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Keeping Score, Season II Review by Kendra Fletcher

San Francisco Symphony

I feel both privileged and excited to review for you the outstanding classical music series, Keeping Score, Season II, produced by the San Francisco Symphony. Every once in awhile, a remarkable gem comes into our home for review, and Keeping Score, Season II is that rare and exceptional jewel.

Having originally aired on PBS in October of 2009, Keeping Score, Season II is aimed at making classical music more accessible and meaningful to people of all ages and music backgrounds. This is just the type of production to which I like to expose my own children. In fact, because of my classical music degree, I am always looking for performances at local music conservatories and professional symphonies like the San Francisco Symphony that will draw my children in, engage them, and educate them in a way that makes them love classical music because they've been given the tools to understand it.

San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas does an outstanding job of narrating the series, which is often shot on location in beautiful settings such as Hector Berlioz's childhood home in France or Charles Ive's composition room in Redding, Connecticut. This world-renowned conductor is obviously knowledgeable about his subjects, while at the same time being pleasant to listen to, friendly on camera, and easy to watch.

Actual symphony performances are shown in parts, but so are practice sessions and individual demonstrations by symphony members. Between the music, the historical background, the story-telling, and the gorgeous scenery, Keeping Score, Season II presents classical music in a way that should at the very least communicate its relevance and superior musical form, even to students who may be reluctant to embrace it.

Keeping Score, Season II features three hour-long programs that explore the musical stories behind Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Charles Ive's Holiday Symphony, and Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5. Because of the academic level of the program's content, I would suggest the DVDs be used for junior high students and older. While younger children can certainly enjoy the series, older students will probably gain far more from its content.

Yes, there was a season one of Keeping Score, and you can find out more about it on the site. You'll also find educational helps on the site, such as lesson plans (geared toward the classroom, of course), an interactive area for each composer, interactive audio and video, and site links to corresponding references. The site is designed to appeal to high school students and older.

If you can't get your family to a quality symphony or classical music performance this year, then Keeping Score, Season II could be a terrific way to expose your students to the depth and beauty of classical music. And if, like our family, you are regular concert patrons, then Keeping Score, Season II will be a welcome addendum to an already rich musical life.

Product review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2010