{Music Lessons for Kids} Adagio for Strings // Barber

Here are our May Lessons so far:

Today’s piece is one I think of as an atmosphere piece.

I shared in my weekly newsletter recently about the Charlotte Mason concept of Education is an Atmosphere – the idea that a child’s learning atmosphere matters just as much as what is actually being taught.

***Shocking News Alert***

I think music is a BIG PART of creating atmosphere.


I included Adagio for Strings in the May playlist because it has a history of being played at military-related funerals, which makes it a good match for the Memorial Day holiday. Memorial Day tends to be all about pool parties and cookouts, but it is also a day to honor those who gave their lives serving our country. This piece conjures those feelings for me. It was once described by a music critic as “full of pathos and cathartic passion,” and I totally agree.

American composer Samuel Barber wrote the piece as a young man, in his 20s. It received its most notable moment in history after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Jackie Kennedy requested it be played in his honor, as it had been one of her late husband’s favorites.

The Monday after his death, the National Symphony Orchestra played Adagio for Strings to an empty concert hall for a live radio broadcast. The country sat in stillness with this music, mourning the loss of a President and grieving the end of Camelot.

Now, I know what you are thinking:

Kristi, this is depressing! I don’t want to teach my kids this! I want to go back to happy music. Bring back the birds or the dancing!

Well, here is where I tell you a secret:

Kids don’t necessarily need to know all this.

That’s why I call it atmosphere music. It is beautiful, meditative music – perfect for calm schoolwork and quiet projects.

I’m telling you this story, because I believe it helps you.

The parent.

The more connection we personally have to art and music, the more we will subconsciously pass on a love for the good, true, and beautiful to our children. As they say, more is caught than taught. If you want your kids to care about great music, guess what? YOU need to care about great music. And telling you this story is my way of bringing YOU into the picture. Appreciating how this piece held space during a significant moment in our country’s history might make it meaningful to you. And your kids will benefit from that.

So this one is for you, parents. Enjoy and appreciate the beauty of this historic piece of music.



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