Keeping Score: San Francisco Symphony Orchestras bid to keep us informed about music

Keeping Score is just one of the many educational ventures of the San Francisco Symphony. These are videos created by the SFS media team each covering a specific composer and one of their works. The production values of Keeping Score are incredible and the information is presented in a way to encourage interest for people of all ages. I've been serious studying music all my life and found the first three episodes they will present this year - Berlioz, Ives and Shostakovic - absolutely fascinating. I only wish they had been available when I was studying music history at the university level - they are that good! Yet, they are easy to understand for people of all ages and musical ability.

Michael Tilson Thomas narrates the various episodes taking you through the lives of the composers. Each composer is discussed in terms of the motivation for their music and how they reach the point in their life to write the music they did. For Berlioz Michael traveled to France exploring his childhood haunts. While we travel with him we hear snatches of music from Symphonie Fantastique and other related elements. Perhaps one of my favorite moments was when we got a chance to hear a lovely melody Berlioz, one of his first, sung by a young male soprano. The music then fades into how it is hear with the orchestra - brilliantly done and very effective at connecting the dots. Michael's inviting nature and relaxed style really grab your attention and before you know it the program is finished - and you're ready to watch another one!

If you are a music teacher and not having your students watch these episodes, you are missing out on a great opportunity to really spark their imagination. If you are a music student and haven't been watching these episodes, talk to your teacher or find the listing on your local PBS station. These are imaginative ways to bring the music of great composers to life!

Starting October 15, 2009, the second season of Keeping Score, featuring the San Francisco Symphony and hosted by Michael Tilson Thomas, premieres in the US on PBS. Keeping Score is much more than a critically acclaimed PBS television series: it is a natural outgrowth of the San Francisco Symphony’s almost century-long commitment to bringing the joy of classical music to people of all ages and musical backgrounds. Keeping Score provides innovative, thought-provoking classical music content on PBS television, national public radio, the web, and through an education program, a national model for classroom arts integration for K-12 teachers.

If you don't live in the US, the Keeping Score web site is designed to give people of all musical backgrounds an opportunity to explore signature works by composers Hector Berlioz, Charles Ives, and Dmitri Shostakovich in depth, and at their own pace. offers an interactive area for each composer, with clues and context to illuminate the musical mysteries presented by the television episodes. The interactive audio and video explores the composers’ scores and pertinent musical techniques as well as the personal and historical back stories. The site is designed to particularly appeal to high school, college and university music appreciation students and their teachers, and its interactive learning tools offer a unique and in-depth online learning experience. The site includes groundbreaking and acclaimed interactives on composers Beethoven, Stravinsky, Copland and Tchaikovsky. The site also includes a new historical timeline that takes users deeper into the seven individual composers’ political, social, and cultural milieus as well as downloadable lesson plans created by teachers who have experienced the Keeping Score Education program.


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