Two years ago I took our oldest daughter to see a local production of the Nutcracker ballet. She fell in love and so did I. Afterwards, we checked out all the library books on the Nutcracker we could find and watched countless Youtube videos of the performance. Kate and her little sisters pirouetted across our living room floor to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and imagined they were each Clara on her journey with the Nutcracker prince. Since that ballet our girls have always gravitated toward anything “Nutcracker.”
When I was presented with the opportunity to review The Nutcracker, produced by Maestro Classics, I was really excited. We own and have thoroughly enjoyed Maestro Classic’s “Peter and the Wolf,” and I knew my girls would love “The Nutcracker” too.
What is Maestro Classics?
Combining storytelling with symphonic music, the “Stories in Music” series includes the following:
- “Peter & the Wolf”
- “The Nutcracker” featuring Jim Weiss
- “Carnival of the Animals”
- “The Story of Swan Lake”
- “My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music”
- “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel”
- “The Tortoise & the Hare”
- “The Merry Pranks of Master Till”
- “Casey at the Bat”
- “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
- “The Soldier’s Tale”
- “Juanita the Spanish Lobster” (both English & Spanish versions available)
Maestro Classics offers both CDs and MP3s of most of the above musical productions.
On their website you will also find some handy resources to extend your discussion even further, including the following:
- Curriculum guides (lesson plans)
- Puzzles & games (coloring pages, mazes, word searches, etc.)
- Free Sheet Music
- Home projects (DIY musical instruments)
- Montessori music lessons
“The Nutcracker” was written by the German storyteller E.T.A. Hoffman and composed by Russian Tchaikovsky. The story takes place on Christmas Eve when Clara receives a nutcracker doll that later comes to life. That night, a battle ensues between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, after which the Nutcracker becomes a handsome prince and takes Clara on an adventure to the Land of the Sweets where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy. When she awakes, Clara wonders if it all really happened or if it was just a dream.
Using “The Nutcracker” in Our Homeschool
As I mentioned before, our girls are familiar with the story of “The Nutcracker” as we read it every Christmas, but they aren’t as familiar with the music. However, the day we received “The Nutcracker”, we had our first opportunity to hear both the story and the music as we traveled to visit grandparents. Audio books are perfect for car rides where children have no means of escape 🙂 But all of my girls — even the 3-year-old– and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance so much that when we arrived at our destination we all wanted to keep listening! Needless to say, we finished the one-hour production on our way home.
The dramatic performance, the amazing storytelling, and the beautiful music created an audio experience like none other. We could visualize in our minds’ eyes the immaculate Christmas feasting with the mysterious toymaker Herr Drosselmeyer. We listened in anxious anticipation as the Mouse King and his mice fought the Nutcracker and his soldiers, and we all shared our thoughts on what Clara found in the Land of the Sweets.
That was our first listening to “The Nutcracker” by Maestro Productions. The next week we listened to the CD again at home. I printed off coloring pages and the curriculum guide to use, but as we listened, I noticed that my 7-year-old had the words memorized!
“How do you know all the words to the story?” I asked in utter surprise.
“Well, I listened to it a few times during nap time,” she answered.
Usually, she reads during quiet time, but apparently, she had been listening to “The Nutcracker” instead. Word-for-word she repeated what storyteller Jim Weiss said. Still, she wasn’t upset about listening to it again and even danced along at times.
- Learned about the 5 positions in ballet and how to pirouette
- Listened to some other pieces by Tchaikovsky
- Watched a brief history of the story of “The Nutcracker” & the ballet
- Talked about fairy tales by other authors
We have listened to this CD over and over again–it never gets old, and I’m sure we’ll listen even more as we enter the holiday season. I plan to create a unit study for our children to dig deeper into Hoffman’s story, Tchaikovsky’s music, as well as the ballet performance.
These CDs or MP3 downloads would make a perfect birthday or Christmas gift. Maestro Classics usually has a special running, so check out their website and start sharing with your children (and yourself!) the wonderful experience of classical music.
Where to Find Maestro Classics
How do you incorporate music into your homeschool or family?