Vermont Symphony Orchestra

For Students

Welcome to Student Insiders!  This activity is designed to prepare you for the concert.  It will help you learn what to listen for, what to notice, and how to understand what you’re seeing and hearing.

Have fun, and see you on March 29!

BRAINSTORM: Music is everywhere! 

  1. In a typical day, most of us hear music in many different places.  Make a list of all the places you hear any kind of music. 
  2. Music is used in lots of different ways for many different purposes.  Choose three of your answers from Question 1, and try to describe: what is the purpose of music in that placeOr, why is music used there? 
  3. Discuss your answers with a friend, teacher or parent.  How would that place be different if there wasn’t any music at all?  What if there was a different kind of music played there? 

FOCUS: Movie music 

Now we’re going to think about movie music in particular. From the very beginning, music has always been really important to the way movies are made. In fact, the first movies didn’t have any dialogue (speaking) at all! The only sound was music, played live by a pianist or a band in the movie theater.  

  1. As you watch Clip #1, consider: How does the music help to tell the story? Discuss with a friend, teacher or parent. 

Click here to watch Clip #1, Charlie Chaplin


In movies, music can be used in many different ways. Let’s focus on three main categories: 


Music can act as a narrator. Sometimes music tells the viewers, “this is scary!” or “this is exciting,” or even, “then something new happens.” 

Music can paint a landscape. Sometimes music helps us to know where we are in time or space. For example, an old Western movie might have old-timey music. A movie about aliens might have other-worldly music to help us know we’re not on Earth. 

Music can be used as sound effects. Sometimes the music emphasizes the actions on screen. For example, if there’s a crash in the movie, you might hear a cymbal crash. If you see a driver honking their horn, you may hear a honking sound in the music too. 

The Charlie Chaplin clip used music in all these ways! 

EXPLORE: Let’s take a closer look at some examples. 

Music as Narrator. In Clip #2, you’ll see a scene from Lord of the Rings several times, but with different music each time. The music helps you understand what is happening, since what you actually see doesn’t give much information.  As you watch, consider the following, and share your thoughts with a friend: 

  1. What is the music telling you about the characters and the action?  
  2. Do the characters seem to be heroes, villains, goofy sidekicks, or is it not clear?  
  3. What do you think they’re running away from, or running towards?  
  4. How do you think the characters are feeling at this moment? 

Click here to watch Clip #2, Lord of the Rings


Music painting a landscape. In Clip #3, you’ll hear the theme music from a popular TV series called “The Twilight Zone” that first aired in 1959. In this video you don’t see any characters or action at all.  

  1. Describe what the music sounds like to you.  
  2. What do you think the TV show will be like? Why?  
  3. How does the music help to paint the landscape of the TV show, even before you see anything on screen? 

Click here to watch Clip #3, The Twilight Zone


Music as sound effects. In Clip #4, you’ll see a scene from Loony Tunes.  The action and music are so closely connected that it would be impossible to separate the two. The music illustrates every single event on screen, from the characters’ thoughts to the mood of the scene to the actual sound that objects make (for example, horse’s hooves). 

  1. As you listen, try to write down all the ways that the music illustrates what you see. Get ready to write fast! 

Example: Bugs Bunny is startled. Yosemite Sam is stumbling around under a big hat. Gunshots. Keep going!

Click here to watch Clip #4, Loony Tunes

IMAGINE: If you were a composer… 

In the March 29 “Student Insiders” concert, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra will be playing live music for a series of short films. Each film has a different story, different characters, and a different mood. Here are three examples of the movies you’ll see.  


“Two Balloons” by Mark Smith. Two lemurs are captains of their own floating airships. All is well, until trouble arises. 

“Mate” by Rusty Eveland. A shopping cart searches for true love. 

“The Greatest Night” by Jeremy Lee MacKenzie. A movie director tells the story of his personal journey from prison to filmmaking. 

  1. What moods, landscapes and sound effects might you see on screen? 
  2. If you were composing music for each movie, what kind of music might you use? Music as narrator, landscape, sound effects, or a combination? 
  3. What instruments, musical styles, sounds, or effects might you use for these films? 
  4. If you were creating a movie about a story from YOUR life, what story would you choose? What would the music sound like? Share with a friend. 

AT THE CONCERT: Listen and learn!

When you attend the Student Insiders concert, you’ll see 10 diferent movies with a
live orchestra playing the soundtrack. Each of the movies has at least one Vermonter
involved in making it: that could be the screenwriter, the director, the music
composer, or a combination of these. And of course, it will be a Vermont orchestra
with Vermont musicians and a Vermont conductor!

You’ll have a chance to meet the conductor, Matt LaRocca, at 6pm before the 7pm

  1. What would you like to ask him about the music, the orchestra, or the


At the concert you’ll receive a Student Insiders concert program with more
information about the movies and music, suggestions for things to think about and
listen for, and questions for you to consider as you watch and listen.


We look forward to seeing you at the concert and hearing all your ideas!