February 6, 2014

Winter Olympics 2014 Music Class Activities

I confess….I am an Olympics-addict.  I love the Summer Games, I love the Winter Games, I love any of the Games.  I feel like as soon as the last Games ends, I am counting the months until the next one.  Has anyone else figured it out it is a much longer wait from the end of the Winter Games to the beginning of the next Summer Games (usually 26-28 months) than the end of the Summer Games to the next Winter Games (usually only 18-20 months difference)?  Crazy, huh?
Anyway, besides the friendly competition and the obscure sports (who loves curling? Me!), I also love the music.  The Olympic Games are known for some excellent musical traditions, from the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the lovely John Williams' compositions we know so well.  One of my favorite albums of all time is Summon The Heroes that I bought the summer of the '96 Olympics in Atlanta.  As an Atlanta native, the 96 Summer Games were a SUPER HUGE deal to my family and I and we did it all - pin trading, Centennial Olympic Park, Underground Atlanta, and even some events.  We actually got to go to a lot of tennis as we lived 2 miles from the tennis complex (which I might add is now sadly torn down and paved over….sniff).
Anyway, I digress.  Back to the music….I love John Williams' and I especially love him as a music teacher because I can focus on an American composer instead of always talking about the white-haired European ancients (no offense, Beethoven and Mozart…we love you too!).

Olympic Fanfare and Theme

With the 2014 Winter Olympics starting tonight, I thought I would share my lesson using the Olympics as the theme.
We start with listening to the John Williams' version of "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" with the listening question below posted on the board:
Most hands will immediately shoot up.  At that point we discuss the Olympics.  And where they're being held right now.  

Then we discuss John Williams and what an important composer he is for American music and especially film music.  

Then we compare and contrast Williams' and Arnaud's versions.  As a little aside, I did a bunch of research because I was very confused.  But here's the deal, Leo Arnaud, a French-American composer wrote "Bugler's Dream"(which we know as Olympic Fanfare) in 1958 for Felix Slatkin's album, Charge.  John Williams' used Arnaud's piece as material for his version commissioned for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games.  Williams released an updated version for the Summon The Heroes album for the 1996 Atlanta Games.  That's why the two pieces sound almost the same; however, Williams' piece is obviously more complex and more orchestral and thematic.  I prefer for music class to use Arnaud's version because the form is more accessible.  Anyway, we listen to the two versions. 
 Then we use Arnaud's version to create movements for the corresponding formal sections of the piece.  There are some distinct tempo changes in the piece which is great since we are already working on tempo in most of my classes and we can reinforce that concept here.  

I didn't include all the form listening slides in order as that would make this post WAAAAYY TOOOOO LOOONG!  So below is a link to a download that includes all the slides in PowerPoint format as well as both JPEG and PDF format.  Also included in that download is a printable poster of John Williams to hang on your "Composer of the Week" poster - you have one, right?  

Russian Folk Dance

Since the 2014 Winter Games are in Sochi, Russia, this is also the perfect time to pull out one of my favorite folk dances.  "Sasha" is a traditional Russian folk dance that has been recorded and arranged by the Amidons of the New England Dancing Masters.  Their materials are EXCELLENT and I totally recommend ALL of their books and CDs.  However, "Sasha" happens to be one of their two free dances available on their website.  They have the sheet music and a FREE mp3 download - can't beat free, can you?  This dance is magical and I have had great success with various grade levels with this dance.  I actually like to teach this dance much slower than the recording for the success of the learning process.  Then we can speed it up when we feel confident.  That allows me to reinforce tempo concepts (adagio, moderato, allegro) as we practice.  Plus, the kids keep getting more and more excited as we continue to speed up the music.  So fun!  I have made various tempo versions of the mp3 from their website for your use in your classroom.  I don't think the Amidons will mind as I have given them credit for it and am offering it for free.  


  1. Wonderful work presented here! Thanks for great ideas and sharing!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. So happy to have found a blog post that gives importance to music as much as the actual games themselves for Winter Olympics. I don’t know about you but I’m crazy over K-pop music and I’m just so excited for this year’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics! I heard they’ll have my favorites Twice, BTS and Exo among others on the lineup! Not sure about the exact schedule of the shows yet but I secured my online streaming links already via my express vpn subscription just to be sure. I just wouldn’t miss this for the world!

  4. Love this! I am going to use part of it for my olympics lesson this year!

  5. Is john williams hosting the class? He is teaching himself? If yes then i would love to take admission very soon.

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