Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Play and Learn Classical Music (#iPadchat, #edapps)

Imagine that you can listen to famous short classical pieces performed by world-class musicians, and watch a story unfold with the melody. Imagine that you can paint to the music, or play maze games, or have illustrated characters come alive at your fingertips. Imagine that you can learn about classical music and increase your IQ while having fun. Imagine… no, stop imagining, because it’s all real.

learn classical music with iPad app

The Music Bee Club rolls together music, stories, art, and interactive animation to create a rich, engaging experience to help children understand and appreciate classical music. It is designed for ages two to eight, for both auditory and visual learners, and guides children through their exploration of music. The stories reflect the inspiration and soul of each piece, and fits the music perfectly. Kids will be learning some of the most beautiful musical compositions in the classical canon, played by some of America’s finest musicians, such as Carter Brey, principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, and Elizabeth Mann, principal flutist of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. It has been incorporated into several music outreach programs, including Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, Little Orchestra Society, and Education Through Music (ETM).

The creator, Donna Weng Friedman, is a concert pianist and a music teacher. She said:

I have listened to the music that kids today are inundated with; the so-called bubble gum music that accompanies today’s cartoons, video games and even some e-books. I have listened and I have been extremely concerned about the future of this bubblegum music generation. So I decided to try to do a little something about it on my own.

Her audio producer is eleven-time Grammy Award winner David Frost, and the art director is her sixteen-year-old daughter Mickey. Creating the game option is her son’s idea, and he also helps to perfect it.

The first app in the series, “The Flight of the Bumble Bee,” is already available in app stores. It tells the tale of a young, adventure bee trying to fly across a garden all on its own. The music is the famous “Flight of the Bumblebee,” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The second app, “The Swan,” will be premiered at Steinway Hall, New York City, on September 28, 2013. It presents the fable of a swan who learns what true beauty is, set in “The Swan” movement in Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Carnival of the Animals.”

Donna Weng Friedman wrote in her article “Ode to Looney Tunes”:

I have given workshops and demonstrations at schools in NYC to over 130 kids now, and they all love the apps, especially the music part. It is almost like bringing a mini concert to children, families and schools, giving some, who may not otherwise have the opportunity, the chance to hear great music performed by great musicians. To me, seeing so many children enjoying my apps, laughing and cheering for the music, this is what it’s all about.

Experts in child growth and development agree that learning to appreciate and understand the “language of music” helps children flourish, intellectually and emotionally.

  • A recent study at Brigham Young University found that children as young as 5 months old could distinguish “sad” songs from “happy” ones.
  • A University of Toronto study found that 6-year-olds who studied piano for six months raised their IQs by several points, on average. Another study of Los Angeles preschoolers found that lessons in singing, rhythm and keyboard playing boosted their spatial reasoning significantly.
  • Other studies have found that music activates the parts of the brain that’s essential to emotion and memory, and that it also promotes communication between the right and left hemispheres.

Indeed, why not make a learning experience inspiring and fun at the same time ? The app introduces children to great classical music and the stories behind them, also stimulates their developing brains. This simply can’t get any better. Try the app out, or visit, and have fun!

Note :
The lesson idea for teachers, suggested from Donna :

How best to incorporate these apps into classroom lessons:  Hook the iPad up to the smart board  (use of Apple TV is recommended, not required).  At the appropriate time,  students can take turns on the iPad, while the rest of the class watch and discuss what is happening on the smart board.

Before introducing the app, I like to have the class  listen to the music without any information or visuals.  I ask them to think about how the music makes them feel.  Ages 3-4 can come up with colors, or a one word description, for example “Happy” or “Excited”.  Children ages 5-7 can even come up with a short description of how the music makes the feel, or even a little story “It sounds like a little ant running away!”. Children ages 8-9 can  make up a simple story that reflects what is going on with the music.   Then I tell them the name of the piece, who wrote the music, the instrumentation on the app, and finally, I show them option 1 of the app: the story with narration, animation and music.  Afterwards we discuss how the story goes with the music, the twists and turns in both the story and the music, and what part the instruments play.

Next we go to the option of music and animation only.  Since there is no narration, the younger children can try to re-tell the story based on the visuals, the music, and what they remember.  Older students can make up their own stories to go with the music, with a beginning middle and end.

Then I invite the class to choose from the other options; a)paint to the music – kids love taking turns painting to the music, while the others try to guess what they are drawing – b) reading together and c) the story told in Korean. – In “The Flight of the Bumble Bee” see if they can listen for when the spider says  to the bee  ”You’re trapped” in Korean (hint: sounds like Cha ba da).

And finally, I let them  have fun with the maze game.  Just a word of caution though –  the kids get very excited taking turns playing with the different levels of the mazes, so make sure to leave enough time at the end for this activity, and be prepared for the giggles, laughter and cheering that often  accompanies the  music! (see videos)

From my experience,  having worked with over 300 students in classrooms throughout NYC, the period will fly by pretty quickly and the kids will be buzzing about Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee” and “Cha ba da” for days!


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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