Meurig Bowen and Rachel Bowen (text), Daniel Frost (illus.), The School of Music, Murdoch Books/Allen & Unwin, April 2017, 96pp., $29.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781847808608
The idea behind The School of Music is that you receive a letter of acceptance to attend the school on the first page, then you meet the various staff members, before undertaking three terms of a music course. A comprehensive, interactive and colourful book the size of a vinyl record, The School of Music offers upper primary readers a chance to gain a really solid grounding in music history, theory and practice. Lessons are guided by the musicians, composers and singers who make up the school staff, all of whom are quirky and humorous. Sergio Trunk is a conductor and head of the school, whose only regret is that he can’t teach his students the level of charisma that he has. He is supported in his teaching responsibilities by opera star Diva Venus, cellist Rufus Vibrato, administrator and lover of dance, Nigara d’Ossier, composer-in-residence Ronny ‘Beethoven’ O’Reilly and percussionist Roxy Mojo.
Term 1 offers a broad introduction to music, identifying the different types (classical, pop, jazz, world music etc.) then exploring instruments. It ends with a discussion of the link between music and other disciplines (dance, movies and even architecture!). In term 2 the focus is on a solid introduction to music theory, including how music is written, and what various musical terms relate to (rhythm, time signature, melody, intervals etc.). Finally it brings all of this together by looking at the role composers and performers play in bringing music to life. Term 3 moves on to music practice, with great advice on various topics, including why practice matters, how to combat performance nerves and how to share a love of music with others.
Each lesson goes into detail about the topic as well as providing an activity that can easily be done at home (some require internet access). Wherever a double quaver appears the reader can access online recordings that enhance the lesson. The illustrations have a minimalist palette and a lot of personality, showing the antics of the school staff with humour whilst also providing practical examples such as musical notation. This is a fantastic, detailed, engaging book that should be in every school library and music classroom.
Reviewed by Rachel Le Rossignol