Poetry for Music for Youth

 For this year’s Music for Youth Concert Series, we commissioned new poetry from Amy Ludwig VanDerwater to accompany Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.  We hope you enjoy!

Learn more about Amy and find more poems!

Click here for a pdf to download.

This Orchestra

This orchestra you hear and see
is a small community.
Instruments from many lands
are played with lips, brains, hearts, and hands.

Each musician makes a choice
to give one instrument a voice.
They practice. Yes. For hours. Days.
Each musician plays and plays.

This orchestra has families too
just as towns and cities do.
Percussion, Woodwinds, Brass, and Strings.
Each family has a gift it brings.

And when they’re ready, then they meet
like neighbors chatting in the street.
Listening. Now taking turns.
Years go by. Each one learns.

There is a time to be quiet. A time to be loud.
To play alone. To be part of the crowd.
Inside, outside, no matter the weather
this orchestra will work together.

It’s a bit like life, this music making –
studying, growing, giving, taking.
And in the end, there’s something new.
A song in the sky. A song for you.


When You Listen

This orchestra will play for us.
Music notes will fill this hall.
Notes will pour from instruments
and bounce from wall to wall.

When you listen, listen deeply.
Listen for the beat.
Duple meter? Triple meter?
Tap it with your feet.

You might feel feelings when you listen.
Most all people will.
You’ll notice – music can be busy.
Music can be still.

Major, minor, bright, or dark.
Quiet, loud, or steady.
Music makes us whole.

This orchestra is ready.


Four Instrument Family Poems


First blow air.
Now press the keys.
Woodwinds whisper
on this breeze.

Each breath you blow
from deep inside
helps Woodwinds
give a song a ride.



Fanfare blares
from polished bells.
Buzz your lips.
Music swells.

Round and regal.
Strong and bold.
Bright as sunshine.
Color? Gold.



Pluck with your fingers.
Keep a straight bow.
Feel vibrations
fast and slow.

The spine of this orchestra
soulfully sings
right up front.
Welcome Strings.



Tap a drum.
Strike a chime.
Crash your cymbal.
Keep good time.

From triangle
to timpani
hold the rhythm.
One, two, three.



Four Woodwind Poems

Piccolo and Flute

Tiny, shiny Piccolo
and trilling Flute
chirp magical tunes
in feathery flight.

Fluttering fast
on brilliant wings
these silvery birds
fly high and light.



Smooth, slow Oboe
croons a soft, sad song.
I will miss you, my friend.
So long.
So long.



Clarinet is soothing
like a busy, bubbling brook
hidden in a forest glen
where most folks never look.

Let quick notes tootle
in your secret music ear.
Pure as mountain water
Clarinet is clear.



Bassoon is our full moon
rich and round
gazing down at us
here on the ground.

Warm or steady
choppy or slow
our largest woodwind
Bassoon sings low.


Five String Poems


Violin is confident –
pointing the way
through a music sky.

Violin sings loudly
with strength and speed –
bright as our North Star.
Let Violin lead.



Soulful slow Viola
is an oak in late November
quietly thinking
trying to remember
the greenness of leaves
now brown and blown away.

Wise and deep
Viola knows –
Nothing can stay.



Cello is a violet sky
fading in the west
a slow and mellow glow
as Sun prepares to rest.

Sun slips smoothly, quietly
behind a distant hill.
Who will sing Sun’s lullaby?
Cello will.


Double Bass

Like a summer bumblebee
humming fast and low
large as a grizzly.
Who is it?
Do you know?

Standing up tall
helping all keep pace
this rich deep voice
belongs to Double Bass.



Harp’s quick raindrops
fall on tiny mouse
and tallest tree.

They pluck awake
our sleeping world
falling fast and quietly.

Look –
A rainbow!
Do you see?


Three Brass Poems

French Horn

French Horn is glorious
morning sun
after a summer storm.

It feels like velvet
on your face
each ray
so soft
so full
so warm.



Making an entrance
Trumpet sounds
like a wild horse.
Hoofbeats pound.

Tail flicks fast.
Mane paints sky.
Royal and strong
it gallops by.


Trombone and Tuba

Robust Trombone and Tuba
slide and oompa-sing
like great whales in the ocean
returning home for spring.

Filling air with noble calls
and sounds of swooping brass
loud, bright, powerful –
Trombone and Tuba.
Let them pass.


One Percussion Poem


When you listen to Percussion
it helps to be quite still.
You may not think you’ll recognize
these different sounds.
But yes, you will.

Hear stamping feet of Timpani
and big Bass Drum.
Now Cymbals, Tambourine, and Triangle
cheerfully, playfully come.
Snare and Woodblock woodpeckers
tap power to a beat.
Xylophone is loud, bright hail
plinking on your street.
Castanet squirrels scurry by.
Gong is darkness falling.
Whip is lightning in the night.

Listen to Percussion calling.


One Final Poem

May There Be Music

Each instrument in this orchestra
brings a gift that’s all its own
Each one has a style and sound.
Each has a special range and tone.
And sometimes
each one plays alone.

But sometimes, like now
they join in song.
Together they blend.
Together they’re strong.

You will hear them all –
One by one you will hear
a fast and bright discussion
in a language called music.
Listen for each voice and part.

And when you leave
may there be music
tucked inside your heart.


 © by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. All rights reserved.