simon talked about Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, a story performed to classical music (which I saw many years ago at the Hollywood Bowl with one of the James Bond actors doing the reading), and took that idea to a new level, combining stories that are considered classics with classical music.

Classical music intimidates me. I know little-to-nothing about it. And I'm terrified that my ignorance shows. Oh, I can name a few composers, and hum a few bars of some popular pieces, but that's about it. (Thanks to playing handbells at church in my teen and adult years, I'm probably familiar with more than I give myself credit for, but still...) What if I buy an audio CD and hate it? Or what if I like it and it's not considered "good" or "quality" by those who have studies classical music? What if someone gets into my car and hears what I'm listening to and knows that I don't know "good" music??!!! Horrors!

Simon encouraged us to play classical music at home and in the car, to listen to lots of it, and to find what we like. She explained that the best classical music is what we like. What appeals to one person or one family may not appeal to another, and that's okay! I *love* the fact that she gave me permission to play what I like and ignore another's standards of what's "good".

The Simons combined two kinds of classics into one product -- Stories in MusicTM.. When you open the Maestro Classics web site, you'll hear excerpts from the different audio CD's. Click on the link to see the selections. (You have the option to turn off the story, too, as you browse the web site.)

I spent some time talking with Bonnie Simon at her vendor booth at the homeschool convention, and she told me that yes, her products have been used with children on the autism spectrum, and they're worth a try to see if we can use them to grow listening attention. I knew Simon was on our fall list of vendors, and I decided to wait to learn if I would receive one of her products to review.

The entire Crew received The Tortoise and The Hare, free, to review for you. A note on the back of the CD says, "CD for children ages 5+ and their families". I'd agree with the 5+ recommendation, based upon my homeschooler's level of development. She's at a preschool level in joint attention and comprehension and we stick to that level, academically.

My homeschooler tends to find anything on audio CD, well, aversive, and she has been known to scream and screech in protest when we tried to listen to books or stories on CD. She likes to have a visual to go with the narration. I planned to listen to this CD alone, and one afternoon, I popped the CD into my player and began to listen while my daughter was in the next room. Amazingly, Little Miss I-Don't-Like-To-Listen-To-Stories-On-Audio inched toward the room where I was working and listening. I didn't *make* her join me, and she was able to listen from a distance, which must have seemed "safe" for her. She tolerated the story. That's HUGE. The "about the story" track -- nope, not the first time through (she listens a little more each time I pop it in the CD player). What amazed me, though, was how she really enjoyed the third track, the "Pretzel Vendor of Paris" song, and she listened to it several times. (!!!) That's one way IN, a way to making her comfortable to listen to the other tracks on the CD. :)

There are seven tracks on the CD:

1. The Tortoise and the Hare (the story told with a musical background)

2. About the Story (includes info from Bonnie Simon about the original story and history of Aesop and fables )

3. Pretzel Vendor of Paris Song (it's lively and I can't help tapping my toes; it makes me smile every time I hear it *grin*)

4. About the Music (Composer Stephen Simon explains how he interpreted the characters, musically, which is a beautiful spotlight for the next track.)

5. Now That You Know a Little More... (a repeat of the story from Track 1, so that listeners can listen for the musical interpretations the second time around)

6. Want to Have Some Fun? Prepare to Perform (Bonnie Simon preps listeners to sing the Pretzen Vendor of Paris song that follows in Track 7)

7. Pretzel Vendor of Paris Sing-Along

With the London Philharmonic Orchestra and voice overs from the Simons, and narrator Yadu, the CD's are the Stories in MusicTM are beautifully done. ***For children with delays in speech and language and auditory processing challenges, the pacing that the Simons and Yadu use is excellent. I am impressed!

The Tortoise and the Hare has a running time of 53:57. Each CD is priced at $16.98 and comes with a CD-sized, kid-friendly program book (everything tucks neatly inside the CD holder). The program book gives readers a photo of instruments in an orchestra, a page on tones and fractions, a page about time signatures, a page about turtles and tortoises and another on rabbits and hares, a page about the contrabassoon (which composer Simon describes in his track), a dot-to-dot, the Pretzel Vendor of Paris lyrics, a word jumble, a crossword puzzle and photos and information about the Simons and narrator Yadu.

Using the code MAESTRO45, buyers may purchase three CDs for $45. Gift sets are also available.

To read reviews of this products by my Crewmates, go HERE.

1 comment:

Maestro Classics said...

Hi Penny!

This is a belated thanks for the wonderful review of our Tortoise and the Hare CD. I just wanted to let you know that since you reviewed our CD we've made a Facebook page so that our fans can participate in monthly giveaways (we have a big one coming up for the full 8 CD set!) and get coupons. We'd love to invite you and your readers to join our page or check out our new free homeschool music curriculum guides and thanks again for the lovely review!

Maestro Classics

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