As an elementary school teacher, you might discuss the composer Ludwig van Beethoven as part of your social studies or music curriculum. Your biography should include details such as Beethoven's birth in Bonn, Germany, in 1770 and his ability to earn a living by playing the organ at age 12. Beethoven composed nine symphonies, one opera and dozens of other musical compositions. He had a troubled upbringing and never married or had children. Discuss with your class that even though Beethoven struggled with academic subjects, his musical abilities set him apart as a talented musician and composer.
Discuss Beethoven's upbringing and mention some of his childhood struggles. He first learned to play the piano, violin and organ from his father. However, his father was an alcoholic and was very strict, often punishing Beethoven by sending him to the cellar when he didn't play the piano right. Beethoven had two younger brothers and a mild-mannered mother. Children will relate to the fact that Beethoven was an average student who didn't perform well in math or spelling. Some historians believe Beethoven might have struggled with dyslexia. Two of Beethoven's favorite foods were macaroni and cheese and strong coffee, according to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's website for children.
Talk with your class about Beethoven's formal training. When Beethoven was 17, the local government sent him to Vienna, Austria, to study with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Shortly after arriving, Beethoven's mother fell ill, so Beethoven had to return to Bonn. Students will sympathize with Beethoven knowing that he suffered great depression after his mother died. He didn't return to Vienna for two years. Mozart died before Beethoven could study with him again, so Beethoven spent the majority of his training and educational years with composers Joseph Haydn, Antonio Salieri and Johann Albrechtsberger. Students should learn that it was during this time that Beethoven earned a reputation for being a stellar pianist and composer.
Introduce students to some of Beethoven's most famous compositions and play them on your computer or CD player. Discuss how Beethoven's musical compositions often reflected the influences of his teachers. However, his "Symphony No. 3 -- Eroica" went beyond his teachers' skills and led to his rise to fame. Beethoven wrote a full-length opera "Fidelio," a church mass "Missa Solemnis" and "String Quartet No. 14." Ask the music teacher or an upper-grade piano student to play "Fur Elise" or "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano for your class.
Struggle With Deafness
Include a section on Beethoven's struggle with deafness in your biography. When Beethoven was only 26 years old, he started to lose his hearing. By the time of his death, he was almost completely deaf. Students will be inspired to learn that Beethoven's hearing loss didn't affect his ability to compose music, even though he couldn't play the piano anymore. Beethoven wrote one of his most famous symphonies, "Symphony No. 9," near the end of his life. Discuss Beethoven's death with your class. He died of liver disease in 1827 when he was only 56 years old. Some doctors believe his deafness was caused by typhus -- a bacterial disease he contracted in 1796.
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