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5 Maestro-Approved Online Picks for Classical Beginners

"In our fast-paced lives where our attention is pulled in 100 different directions at any given moment, classical music is a timeless and useful tool to help us learn how to mono-focus."

Photo credit Daniel Hedden
September is Classical Music Month and while you may or may not believe that classical music can make you smarter, there are many proven benefits to refining one’s listening skills. In our fast-paced lives where our attention is pulled in 100 different directions at any given moment, classical music is a timeless and useful tool to help us learn how to mono-focus.

For the “classical-curious” who want to reap the benefits of learning to focus better and become an active listener, here are five of the internet’s best Maestro-approved resources to get your feet wet: 

  1. Leonard Bernstein – “The Gold Standard.” For those looking for an entry point into classical music, there’s no better place to start than at the top with the master, Maestro Leonard Bernstein. You can comb through a selection of his short and longer explorations on YouTube, but I recommend starting with this video on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 to see for yourself how Maestro Bernstein has captivated audiences for decades.

  2. Dr. Robert Greenberg – “The San Francisco Treat.” The Bay Area’s brilliant Dr. Robert Greenberg has reached a worldwide audience with his course How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, available from The Teaching Company here.

  3. Benjamin Zander – “The Boston Wonder.” Benjamin Zander, an English conductor who leads the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, is as eloquent an advocate for classical music as one could hope to find. Here’s his TED Talk on The Transformative Power of Classical Music.

  4. Rob Kapilow – “Making it Great.” NPR commentator Rob Kapilow is widely hailed for his presentations at The Kaufman Music Center’s Merkin Hall in New York City and around the country. Check out his presentation from the La Jolla Music Society’s Summerfest in 2004 where he breaks down a piece you are likely familiar with – Mozart’s iconic “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.”

  5. The Discovery Orchestra – “Listen Better!” This ensemble, which I am privileged to lead as Artistic Director, teaches the attentive listening skills to make classical music accessible to all. Feel free to peruse any of our short “Discovery Chats” on YouTube for a quick, in-depth listening lesson.


Maestro George Marriner Maull is the Artistic Director of The Discovery Orchestra, a nonprofit music education organization teaching the listening skills to help people better comprehend, experience and emotionally connect with classical music. 

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