Reconsidering the Timeless Tale of Peter and the Wolf
Sponsored by St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Countless children and adults have been introduced to orchestral music since the first performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic fairy tale Peter and the Wolf in 1936. The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) has teamed up with the Endangered Wolf Center in suburban St. Louis and music educators around the world to leverage this iconic piece of music to educate about the importance of wolves in our ecosystem and change the narrative about wolves perpetuated by Peter and the Wolf.
The SLSO’s free Digital Concert presentation of Peter and the Wolf—a video and classroom activity package—is available for unlimited, on-demand free streaming on slso.org/education through January 2023.
Filmed in the SLSO’s home at historic Powell Hall using the institution’s high-definition camera system and conducted by SLSO Music Director Stéphane Denève, the Digital Concert was supplemented with educational interviews and on-site footage from the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri.
Students learn about the importance of wolves to environmental ecology through interviews with the center’s education team, and along the way, they explore Prokofiev’s compositional choices and all the things that were not known about wolves when he wrote the piece.
“The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Endangered Wolf Center have managed to take materials that could easily be old hat and create a fresh perspective for this masterwork,” said Katie Jones, an elementary music educator at Prairie View Elementary School in Wentzville, Missouri.
The music educators on the SLSO Education Team created supplementary classroom activities to further inspire discussions about wolves and reinforce musical concepts from Peter and the Wolf. Students are asked to draw inferences about Prokofiev’s instrument choices and consider what theirs might be now. In one composition activity, students rewrite the musical theme for the wolf using “rhythmic building blocks” and the information gained in the Digital Concert interviews.
The accompanying activities are easily adaptable to meet students’ needs and are aligned with the National Standards for Music Education. “Second grade students enjoyed a successful building block activity with limited percussion choices, and fifth grade students were ready for the full wolf composition worksheet,” Jones explained.
The strategic partnership with the Endangered Wolf Center serves to place orchestral music in the context of today’s world. “Expanding classical content with other real-world settings such as the Endangered Wolf Center is a wonderful connection to help students engage with music in their world,” Jones said.
Digital Concerts are easily accessed on the SLSO’s website, slso.org/education. Since launching Digital Concerts and programming in 2020, the SLSO has reached more than 100,000 educators and students in 42 states and 15 countries.
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March 22, 2022. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)