Tchaikovsky Body Tag: A (Remote) Music Class Activity for Children

This spring, Mark Burrows (a.k.a. “Mister Mark”) put together a few distance-learning resources called Classics Come Alive to support music instruction while many school buildings were closed. This is one of our favorites!

We know how hard you’re working to stay connected with your students. And we have all discovered some of the benefits and limitations of technology and “virtual classrooms.” Heritage Music Press wanted to help. Classics Come Alive features some of the great stories from classical music. But they’re not “sit still ‘n’ listen” stories. Each short story invites students to be not just attentive listeners, but active participants. Even better, there are no materials needed, no props, no set-up, no prep-time. All that’s needed is you and your students!

Today’s story is Tchaikovsky Body Tag.

Heritage Music Press has provided the script and a video of Mark sharing the story. Use it as a model to make your own video, or if that seems like too much right now, let Mister Mark bring the story to life with your kiddos.

This is a body tag story. Listen carefully as I tell you about the fascinating life of the great Russian composer — Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Each time you hear a part of the body, tag that part. For example, if you hear elbow… [cue students to tag their own elbow].

Great. Here we go.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in 1840 in a small town in Russia. He showed big brains early on. He began learning piano at age five. His little fingers were right at home on the piano keys. And by age six he was already fluent in French and German.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

But his parents didn’t want him to be a professional musician. Tchaikovsky was heartbroken when they sent him away to a boys’ school to train to become a civil servant.

Tchaikovsky missed home very much, but he kept his hands busy by composing and practicing piano. Once he graduated, he spent a few years as a civil servant before finally getting to attend a music conservatory in St. Petersburg. While there, he got wonderful ear-training in harmony, as well as composition.

After graduating, Tchaikovsky became a music professor at the Moscow Conservatory. While he wasn’t paid a huge sum of money, it was enough to take at least some of the financial burden off his shoulders.

Tchaikovsky’s reputation as a composer started to grow with the premiere of his First Piano Concerto. He also began composing operas. And one of his most enduring works is his 1812 Overture that has a hair-raising finale, complete with actual canon blasts.

Tchaikovsky was not fond of socializing. Imagine how much your knees would shake if you were famous, but nervous about being around so many people. And Tchaikovsky was also nervous when he conducted. He would only conduct with one hand because he used the other to hold onto his head. He was afraid his head would fall off as he conducted!

Eventually he became slightly more comfortable. He was in such demand. And his music for the ballets Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker has been keeping dancers (and audiences) on their toes for years.

Tchaikovsky kept at it till the very end. He conducted the premiere of his Symphony No. 6 only nine days before he died. His beautiful melodies and lush music warm hearts of listeners to this day.

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