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The King and the Little Prince (credit: Adrian Brooks)
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The Piano: Isn't it Grand? from All-Star Piano Extravaganza: The Verbier Festival & Academy Concert
Grades: 9-12
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The purpose of these activities is to develop the students' background knowledge about the impact the piano has had on society.

Activity One

Share with the class the letter that Ludwig van Beethoven wrote to piano maker John Broadwood in 1818. Discuss how Beethoven conveys, in his letter, the importance of the instrument.

UK Piano Page: Piano History: A Letter from Beethoven to Broadwood

Activity Two

Prior to viewing THE VERBIER FESTIVAL & ACADEMY CONCERT, share and discuss this TIME magazine quote with the class:
"To get how big a deal this is, imagine Eminem, Shania Twain, Britney Spears, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and 40 more of pop's hottest acts gathering in an Alpine village to chew the fat, hang out and occasionally perform together -- for no fees and no charitable cause -- under a tent with a seating capacity of just 1,750. It could only happen in a pop-music fan's wildest dreams. But this week lovers of classical music will see their equivalent fantasy come true."
-- TIME, July 28, 2003
Activity Three

Share with the class the following quote from Jim Doherty's article "In Praise of Pianos . . .," which appeared in SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE (

"It's impossible to imagine life without the piano. The automobile, the computer and the pizza, maybe, but not the pianoforte. Since its invention in Italy around 1700 by Bartolomeo Cristofori, a keeper of musical instruments for the Medici, it has become indispensable to our survival as a civilized people. What else, after all, has enriched society in so many different ways?"
Ask the students to brainstorm a list of ways the piano has enriched society.


Activity One

In this activity the students will create an information packet for the Verbier Festival.

1. Tell the students that the organizers of the Verbier Festival have asked them to create an information packet for people planning to attend the festival. Explain that the target audience of the packet is young people who are coming for the first time and want to learn more about the venue, the piano, composers, musical selections, and performers.

2. Divide the class into groups containing five or six students.

3. Explain to the students that they will work together to create the information packet, which should contain all of the following details:

Festival Location
Include information about the venue and the surrounding area, a map, travel tips, local accommodations, and weather data. Students can begin their research at these sites:

Verbier Festival & Academy

Verbier/Bagnes Tourisme

Research the composers whose work was featured at the 2003 festival: Mozart, Smetana, Bach, Rossini, Wagner, Gottschalk, Benjamin, Sousa, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Information gathered should include background on the composer and his work. The sites listed below provide a starting point for their research, but students can also look for additional material at the local or school library.

The Classical Music Archives: Biographies and Dictionary

Classical Net: Reviews & Articles

List and describe the music performed in the program, which is included in the song list. The Classical Archives site ( might be useful, or students can conduct a Google search ( for individual works to help complete the assignment.

Collect information on the pianists and write a brief biographical sketch. Write a bio for a minimum of five performers featured in the program.

Leif Ove Andsnes
Nicholas Angelich
Martha Argerich
Emanuel Ax
Claude Frank
Evgeny Kissin
Lang Lang
James Levine
Mikhail Pletnev
Staffan Scheja

Students can conduct a Google search ( to locate Web sites about individual performers.

Compile information on the history of the piano. This can include a diagram of how a piano works. These sites may be helpful in conducting research:

UK Piano Page: Piano History: A History of the Piano from 1709 to 1980

Concert Pitch Piano Services: Piano Diagrams & Images

After completing the project, have each group finish a rubric to evaluate how they worked together as a team. Send the students to the St. Edward's University Web site ( to print a sample rubric.

Activity Two

The purpose of this activity is for the students to develop an appreciation of the impact the piano has had on society.

1. Discuss the section of the program where it's mentioned how the piano was the compact disc player of the 19th century. Ask the students to imagine what life must have been like before people could purchase a recording of their favorite work to listen to at home. Discuss how in order to hear a piece of music people had to either go to a concert or get the sheet music and play it on an instrument themselves. Explain how they could play an entire orchestral work because the piano has harmony.

2. Tell the students to imagine that they have been transported back in time to an era after the pianoforte came into existence, but before recording devices were invented.

3. Divide the class into small groups and have them write a skit about a young person who finds himself or herself in this situation.

4. Provide time for the students to share their skits.


Activity One

Visit the Web site to take an online piano lesson.

Activity Two

Visit the Women at the Piano Web site to research women composers.
Use the information and images to create a poster of woman composers.

Activity Three

Research the history of piano music and publish a "Piano Through the Years"-type magazine.

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